Starbucks appoints first Thai woman managing director

Having taken Thailand’s coffee market by storm, Starbucks has named its first Thai managing director to oversee its operations in the Kingdom since opening up 20 years ago, and the new chief executive is a woman.

“Starbucks believes in equality and diversity amongst their employees, and I am deeply honored to be given this opportunity,” said Nednapa Srisamai, the newly appointed managing director.

Starbucks has credited Fifty-five-year-old Nednapa for playing an instrumental role in the coffee chain’s expansion from 75 outlets to 320 across the Kingdom since she joined the company 14 years ago.

A graduate of Thammasat University, she had been corporate services director before receiving the promotion to run the company.

Starbucks opened its first outlet in Thailand on Convent Road in Bangkok in 1998 when Thailand was in the throes of the Asian economic meltdown. At the time, coffee was not all that popular among Thais, many of whom preferred instant coffee if they drank coffee at all. Some analysts questioned whether it was wise to try and sell a premium-priced beverage of unproven appeal in a country where the economy was in crisis.

Nonetheless, Starbucks had faith in the country and the market, and “over the past 20 years, the country’s tea-drinking tradition has given way to a full-blown coffee culture,” the Bangkok Post newspaper reported this year.

Euromonitor reported that there were 8,025 coffee shops in Thailand in 2018, up 4.6 percent from the year before, and Meechai Amornpathanakul, vice-president of the Asian Coffee Federation and president of the Barista Association of Thailand, said the coffee market is expected to double over the next five years.

Starbucks was a pioneer. Today the company faces intense competition, however, from both local and international players. Gloria Jean’s, Dunkin Donuts, and other global chains are also expanding in the Kingdom. Local conglomerates such as energy firm PTT and food retailer CP All have also launched and expanded their own coffee shop chains.