Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul of Rimping Supermarket
Talks Veggies and Values
An interview with Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul, Chief Executive Officer of Rimping Supermarket, Chiang Mai, about expanding a well-known local brand without losing sight of core values.
Citylife: Rimping has long held its customers in high esteem, which is evident from the way they are treated in stores, to the way their opinions, suggestions and requests are always openly considered. What do your customers mean to you?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: Our customers form both the roots and the trunk of our tree, and whatever grows on top in the way of branches, leaves, blossoms and fruit is created, supported and sustained entirely by them. This is something quintessential which we will never lose sight of, no matter how large we grow.
Citylife: Many online comments show that Rimping Supermarkets make people “feel at home,” and that they feel loyal to the exclusive products, as well as to particular stores. Why do you think people trust the Rimping brand?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: I like to think it is because our philosophy has always been to place customer care ahead of commercialism, and people before profits. That outlook came quite naturally, because from our humble beginnings we very much enjoyed listening to what customers wanted, and we tried hard to provide it. If that meant giving shelf space to some “exotic” imported products which gave little financial returns, we were still rewarded by seeing the pleasure and satisfaction it created. Over time, we experienced a different kind of “return” as many became loyal customers, doing their entire household shopping at Rimping.
Citylife: When it comes to your company, what are you most proud of?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: My loyal staff, many of whom have been with me for decades. Without them, and their dedication, there could be no Rimping.
Citylife: The “Say No to Plastic Bags” campaign focuses on being socially and environmentally responsible. For every plastic bag that is refused, 0.50 baht is given to certain charities. Can you let us know which charities you donate to, and who benefits from this green initiative?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: The proceeds go into a general fund from which we support deserving causes on a case-by-case basis.
Citylife: Helping Hands is another initiative run by Rimping which supports orphans at a local boys’ home. How did you get involved with this particular venture?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: I have always been grateful that I was born into a caring family and received a good education. I have also been intensely aware of the many orphaned or disadvantaged children who, with no education, are often condemned to a lifetime of low-paid employment. When I first visited the Chiang Mai Home for Boys, I was impressed to see that they were trying to address this problem, and wanted to help. We decided to do this on a sustained basis by funding a total “education package” for a selected group of diligent hard-working boys through school, to graduation from university or technical college, and into secure employment.
Citylife: Philanthropy seems to be an important theme for the Rimping brand. What issues are you personally interested in, and where would you like to see change in the world?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: There is not much the average person can do to prevent the conflicts and human suffering we see every day in the media, apart from supporting the many dedicated and reputable organisations that work for world peace and humanitarian causes. What every person can do, however, is to protect the environment as much as possible by consuming less, and recycling – and bicycling – more. Chiang Mai is a textbook case of neglected environmental responsibilities, whereby the city has expanded with no public transport system in place, resulting in more roads, more construction, more vehicles, more energy consumption, and more toxic pollution. This threatens the quality of life and the health of future generations, and with a proud 700-year-old history and heritage to protect, we are clearly heading for very serious problems. We cannot obviously “cure” this, but by all acting responsibly in Chiang Mai, and other cities around the world, we can lessen, or at least delay, the damaging effects of our “progress” which, sooner or later, will make planet earth uninhabitable.
Citylife: Fresh products are tested for pesticides and toxic residues before being approved or rejected for your supermarket shelves. When did you implement this process into your business model, and why?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: Thailand has always had a dubious reputation for toxic pesticide use, and although much progress has been made, some unscrupulous growers still indulge in the practice simply because it brings profitable but highly contaminated harvests. To combat this, we began sending random samples to local laboratories in order to identify rogue suppliers. This was both time-consuming and costly, so the decision to operate our own in-house laboratory was a logical step, which we opened in 2010. This not only allows us to check incoming produce quickly and efficiently, it also discourages any disreputable suppliers from even attempting to deal with us. We also test fresh meat and fish products for preservatives, formalin being the most common, and also for surface contamination caused by unhygienic handling.
Citylife: Can you explain the colour-coded vegetables initiative?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: We introduced colour-coded vegetable packaging to enable our customers to make an easy and informed choice of safety-graded produce ranging from pure 100 percent organic produce (green) down through various categories to a “General Market” category, where the exact growing conditions are not known, but produce is anyway subject to our random testing procedures.
Citylife: Personally, what is your favourite product from a Rimping Supermarket?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: A difficult one! I would have to come down with a list of cheeses, delicatessen items, different mustards and olive oils, but probably end with a red wine, from New Zealand where production is fairly small, but the overall quality is very high.
Citylife: And lastly: you now have eight Rimping Supermarket stores in Chiang Mai. What does the future look like for Rimping, and where do you plan to expand?
Phairoj Phatsorpinyosakul: Our fifth supermarket branch, which will offer a very compact but comprehensive range of our main supermarket items, will open in Maya Mall on Huay Kaew Road, just up from the Rincome intersection, in January 2014. That will give us a total of nine outlets. Store number ten is still under wraps!
Locations: Nim City Daily, Nawarat, Kad Farang, Mee Choke, JJ Market, Star Avenue, Promenada, Mali Place and soon to open at Maya Mall.
053 246 333