For our May 2015 cover, Prestige sat down with Pornsarin "Oh" Maethivacharanondh. Here are our favourite images and excerpts from the resulting interview and photoshoot – with guest appearances by beloved Maserati models, of course.
Keeping her mother’s dream alive
When her mother, the dynamic Mayurin, passed away she left Ferma Motors without direction. “I lost the person that I loved the most in life,” Oh says. “But I had to keep her dream going. At that time, we had two brands, but she always liked and preferred Maserati.”
It was a gamble, in some sense. As an executive, Oh was already well-versed in the management and business side of the company. She had been deep inside the property development world, with degrees in economics and business from Chulalongkorn University and the University of Southampton, as well as a Masters of Science in Real Estate Economics and Finance from London School of Economics (LSE).
Awakening a passion
“I [told Maserati], ‘A car is a car. A car has an engine that takes me from one place to another. There are the headlights, the radio, and that’s it,’” she laughs. “They said, ‘I don’t think it’s going to work.’”
She was given one chance for a change of heart. A trip to Italy in 2008 (and the company of her elderly guide) was designed to find the missing piece in the passion puzzle, and to give Oh a chance to prove herself.
By the end of the seven-day trip, she found she shared the same affection her mother felt for the brand – she had fallen in love with Maserati, and found a budding passion for the brand which saw her take up the reins at Ferma Motors as managing director in 2009, and establish a new company, Empire Motor Sport, to run the Maserati brand.
A voice like no other…
“The charm of Maserati is its design, the engine and also its voice. Maserati’s is thought of as one of the sexiest supercar voices… they even have sound engineers to always keep the engines sounding good,” she reveals. She adds another tidbit – there are never fewer than five curves in each model’s design, with the passion of a fan who thinks there could be no greater pleasure than to count up the arcs of the next Maserati model.
Grounded by family
Oh, husband Philip, and son Pascal make up a close-knit unit, and their affection for one another is palpable during the photo shoot. Currently, Philip is acting CFO to RMA Group in Myanmar, and he’s flying back and forth between the two countries. This means that Oh frequently brings Pascal to the Maserati showroom, and works around the baby boy’s schedule. (In fact, she had scheduled some quality time with Pascal right after her interview with Prestige – Pascal was en route.)
During her pregnancy and after his birth, she placed one of her most beloved hobbies on pause: travel. Her haven is anywhere there are sunny skies, an ocean, a breeze and warm sand – indeed when Prestige last met her a few years ago, she was about to set off to the Maldives. Earth-bound for two years, no wonder she’s itching to return to her travels. “I wish I could spoil myself again,” she says, a touch wistful.
A whirlwind romance
As she tells it, a few years ago, Hawaii-native Philip (then based in Las Vegas) visited Thailand for a friend’s bachelor party. His trip was only for a few days; but when he met Oh, a spark was ignited.
“We met, then he flew back home. Then he kept calling, then coming back to visit for two months,” she says, a smile on her lips. “Actually, he proposed to me after knowing me for two months, but I felt we needed more time to learn about each other.”
She told him, “I don’t even consider you my boyfriend yet, but this might be possible because we seem to work well together… If you would like to see whether it’s workable or not, there is only one choice – come to Thailand or we’re just friends.”
It turned out to be the precise moment Philip was hoping for. Despite having never lived in Thailand, his response was a decisive, “Okay, that’s it! I quit! I’m moving!”
“I want to set things up so it’s no longer a personally-run company – right now I have very personal contact with the clients. This isn’t a negative point, but within 20 years I hope our company and our brand grow to be a big, well-known, professional car company. Professionals would oversee and run the business,” she says.
The benefits are business-related as well as personal: though Oh sees the company as a continuation of her beloved mother’s dream, this approach would give Pascal greater latitude to choose his future. She hopes the inextricable bond between family and business won’t become a tie that binds and restricts his independence. “One thing I believe is that I want my son to grow up and make his own choices… I want to give him freedom.”
Photography: Apichart Chaichulla
Styling: Jantima Smithavej
Assistant Stylist: Chanyanon Pomechat
Makeup and Hair Stylist: Suriyan Pothong
Venue: Narasiri Bangna