If you are part of the Thailand party circuit or enjoy the big events that happen yearly around the Kingdom, you will know Kanokkarn “Bee” Ingram. Bee works for Independent Wine & Spirits (Thailand), better known as IWS. As PR & Trade Marketing Director, her job is to promote the over 300 brands of libations that her company represents to hotels, restaurants and bars throughout the country. IWS are also “Drink Sponsors” to many of the big events happening yearly all over Thailand and here you will always find Bee overseeing her team. With that responsibility comes a lot of invitations that load up her social calendar. In between nights out, HOT Magazine had the distinct and delightful pleasure of sitting down with Khun Bee to find out how this “Party Girl” survives such a hectic schedule.
HM: Khun Bee, From the outside you appear to have what many would call a dream job in that you are paid to go to high end parties throughout Thailand. Before we get to that, can you tell us a little about yourself, where were you born and what was your childhood like?
BI: I was born in Songkhla. My father’s side of the family is into Palm Oil, Petrol Stations and Rice Trading. My father’s parents are 100% Chinese. As a young girl I was sent to Bangkok and spent more time with my mother’s side of the family which was Thai. My Uncle, Prapas Boonyindee was the Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior. I was raised mostly by my grandmother who was very strict and controlling. Proper speech, having to say “Ka” at the end of every phrase! Dinner was always at 5.30 sharp. Everyone had to eat at the same time. At 8pm I had to read. Every night I had to go to bed between 8:30pm & 9pm, except for the weekends. That is why to this day, I love the weekends! (Big Smile). That said, I recognize now the benefit I received from the strict upbringing and it allowed me to get into a good school and University and made me who I am today with a good work discipline.
HM: You have a Bachelor of Science Degree from Thammasat and a Master’s from Stamford. We’re you driven to succeed thru college with a direction of what you wanted to do once you graduated?
BI: Well, at first I wanted to be a beautician. My parents asked me, what are you going to earn from that and I said I don’t know. My boyfriend at the time suggested I try sales so I took a sales job at a 4 star Hotel in BKK. It turned out I was quite good at it and I was promoted. I ended up working for a few high end hotels and enjoyed not only the work but also dressing up every day. Plus, working in a 5 star hotel you are surrounded by luxury and that is so me.
One day one of my senior friends who worked with Pernod Ricard invited me to join the company as he felt that my life and profile was a match for what they were looking for. I went to interview and got the job right away. It was a big jump from Hotelier to the alcohol business! My mom, being Buddhist, was against me working with alcohol and I had some reservation myself but in the end we came to the conclusion that as long as I was working with honesty and sincerity we were good! And that’s when I started in the alcohol business.
HM: You worked for Pernod Ricard, the world’s second largest wine and spirits company and were the first woman to be promoted to Regional Sales Manager. What was that experience like, what was your biggest take-away from your time there & why did you decide to leave?
BI: When Patrick Castanier, former MD of Pernod Ricard Thailand, first wanted to promote me to Regional Sales Director I turned him down because I didn’t feel I could lead the all male sales team, who were a mix of foreigners and Thai’s, all of whom were much older than me. Patrick was persistent, saying he believed in me and that he saw something in me, that I could make a difference. Eventually I believed in him and went on to lead my team to hitting budget in a very tough year. We did it by coming up with the growth strategy of “Premiumization”, focusing on the prestige market
I enjoyed my time at Pernod Ricard but family issues caused me to move to Singapore for a while. Upon returning to Thailand my plan was to support my family by working at a small resort they have but working with siblings proved to be too challenging so I decided to go back to working in a field that I enjoyed!
HM: You now work for Independent Wine & Spirit (Thailand) Co. Ltd., also known as IWS, with the title of PR & Trade Marketing Director. Did you have that title when you first started and what is a normal day like for you?
BI: When I first started with IWS I was handling the Sales & Marketing for just one brand but the company’s Managing Director saw something in me (again) and wanted me work across all brands in the company which is almost 300, but most of my time is spent on our main brands. A big challenge, but one I enjoy, is dealing with all the different brand owners as each has their own style and character. I find it fun and good challenge.
HM: Stealing a lyric from the pop group Aqua, If you replace the word “Barbie” with “Party,” you’re a party girl in a party world. Because of your job, you go to so many great parties! What is that like on a weekly basis?
BI: Ohhh I really like “party girl in a party world.” (smiling). Most weekdays I have events lined up as I get a lot of invitations. Almost every night I have to do make up and dress up. Most weekends however (when there aren’t events), you’ll find me with NO make up & flat shoes. If you see me at the mall you’ll probably see me with the sunglasses coz I have no make up, (she laughs).
HM: When your work surrounds you with 300 different brands of alcohol, what do you tell the waiter when asked what you would like to drink and what do you like to do when you aren’t at a work function?
BI: I am a Burgundy and Champagne lover! I love being with a small group of my close friends as we enjoy a good champagne or a fine burgundy! Regarding off time, I love Sunday brunch. One of my favorite places for Sunday Brunch in Bangkok is Aqua, inside the Anantara Siam Hotel. Here I can enjoy a lazy Sunday with wonderful food and drinks while being surrounded by tropical foliage, all in the heart of the city!
Other joys include shopping and travel. My maid tells me often that with the money I spend on clothes, shoes and bags she could buy many houses for herself (laughs). I’m told I’m a fashionista, I am not sure about that, but I do get great pleasure from dressing up for work every day. I also love traveling, experiencing new cultures and trying new foods. My last trip, which was quite spontaneous, was to Amsterdam, I loved it!
Additionally, I like to go to temple at Tumboon and I also do meditation 2-3 times a year. My family provides a lot of support for the temple and for my upcoming birthday I am looking forward to providing food and snacks for 330 disadvantaged children.
HM: Finally Khun Bee, when you close your eyes and think of the perfect evening, what thoughts does your mind conjure?