Dhanin Chearavanont, senior chairman of Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group), received the Malcolm S. Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Forbes Global CEO Conference on Monday in Singapore.
The award recognizes a lifetime of achievement and is a celebration of global business success bestowed upon an individual who embodies and exemplifies the ideals of entrepreneurship championed by the late Malcolm S. Forbes, the legendary publisher of Forbes.
Dhanin, 84, was recognized for being one of the most successful business tycoons in Asia. The youngest of four brothers, Dhanin, has been the driving force for over half a century in the transformation of the CP Group from a small shop selling seeds in Bangkok to a multinational conglomerate that has over 400,000 employees and approximately $82 billion in revenue. The rise of CP helped develop and modernize Thailand’s agricultural industries.
It is perhaps best known as one of the world’s largest producers of animal feed and livestock. “The business back then was very scalable, because it produced food and feed, and this is what everyone needs, and what animals need as well,” Dhanin said on stage during a dialogue with Forbes Media’s chairman and editor-in-chief Steve Forbes at the award ceremony.
CP has over the years expanded well outside its original businesses into a variety of sectors both in Thailand and worldwide, ranging from retail, telecommunication, finance, pharmaceuticals, property, auto and e-commerce. CP pioneered investment in the mainland China market, just as it opened to foreign investment. The company says it holds Foreign Investor Certificate 0001, issued in 1979, for a joint venture animal feed company set up in Shenzhen. CP is now one of the largest international investors in China.
CP, like many other Thai firms, suffered severely during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. In order for his group to survive, Dhanin decided to exit many business including real estate and stick with the core agribusinesses. “Back then, I made the right decision as agriculture is a business you don’t want to give up … we made decisions to sever some parts of the business and keep other parts to survive,” said Dhanin.
Dhanin stressed a long-term focus on CP’s core business of food and feed. “No matter the state of an economy, food is the most important thing for people,” said Dhanin. He noted that CP also provides other services such as telecommunications and entertainment, but that the food and feed sectors will be a stable business, as these provide sustenance, so demand for them will only slow in a weak economy but not stop. With all the challenges in his long career, Dhanin acknowledged that CP has come a long way from relatively modest beginnings. “When I took over the business, I didn’t imagine it would grow to today’s scale,” he said.
MORE FROM FORBES GLOBAL CEO CONFERENCE