By Liam Aran Barnes
Few foreign companies can boast a heritage spanning more than a century in Southeast Asia, but this year Thailand-based B.Grimm Group celebrates its 135th anniversary of doing business in the Kingdom.
Launched in 1878 by German pharmacist Bernhard Grimm and his Austrian partner Erwin Mueller, the company started life as a small chemist shop in the heart of Bangkok before quickly being appointed official pharmacist to the Thai royal family.
The burgeoning B.Grimm Group soon recruited young German businessman Adolf Link, who oversaw the company’s expansion, not only through business acquisitions, but also its ties with the royal family and upper echelons of local society. Some 75 years after his grandfather’s arrival in Thailand, current chairman Harald Link – accompanied by his wife, Princess Assunta von Liechtenstein – relocated to the Kingdom to help with the running of the family firm in 1978.
“Although I grew up in Germany, I knew one day I would come to Thailand to carry on with the business,” Link explained. “I arrived [in Thailand] at a time before globalisation was changing the world. Many Western companies and manufacturers wanted to be more active in Asia by sourcing from the region and having more of a presence.”
A descendent of German nobility, Link received a master’s degree in business administration from the prestigious University of St Gallen in Switzerland before joining his uncle Herbert Link in Bangkok.
“My uncle was an outstanding role model,” Link said. “For him, the company’s wellbeing always came first and he personally always came last.”
The company, under Harald Link’s guidance, evolved from a relatively successful trading house into an industrial conglomerate, and is now active in the fields of healthcare, energy, transport and real estate.
As one of the country’s oldest corporations, B.Grimm pioneered the development of local industry and infrastructure projects, most notably the production of some of the Kingdom’s first modern medicines, operation of one of the country’s inaugural department stores and involvement in the irrigation of Bangkok’s Rangsit canal system.
“We’re a typical pioneer and adaptive company and have different business models according to the times and opportunities,” Link said. “We would like, however, to be an example of a successful company that has compassionate business conduct.”
Link added that the group expects a total revenue growth of almost 18% through 2013, fuelled by expansions in Thailand and further afield. This year will see the start of the operation of a new power plant on the outskirts of Bangkok – part of a THB70 billion ($2.36 billion) investment in new generating stations – in addition to growth in its other core industries, including healthcare and renewable energy.
“In view of the upcoming Asean Economic Community in 2015,” Link explained.
“B.Grimm is poised to explore new business and investment opportunities domestically and internationally in energy, healthcare, air-conditioning and engineering in Asean countries such as Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore,” he said.
The company will be hoping that more than a century of experience in Thailand will hold them in good stead.
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