Dairy business with Danish experience

     Sawaeng’s life in foreign country dated back in 1962 when he was working at the Thai-Danish farm in Muaklek, Thailand. After working at the farm for six years, the company gave him the scholarship to study dairy technology in Denmark.
     After completing the degree, Sawaeng met his wife Helga and were married in 1971. This marriage caused him to stay in Denmark longer than he expected, which is over three decades. With family and four children, Sawaeng continued to work in the dairy industry, where he has experience and skills.
     That time, Sawaeng was working for the Danish dairy company MD Foods Co., Ltd. before it dissolved and Arla Foods Corporation, a Swedish-Danish joint venture took over. Sawaeng spent his career working as supervisor in various factories in the Arla Group for 25 years until he was retired.
     In Denmark, Sawaeng came across many Thai friends and one invited him to work as plant manager at T.D. Dairy Foods Co., Ltd. in Lopburi, Thailand.
     “I knew this friend of mine because he came to Denmark several times to buy equipments and machines for his factory and I helped him out,” says Sawaeng.
     “He opened a milk factory in Thailand and wanted me to help him develop the business,” he adds.
     “I was retired and was looking for new experience. So after all these years working in the dairy field, I did not hesitate to take the opportunity to come to Thailand,” he remarks.
     The new manager moved to Thailand in 2002 for a five year contract with the company and is now staying with his wife at the Australia Village in Muaklek. His responsibilities include consulting and handling the technical aspect of the factory. He also trains worker on how to use the equipments and the necessary knowledge used for the dairy production.
     His goal is to develop the product, which is drinking milk Pan Pan. In addition, he plans to develop other products such as cheese and butter, which is another project waiting in line. At the moment, the company focuses on fresh milk and is currently working on yogurt drinking milk.
     “We are going to expand our product lines but before going on to something else, we have to prove that our fresh milk is of quality and worth the price,” says Sawaeng.
     The milk is sold directly to the schools, hotels and factories throughout central part of Thailand such as Bangkok, Ayudhaya, Saraburi and Lopburi. The experienced manager came to the factory when it was merely a small factory. Today, it is slowly and steadily developing and growing with the work of one man and his knowledge and experience in Danish dairy technology and the cooperation of energetic co-workers.
     Sawaeng now 63 holds a Danish citizenship and feels pretty much Danish about himself. As a Dane, he feels that punctuality as important as responsibility and frankness. These qualities somehow are not strongly present in the Thai society.
     “I still have to adjust to the Thai cultures and society after having been abroad for almost all my life,” says Sawaeng.
     “Many Thais are afraid to lose face and don’t know how to say no to others. For westerners, it is only yes or no and I’ve seen many Thai such as my subordinates who will take order even if they can’t do it,” he adds.
     “I think it is important that people say exactly what they think instead of trying to be too considerate because that can affect work,” he comments.
     Sawaeng uses Danish ways to deal with his colleagues and subordinates. As a senior in the company, he does not consider himself as superior or as more experienced than other although he is very much experienced. He socializes and works closely with people to create trust and respect.
     “I’ve been here for two years and I never had problem with any employees at all,” says Sawaeng.
     “I want to train my employees to be more frank. I also encourage democratic leadership. I’m willing to listen to comments from subordinates and follow their advice on certain cases because I’m not so familiar with the way of living here yet. In turn, I give them advice on what I have knowledge of, which is dairy technological know how,” he remarks.
     Regarding cultural differences, Sawaeng finds it easy to adapt and enjoy a good life and career here in his home country.
     “I can’t say that which culture is better because Thai culture is good in its own way and it’s meant to be applied here and not somewhere else, so does the Danish culture,” he comments.
     “There is not so much of a culture shock here because I’m Thai but there are many other things that are new to me and I have to get used to that,” he adds.
     Prior to his stay in Thailand, Sawaeng was accounted for setting up the Thai-Danish Association in 1985 in Jylland, Denmark. He was the Chairman of the association until 2002, when he resigned and moved to Muaklek. Today, with new chairman, the association is still active with a large number of Thai members and activities going on. The association publishes Sawasdee Sarn twice a year in Thai, Danish and English, which Sawaeng continues to receive the latest copies.
     “I started the Thai-Danish Association in Jylland because there are more Thais coming to live in Denmark and I believe that we should stick together and help each other,” says Sawaeng.
     “Today, it is still active with various meetings and functions for the Thais to get together,” he adds.
     In Thailand, Sawaeng and his wife Helga, do not have the opportunity to join the Scandinavian functions since most of them are held in Bangkok, which is not so convenient to travel a long way to attend. But most importantly, Sawaeng must concentrate on his ground work, which is to bring new development to the company he is working for.
     Sawaeng still has connections in Denmark as his four grown up children Henrik, Malene, Inger and Henning live in the country.
     “They are old enough to look after themselves and live independently,” says Sawaeng.
     “When I’m done with the contract, I hope to return to my family,” he adds.

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