If you live, or have been to Pattaya in the last five years you will surely have seen the numerous billboards around town promoting, The Palm, Riviera Wongamat or Riviera Jomtien.It is also likely that you have driven past Riveira’s sumptuous Wongamat or spectacular Jomtien showrooms.
Definitely, the Riviera Group are all about style. Whether you are looking at one of their showroom apartments or viewing one of their chic stands at their exhibitions at shows, their style is very much in evidence.
At their Wongamat showroom, they went so far as to build a special elevator to take prospective buyers up 8 floors to give them the actual view, they would get from an apartment, overlooking the spectacular Gulf of Thailand. Real showbiz!
Over 1,000 dignitaries, film stars, media and buyers turned up for the event of the year, when they opened their new showroom on Jomtien’s 2nd road.
So although The Riviera Group are a large company, at the helm are British husband and Thai wife team Winston and Sukanya Gale. Winston Gale made a name for himself in the UK successfully developing both commercial and residential real estate before arriving in Thailand, where he met and married his Thai sweetheart Sukanya.
They now have three beautiful children, so family life is their priority, with the business almost becoming their passion as well. Winston is very proud of their achievements over the past six years and has a great team around him, however he cannot give enough credit to his wife.
“If there was a smarter, more hard working woman around, I’ve not met her yet” said Winston. “She really is one of a kind”. Therefore we managed to catch up with Mrs Sukanya Gale in between juggling the family school runs and being a director for a major real estate developer.
Exactly what is your role at The Riviera Group?
Sukanya, “Well, I’m Projects Director & Assistant to the Developer, which means I virtually do a bit of everything I suppose. Since we started back in 2010 with our first project called The Palm, I became the very nerve center of it all. I had to liaisewith our Banks, City Hall, EIA, Architects and every other consultant imaginable and I can tell you there were so many.
I also built up and created all our sales and marketing teams, the construction teams and all the building suppliers too.’ If that doesn’t sound like much, Sukanya also was very hands on with design ideas as well as holding the complete three projects accounting teams together with a combined value of over 10 Billion bahts worth of real estate business.
Oh yes and don’t forget she’s still a dedicated Mum to their three adorable children. Winston added, “Such is the contribution Sukanya makes, the Riviera Group would not be where it is today without her “.‘There are so many complications and generally issues to solve on a day-today basis with three projects on the go.
Then add to this that Thai’s also have their own delicate way of sorting out problems, circumnavigating them and concluding to a satisfactory end for different parties with different agendas.
For us we were fortunate to have Sukanya there and she has really been our ‘Fix-it’ person for so many years now, dealing with some potentially tricky issues” Winston stated.
By example, it took them eight months to get the Group’s 800THBmillion loan for The Palm. But not many knew at the time that it was Sukanya who was the lead negotiator over many months, helping Winston get the deal over the line, which was a great achievent. ‘Sukanya is so flexible in the roles she plays, that maybe one day she may go out there and do her own development
without me”, joked Winston.
Sukanya works seven days a week, but told us she loves her work. They started out by taking a small old Villa on the beachfront to sell The Palm. In those days they had no systems in place, very little staff and then CBRE came on board and things started to move quickly.
‘I always loved real-estate, but when I got the opportunity to get involved at the very heart of it, from the owners view point, it gave me more and more hunger to learn the business in as much detail as possible, ‘ said Sukanya.
‘I was lucky as I had Winston as my teacherto learn from. But with things moving along at break neck speed, I had to learn on my own two feet, otherwise I could have got left behind easily. As the months went by, the project and stages just kept changing, the pace of it was incredible. I also identified that Winston really needed my assistance from the beginning, with so much that could go wrong. Naturally being Thai I could help with any language differences too, so I was just pleased I was there at the time.’
“After we spent almost three hard years preparing to get The Palm started, it was just very exciting to see it all coming together and just how quickly it started to sell.In those days we face new challenges and it was not unusual for both of us to be working at home usually well after midnight on most evenings.”
In those days it was very much ‘hands on’ for both of them, and Sukanya remembers the first Siam Paragon Luxury Exhibition the group attended in 2011 where they spent the entire night setting
up their booth.
‘In those days, it was all very new and interesting to see how these exhibitions are put together. The next day I remember trying to encourage Winston to join the other Developers on stage at
the evenings Opening Ceremony, as we were both exhausted from having no sleep for two nights. Since then of course we and our hard working team have done many more exhibitions through the night, but you always remember the first high profile one the most”, explained Sukanya.
They were one of the first developers to take over a large area on the ground floor at Central Festival Pattaya. It took them over 48 hours to set up, but the event was a huge success. Tough work though for Sukanya as she had personally only been out of hospital for just two months after giving birth to their 3rd child.
‘It’s a family business so I support Winston every way I can. That really was a big exhibition in Central and again on the night, we were both completely exhausted mentally and physically but
smiled for the cameras anyway on the opening evening hiding how we really felt.’
If you visit one of their showrooms you cannot help to notice the attention to detail, from the fabrics to the pictures on the wall and even the sweet smelling flowers on the table. ‘I enjoy it all to be honest, but when it comes to the design part, I think I enjoy that the most. We have often had certain design and landscaping ideas, which seemed too difficult to do at the time, but then when they actually come together, it is incredibly rewarding.
I still love accounting, but with design, I can get to see ideas come to life.’ Everything from showrooms to brochures, advertising to exhibition booths all promote a chic style. ‘I learned quite early on and quickly that if you want something a little special, a bit different, you won’t always get it from designers you employ. You only get it from yourself, as that’s where the deep passion to succeed comes from.
We both love design anyway, so it’s an enjoyable hobby to develop as time goes by being ready for the next design challenge that comes along.’ The Riviera Group are well known for throwing the most glamorous launches with film stars and celebrities but often Sukanya will not be seen in the fore front.
‘I’m not one for attention. I just like to build teams and get the job done supporting the team all the time. I did an interview for a Thai magazine a fewmonths ago and the whole Riviera team were really thrilled to see me in a magazine spread, which really surprised me, as I hadn’t thought about it like that.
They’re now trying to encourage me to come out more so that’s why I’m doing this now.” They are both very much behind the scenes people but as the group has grown, then as a couple they have taken the limelight a bit more, especially as The Riviera Group were sponsors of the Movers and Shakers events here in Pattaya and in Bangkok.
“Winston has long encouraged me to be less quite and more outspoken about my passion for what I do, but I’m quite happy being myself.
We are both very similar;
we like to let our actions speak louder than our words. It’s easy to say this and that; it’s a lot harder to actually do all these things,” ‘Someone said to me recently that we really did run a family business and that they could see a family spirit within what we all did. I felt proud when I heard that kind of feedback as in reality, it’s true. I think I realized then that maybe it was ok to occasionally do the odd interview as I represent the team also and they want to see this from time to time from me, added Sukanya.
It is refreshing to see firsthand how this dynamic young couple are adding their magic touch and creating homes for generations to enjoy well into the future. Mr and Mrs Gale’s legacy will life on in Pattaya for many years. We wish them continued success.