“Do it real, do it fast and do it honestly” is the catchphrase of Anchana Chulakanadecha, a remarkable lady, who gives every indication of living up to her avowed aim. Anchana is part of the founding team of three who are turning the Utopia dream into tangible reality. It says volumes for her virtues that she is part of a top triumvirate of seasoned and highly successful developers; the others being Khun Paranyoo from House and Home and Khun Hachi from IPA, the parent company.
Anchana’s rise has been meteoric, though she does not see it that way. She comes from Hat Yai and went to university overseas. Returning to Thailand, she first worked in advertising sales, then switched to property sales – and has spent 15 years gaining in-depth knowledge and experience in Phuket’s challenging property market.
More recently, Anchana joined Utopia, the real estate company which gives its name to the development at Nai Harn. A relatively new conglomerate, only created at the beginning of 2016, it has antipodean roots. An offshoot of IPA (International Property Advisory Group), a Melbourne firm, it was only incorporated in Phuket in 2014 after two years of market, land and planning research and capital allocation. Its first project was initiated in February 2016, when Utopia teamed up with the island’s largest builder, HYN, to develop Utopia Kata (UTK) – 20 serviced apartments at Kata Beach.
In April of that year, Utopia began work on two further and more ambitious projects in conjunction with House and Home – Housecare Service. It is here that we met today, in the first completed show apartment, at Naiharn. The project is a substantial one: nine pool villas and two condominiums comprising 110 units; one block boasts a roof-top pool.
In keeping with Anchana’s dictum to “do it fast”, other developments have followed in quick succession: Utopia loft (UTL), 237 luxury loft- styled hotel condominiums at Nai Harn, and Utopia Central for entry level buyers – 410 units strategically located close to Phuket’s shopping malls, hospitals and schools. A final project for 2017 is Utopia Karon. Here 283 units offer both freehold and leasehold ownerships.
In all this, Anchana is a relatively old hand. She has been in the Phuket real estate business for 15 years, first as a sales agent, then as sales manager and finally general manager for a Hongkong / Phuket company. As she says, by meeting up with clientsshe learnt a great deal about the development scene in Phuket. By the time she was professionally involved with Utopia, she was in a position to utilise all that knowledge – both good and bad as she candidly avers – in the service of her new employers. That she has not encountered the ‘glass ceiling’ which so many young and aspiring women executives experience, is testament to her drive and dedication.
Anchana is at pains to emphasise the advantages of a system in which she is a key and committed player. She deplores the fact that some developers sell their units off-plan, and even before they have acquired the land and assumed ownership.
Such practices are not part of the Utopia ethic; the company buys all its land before construction work commences. Moreover, developments are backed by capital provided by IPA, sometimes by Chinese investors and not from Thai banks. And both design and construction utilise the best of Australian principles and techniques. Unsurprisingly, the apartments have sold faster than anticipated, a considerable achievement granted the rash of commercial building on the island.
I ask Anchana if she is concerned about the natural environment. After all, this development is located in a green area between Nai Harn and Rawai beaches. She replies that Utopia is “nature friendly”, that they try to save every tree and strive to create a mature tropical environment. She admires other high end resorts, such as Trisara, which has preserved the verdancy of its surroundings. Where necessary the company will plant new trees and shrubs.
Nor is Anchana concerned about the fact that there is no beach frontage. People, she believes, will appreciate the innate tranquility of the setting, an oasis of calm hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the island’s beaches. She talks of the future development of roads linking condo and beach with private transport available in the form of electric buggies. Everything, it seems, is taken care of.
We meet in the show flat – already entertaining prospective clients. Anchana’s interest in design is immediately apparent. One suspects that her input to the style of the Utopia interiors is considerable – as she speaks enthusiastically about the high ceilings, the modernist lines of the furnishings with cream ceramic floor tiles, glossy black kitchen units and glass-topped dining table – at this moment serving another function as we talk across it. And since Anchana is a single mother of a six-year-old boy, she is especially concerned that everything should be as child-proof as possible.
Anchana is clearly a devoted parent; her world revolves around work and parenting. She is too busy, she says, to have time for outside interests. No matter. Such single mindedness has already taken Anchana a long way…