Interview : Jitti Tangsithpakdi – President of the Thai Gold Traders Association
Jitti Tangsithpakdi’s name has been a part of Thailand’s gold trading business for more than six decades. Coined as ‘Gold Man’ within the industry, he stepped into the world of gold when he was just 14 yearsold as a low-level employee in his brother’s shop. As time passed, he’s risen to be in the highest ranks in the industry as President of the Thai Gold Traders Association, as well as being the owner of the Chin Hua Heng Goldsmith shop. Getting to this rare and dignified position of expertise, Jittiwent through thick and thin, and is here to tell his tale.
“I was born in Thailand, and my whole family lives in Thailand. However, my father sent me to study in China to learn the language. When China became communist, I got stuck there for three yearsand could come back to Thailand when I was 14. I started working at a gold shop that my siblings opened. I started with general work, then goldsmithing, gold smelting, working in front of the shop as a cashier, working as a manager, etc. Let’s just say that I worked in every possible position. If we talk about the gold industry today, I’d probably be in the most senior position.
When I turned 38 I invested in shares with a friend to open a gold trading business named the Chin Hua Heng Goldsmith shop. It stood in front of the Sri Rajchawong Theatre. We extracted gold, bought gold, and sold gold. After two years, the shop expanded and I held all the shares alone. In the past, there were three branches in total. Two in Yaowarat (one which was expropriated to build the new MRT), and another one in Charoen Krung. Currently there’s two branches left. I’m currently looking for a location to open another branch in place of the one which got expropriated. It’s so difficult to find. I still haven’t found anywhere. And if I want to find a location similar to the one I had in Yaowarat, it’s simply impossible now.”
Selling gold nowadays differs from the past. Before, the shops were open air, dust would settle onto the gold and it must be frequently cleaned. Now there’s air-conditioning put in place which helps greatly with the dust. Back then the price of gold was cheap. One baht of gold would cost only 400 baht. We sold so well especially during the Chinese New Year, because people would have received their bonus or Ang Pao. They would buy gold ornament to wearandconsider it as savingmoney. Some gold shops would remain open until midnightandorganize Chinese Opera for customer entertainment. But nowadays Chinese New Year isn’t as lively. We don’t close shop late. Maybe it’s because of the high price of gold as well as it not being in trend for jewelry.
Even though nowadays the business of gold trading isn’t as active and vibrant compared to the past, there are still a large number of those interested in this precious metal.Jittihas some tips for how to choose good quality gold.
“Most people would say that if you want to buy gold you have to go to Yaowarat. The large stores would smelt and produce their own gold which guarantees high quality. And whatever the price Thai Gold Traders Association announces, these stores would adjust accordingly. If customers want to return their products, they’ll also get a full refund.
As for other shops not in the area, if they’re a part of the Thai Gold Traders Association, they offer same standard quality. If they’re not, they don’t have official guarantees. You can notice from the price that’s a bit cheaper than Yaowarat by a hundred or two hundred baht. In reality, the law is very lenient in terms of gold prices. Stores can adjust the price as long as it’s not over 5% of the price set by the Thai Gold Traders Association.Anyhow, quality control isn’t an issue. For example, gold shops that have been opened for many years — you can trust thosetoo butif you really want to buy in bulk, Yaowarat is the place to go.”
Many people have probably wondered why the purity of Thai gold rests at a standard of 96.5% and not 99.99%.Jittiexplains the reason why.
“Thailand has to import gold from abroad in order to smelt into different products. Their purity is at 99.99% but we adjust to be at 96.5%. We do this because the more percentage of purity gold has, the softer it will be. It is at a good level of rigidness — perfect for creating gold ornaments. They won’t lose their shape or stretch and can be worn for a long time. There’s a saying in Thai: “In water it doesn’t slip, in fire it doesn’t burn”.This is because when our gold is faced with fire, it becomes more vibrant and doesn’t turn black like those of other countries.ASEAN countries admire and buy Thai gold as it is inexpensive and there are so many designs to choose from.”
During the early years, trading gold was done independently, causing many issues in the market. It wasn’t until 1983 that 11 gold traders came together to create an official gold traders association in order to create a standardized product across the board. In the beginning, the members consisted of shops in Yaowarat area, and later on, gold trading business from around the country signed up as members as well. Currently, Jittiis the president of the Thai Gold Traders Association.
“The purpose of the association is to organize the gold trading industry, for example the average price of gold in the country. In Thailand, gold price will be announced from 9.30 to 9.50am each morning. And if the worldwide gold price fluctuates, then there will be another announcement. There are some days where the price shifts four or five times. This causes the buyer to be able to purchase gold at a price that’s with the global average. The association also maintains the standardization of gold’s purity to be 96.5% all over the country, and they support and promote the members and buyers in whatever problems they face.”
As a veteran in the gold industry, Jittibelieves that in order to create a successful business, one should never stop or stay stagnant.
“Nowadays, even though I have reached success, I haven’t stopped developing new products like ‘Gold Online’ or ‘Gold Online Future’, which will allow the newer generations to invest in gold through their electronic devices. We’re developing in order to reach a completely different target audience, and it also helps promote investors speculate more in the country as well.
Furthermore, I’ve developed new designs of gold bars and gold ornaments. For example,I’ve designed a gift card that looks alike ID card to celebrate the birth of a baby. You can inscribe everything from the name to the date of birthand pay only a few thousand baht. Newer generation of kids would like it. We keep developing. Next year we’re opening a factory — our biggest factory, in order to export gold. It will be all done by machinery, because nowadays goldsmiths are extremely rare. I want the state to support goldsmiths very much in order to promote Thai gold abroad. This would make our business develop much furtherandcreate profit for the country.”
Apart from the points mentioned above, Jittialso mentions honesty as one of the reasons to his great success.
“In the gold industry, honesty is extremely important. It is the key to business success. People will buy gold from you because your word is gold too.It does not rely on written contract. My store guarantees our transparency as slogan“Full-percent when you buy, full-price when you redeem.”