The entrepreneur and political advisor explains how he will uplift the community.
By Ashima Sethi
When walking up to the Khuruwanit household, I’ll be honest when I say that I was unsure of what to expect. At this point in my journalism career, I had yet to sit down and speak to an individual involved in the political sector, as it was a field that I always found difficult to approach, and one that I had a natural detachment from because there simply were no candidates in Thailand who I felt represented my unique identity as a Thai-Indian. However, this was all about to change.
When I arrived, the family invited me in with utmost hospitality. A plate of hot samosas lay on the table, an invitation for a warm cup of chai dotted the air, and I was told to make myself at home, which in my journey as a writer is surprisingly rare. When I finally met Rahm Khuruwanit after his long day spent tending to duties in the old city of Ayutthaya, he was warm and kind in his demeanor. I was invited to sit down in his office, where his entire family joined us for the interview, a testament to their closeness and his children’s respect for their father.
To begin, I decided to break the ice with a question that has floated in everyone’s minds after a popular viral video made rounds in the community: “Is it true that you own a lion?” To which he replied in between laughs, “We did! We fostered a young cub for a while. He was very sweet but powerful, and roamed around the house like a true member of the family.”
As someone who thinks ownership of my black Labrador is already pushing the envelope for pets in Bangkok, I ask him what the motivation was to bring such a wild creature home. I was told, “I’ve always loved lions as animals. To me, lions are a diverse symbol of majesty, strength, courage, and justice,” a statement that rang true when my eyes darted around the room and saw all of the lion-related memorabilia that added to the décor while framing Rahm’s countless awards and medals for philanthropy, achievements in education, career accomplishments, and so forth.
I bring up this anecdote about the lion because beyond it being majestic creature in every regard, we also associate the image of a lion with that of a leader of a pack, which I believe mirrors Rahm’s mission in his various businesses and political career, to lead the Indian community into a new era, one with more acceptance, unity, and significance amongst the wider Thai society.
Born as Rahm Khuruwanit, but also known as Rahm Singh Gorowara, Rahm is a third generation Sikh-Namdhari born and brought up in Bangkok. His education and training path started in Thailand but continued to India, Malaysia, and Singapore, and even now, he details how the path for learning has yet to end and he is still involving himself in professional courses in order to gain new skills, because “education is the true key to success.”
Looking back, Rahm recalls how his family have always been involved in multiple SME businesses. “With that experience, I decided to start my own garment and textile business at a very young age, and yes! It was from scratch! There were many challenges and ups and downs, but I’m proud because all of these successes and failures have shaped the strong mindset that I have today.”
After establishing his business, Rahm had the chance to partner up with investors in real estate, his professional portfolio began to grow significantly. He was invited as a guest speaker at events where he was able to share his knowledge about his various business; at present he is a trader in the Stock Exchange of Thailand; he is an advisor to a few SME companies, and an advisor to a few politicians and committees in the House of Representatives of the Thai Parliament.
“Beyond this, there was a lot more work in various industries that I experienced as part of my career path. I am a firm believer that no venture, no matter how big or small, should ever be overlooked as they are like jigsaw pieces that have combined to make me who I am today,” Rahm explains.
A multifaceted entrepreneur, Rahm is now blazing a trail in the Kingdom’s political sphere. He gets candid with Masala about his journey thus far, his goals for the near future, and why he is so committed to improving the lives of Thai-Indians everywhere.
Beyond the office, what are other roles you have helmed in regards to organisations dedicated to Indians in Thailand? Can you share some experiences?
There are several roles that come to mind. The first is being elected as the Vice President of the Namdhari Sangat of Thailand. I have done several sewas with the support of my team, not only within the Namdhari community, but also with other Indian communities. In Sikhism, we believe that we should not demand any credit from doing sewa, it comes purely from the heart, so I would rather not get into so many details. From an overall perspective, I’ve always wanted to help my Indian brothers and sisters and my efforts are centered on the belief that we should not differentiate any Indian by religion. We must unite as ‘Thai-Indians’ to uplift our reputation, to do good deeds, and be helpful, not only to each other, but also the nation.
One of the greatest experiences I can recall was when members of the Indian community, under the supervision of the Embassy of India, Bangkok, joined together to welcome the Prime Minister of India, H.E. Narendra Modi in November 2019. This event was a great success and was published worldwide. This was one of the examples I believe exemplified unity and the community coming together, and is something we should strive to achieve in all of our efforts.
A relatively unheard of step for many Thai-Indians, what was your motivation to get involved in politics and what does this honour mean to you?
I think most Thai-Indians can still sense discrimination in the country. Many of us have resorted to transforming our thoughts, beliefs, and detaching from our beautiful traditions and lifestyle to try to assimilate and blend in with other cultures. Therefore I want to uplift our Indian pride and remind all Indians that we have so many reasons to be proud.
I believe politics has been a passion of mine for a long time. I do not sleep without watching the news, no matter how late it gets. I have been lucky to be part of many social groups over the past 15 years and sincerely speaking, I am very proud to be a Thai-Indian and this confidence goes with me everywhere I go.
Some examples are just recently, I encouraged Thai politicians to commemorate Diwali, and I often make it a point to wear traditional Indian clothes to professional meetings with people of other ethnicities.
To become a representative for the community, solving their problems and uplifting their standards of living, is the biggest honour. I don’t think a greater honour can come to any man than having the support of his own people.
Why do you believe you have what it takes to run for political office? What are some aspects of your leadership style that you believe will be effective in representing our community?
The two most important days of one’s life is the day you are born and the day you find out why. I started my journey from ground level, passing through many obstacles, and I’ve gotten to a point where I know exactly what people need and how I can assist them. It is not just my beliefs that made me confident enough to run for political office, but also the senior leaders in politics who have blazed the trail and my supporters, from the Thais to the Thai-Indians who have placed their trust in me. I always keep my mind open to all suggestions, feedback, and ideas. I have a crystal clear action plan to serve my country and I hope my knowledge, experiences, and dedication will help make an impact in people’s lives.
Do you have any role models that have made an impact on you as a leader?
There are many great leaders in the world who I respect, but for me, anyone who is working for the well-being of society or their country can be a great role model for others. Leadership is less about titles, positions, and flowcharts, and more about how you influence another person’s life.
For people who are unfamiliar with the political landscape, can you share with our readers what a typical work week looks like for you and what kind of responsibilities your role involves?
I have been officially posted as an advisor to a few committees such as the Committee of Commerce, the Committee of Anti-Corruption, and the Committee of Budgeting and Monitoring in the House of Representatives (Thai Parliament). I have also been honoured a post in the National Strategic Committee of one of Thailand’s leading political parties responsible for SME businesses and tourism schemes. We work under ‘TEAMRAHM’ and my team drives my vision and decisions into action.
Mondays to Thursdays I have to attend committee meetings at the Parliament, advising proper solutions to problems affecting the nation. The rest of my time is spent working with people who have contacted me through my Facebook page to assist them with their difficulties.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far in your journey as a politician?
My political journey has just begun but being accepted into Thai politics was a big challenge initially. Now the bigger challenge is carrying out my vision for the public, solving their problems, changing their lives and being accepted amongst all citizens. These challenges are welcome as I believe we do not grow when things are easy, we only grow when we face challenges and are brave enough to overcome them.
For a long time, there was a belief that Thai locals did not truly understand the contributions that Indians had on Thai society. Do you think this belief has changed or does more work need to be done to educate Thai people on the culture and traditions of the Thai-Indian community?
I believe there have been changes in the belief the Thai community holds about Thai-Indians. However, there is still a long way to go and this is a major reason I joined politics. Our Thai-Indian society has been doing a lot of good deeds, social welfare, donations, and contributions all over Thailand. We have built schools, libraries, and more, and people need to be made aware of this. I want to fill this gap, acting like a bridge, creating awareness that we are also a part of Thailand’s family. I will do whatever it takes to bring these contributions to light.
What are some of the things you hope to achieve both in the short term and long term, and what are some examples of policies you are advocating for?
Through TEAMRAHM and my personal political connections, I have been solving a wide-range of problems related to education, corruption, and improving employment opportunities. In the short term, our goal is to spread the message that we can offer solutions for any genuine problems. In the long term, we want to build systems. For example, I often send my team out for food distribution for the needy. However, this is a temporary solution and in the long term, we want to find these people sustainable work and jobs so that they no longer have to beg or wait for handouts.
Moreover, I am preparing a road map with 20 strategies to revive Thailand’s tourism, which I hope will attract 100 million tourists after the pandemic with focus on Indian travellers. Before COVID, approximately 11 million Chinese tourists visited the Kingdom in comparison to only 2 million from India. I did a survey to better understand each demographic and found that Chinese tourists spend approximately USD 1,600 here while Indians spend USD 3,400, so it is a lucrative market that needs to be tapped into more.
Some ideas we are debating include free visas, signing MoUs with various countries to encourage a ‘tourism exchange,’ improving direct flights from India to here and vice versa, drawing back the Indian wedding business, and offering free shipping for tourists who visit the Kingdom so that they are encouraged to shop and spend money here without the worry of travelling with all their purchases. These ideas and more are all being debated; it’s all very exciting.
COVID-19 has really hit many industries in Thailand hard. People are struggling; SMEs, which form the backbone of the country are struggling; in your opinion what needs to be done to ensure Thailand recovers?
There are over 12 million people involved in the country’s SME sector, it is a large sector and one that we cannot ignore. The biggest problem facing this sector is that despite having 12 million people working in it, we are seeing the country’s wealthiest businesses, a few thousand of them, make their owners richer, while those in this sector are becoming poorer and are in debt. We are currently talking about initiatives to help this group, examples of which include profit sharing, changing rules around things like asset warehousing, and finding solutions with financial institutions and banks to lessen the load on SMEs. This sector is very important to the economy, so we have plans in motion that will benefit it in the long term.
Can you talk about TEAMRAHM’s efforts during the pandemic on a community level?
At the beginning of this year when COVID numbers were still high, we launched a Facebook page to communicate the message that if anyone needed any assistance, shelter, or help with finances, to get in touch. I was lucky that I had grown my network over the last 10 years, and because of those connections, I was able to help over 100 people with COVID-related problems by sourcing beds and medical help. There were cases where people could not pay their medical bills, so through TEAMRAHM, we offered to help them. I didn’t feel at any point that it was a loss on my part, in fact it was a privilege, an honour to do sewa.
In looking for people to join forces with, or take the next step in your political career, what kind of criteria do you apply?
At the moment I am an advisor to a few parties and I am humbled to have made the connections that I have in the political sphere and be actively involved in many facets. However, for me, it is not about status, my journey has always been about helping people. I want to be in a position where ideas can be driven to create action and this might mean involving myself with the government sector. But at this moment in time, I am still figuring out my next step and which party I want to align myself with. Regardless of where I am, the mission to help others will always be at the center of my journey.
A role in politics requires a big time commitment. How do you balance your career with other aspects of your life?
Keeping a balance is key. Managing your time and not forgetting the people who support you, is so important. Who are your biggest cheerleaders? It is family. The way I balance my time is from Monday to Thursday I am busy with responsibilities associated with my career, Fridays I keep for networking, Saturday is for my nearest and dearest, and Sunday is family day. I appreciate that my family understand the journey that I am on. If they did not understand, I would not be as motivated, so I am lucky and I thank them very much.
What are some of the most rewarding things that have come with running for political office?
Money is not everything, rewards come with following your passion. I joined politics because I wanted my ideas and experiences to have an impact on people. I have a knack for problem solving, so I want to help people, not just myself, and not just those nearest and dearest to me. So I take a lot of pride in this.
What message would you like to leave our readers?
Do not just give your vote to a Member of Parliament or a Minister that you like. Instead, vote for the person who has ears for your problems and thoughts for your solutions. I would like to reiterate that I cannot walk through this path with success without the community’s support. I am proud to be a representative for us Thai-Indians and I am excited that I will have opportunities in the future to improve our lives, uplift our reputation, and show our fellow Thai brothers and sisters that we are a significant part of this country’s identity. Finally, if there is anything you think I can assist you with, I am available at all times via my page. All suggestions and ideas are welcome.
For more information about TEAMRAHM:
Facebook: ราม คุรุวาณิชย์ – RAHM