The modern muse
By Shaan Bajaj
I come from an incredibly traditional background, one that celebrated women only for their contribution as mothers and wives, and often forgot to celebrate them for just existing. Although young me could never choose what toy I wanted, I knew I wanted more than just marriage and kids for myself. Now, I may not fully know what I want out of life, but I know the goals that I’ve set for myself. Sometimes, an uncomfortable set of circumstances, one that can feel painful, can be one of the strongest foundations to help you cultivate a clear and goal-oriented mind-set, a sentiment that I realised I shared with Renesha ‘Lalisa’ Singhsachathet, the Co-founder of Muse Society, a lifestyle group under Fico Corporation.
While we sipped on green tea kombuchas, Lalisa recalls her reluctance to leave her life in Bangkok at the age of 13, when her parents sent her to Roedean School, a boarding school in Brighton. “I went to my dad a week before I was meant to leave, and told him I did not want to go,” she recalls. “What he said next echoed in my mind till the day I graduated: one day, you will come and thank me. And I do. That experience changed me as a person. It made me independent and disciplined, leading me to future endeavours, and setting goals became my sole priority. The healthy environment, and opportunity to socially integrate and adapt in a diverse community, moulded me into what I would call a ‘people person.’”
After boarding school, Lalisa undertook a Bachelor’s degree at King’s College London, reading Digital Culture with a major focus on business psychology. Her fascination with people’s mindset began during a high school summer internship at SEAC Thailand, where there was an emphasis on empowering an individual’s mind and skillset to thrive in today’s workplace. She further elaborates, explaining that, “Business is a solid foundation, but the mindset of people in the workplace can be further analysed with psychology, and the curiosity to understand how decisions are made in the work place.”
Since completing her education, she returned to Bangkok to join her family’s business, Fico Corporation, which owns a range of businesses spanning the hospitality, commercial real estate, luxury retail, manufacturing, trading, F&B and entertainment industries; and co-founded lifestyle group Muse Society with her brother Sithi Srichawla, in September 2022. The group compromises all of Fico Corporation’s F&B outlets and boutique luxury hospitality. “At Muse Society, we build brands through unique experiences that are brought to life by passionate individuals. Our muse is awakened through creative expression amongst all,” she says. Currently, Lalisa oversees Opera Complex, including Opera Italian restaurant, The Iron Fairies, Twelve Chairs, and Gelato & Co.
Coming from a business family, Lalisa grew up interacting with a variety of people, and built a strong work ethic, nurtured by her father. When opening Opera Italian Restaurant, she was involved in the entire process, hanging décor and working alongside the entire team. “It shows your colleagues that you are in it together, and builds a strong sense of teamwork”. During our chat, she delves into her attraction towards the F&B industry, and how she hopes to shape experiences by working with passionate people.
What drew you to F&B and hospitality? And what do you hope to add to the city’s thriving F&B and hospitality offerings?
I love travelling, and exploring food and cultures. It leaves me with a lot of creativity and inspiration. Paired with my passion in business psychology, I thought it could be valuable in a fast-paced industry like this, where people are central to its success. I want to identify how a change in mindset, expressed artistically, can result in better operations, work culture, and better service. It requires on-the-go upgrades to be ahead of competitors, making it challenging and exciting.
Our customers’ desires are at the heart of the service industry. At Muse Society, we hope our venues are much more than places to hang out, but ones that create an emotional connection with our guests, awakening their senses and soul.
Service is at the heart of both these industries, and as Thailand is world-famed for its hospitality, how do you maintain a high quality of service across your outlets?
Good service comes from the quality of people at our organisation. We strive to work with passionate people from diverse backgrounds, who are able to narrate the story we are telling, and welcome guests to be a part of that story. Our work environment is set up to foster creativity and empower our colleagues to feel passionate about
The urban Thai revels in dressing up and trying the latest food trends. What are the current trends that you have noticed within the F&B industry? And how do you remain relevant in an ever-changing landscape?
In an ever-changing landscape where people are smarter and there are more choices than ever before, the way we remain relevant is by paying attention to the little details and setting a standard that prioritises quality. Recently, social media has taken over food trends, with Instagrammable dishes quickly going viral. Additionally, a recent statistic states that Gen-Zers spend 40 percent of their total spending on food – more than apparel and entertainment. Consequently, dining experiences and restaurants can determine one’s personal taste and style.
Our team leverages social media and studies local and international patterns to stay up to date with trends. Our staff also bring unique cultural touches, and we are constantly searching for new ways to engage with our customers. Nowadays, it is more than just the food, quality and the experience you give, that sets you apart.
You work with UNICEF, can you expand what you do with them? What do you hope to achieve?
While volunteering with a local foundation, a child gave me a smile after I gave him a sticker to praise him, and it stuck with me and I wanted to pursue working with children. It struck me that underprivileged children might just need a chance to be an integral part of society and a chance to thrive. With UNICEF’s NextGen community in Thailand, I was able to find out more about their work beyond monetary donations. My goal going forward is not only to continue campaigning but also to work on providing children with an opportunity to develop their mindset from a young age, where they feel valued, and strive to reach their full potential in society.
You manage a number of spaces alongside your charity work, and maintain a healthy social lifestyle. How do you manage your time, and do you have any tips?
I am a big planner, and I love making weekly schedules , thanks to my mum who is a living example of work/life balance. I think all my activities complement each other, as creativity can emerge at any time. My tip is to plan ahead, as that way you can get more done. Maybe also balance your activities and feel completely energised with whatever you are doing – the best ideas often pop up when you are having fun.
Tell us about your support system and inspiration over the years.
My biggest support has been family. Whether my day has been good or bad, my husband encourages me to fulfil my passions, and helps me put things into perspective. I am very close to my parents and brother; they are like my best friends, we share everything, and it is very empowering. I am beyond grateful to my mum, who is basically my sister and best friend, who always encourages me to go after what I want – the collaboration with UNICEF stemmed from her support. My biggest inspiration is my dad, who has shown me the true meaning of hard work, and told me that you had to do it yourself, and what it means to be involved in the process, instead of just being on top of it.