Sansiri, a Bangkok-based property developer, has just pumped US$80m into six tech and lifestyle companies – including London-based luxury magazine Monocle and Airbnb management service Hostmaker.
The other investments are in high-end hotel chain Standard International (which is launching its first London outpost next year); in Standard-owned travel booking app One Night; in Southeast Asian co-working space provider JustCo, and in “indoor farm” company Farmshelf. That last one “presents huge opportunities to integrate its products into Sansiri’s selective residential projects, creating enormous added-value for their consumers”, according to a press statement.
The overall plan is to take Sansiri “beyond real estate” and “beyond Thailand” – but one of the most exciting elements of this investment spree involves both of those things…
Monocle – the magazine/lifestyle brand founded by Tyler Brûlé (who previously founded Wallpaper* magazine) – is set to launch “a mixed-use residential concept” with Sansiri in Bangkok in 2018.
Sansiri started life back in 1984, and now generates more than $1.2bn in sales each year in Thailand alone. It plans to do another £360m-worth of deals in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan by the end of this year. The firm has now acquired a 12.5% stake in Monocle magazine.
Monocle’s founder Tyler Brûlé mentioned the plan to create some kind of branded residence in an interview with the Guardian at the weekend. “We have had a lot of fantasies about [creating Monocle apartments]” Brûlé, told journalist Ruaridh Nicoll. “Now we have to come good on those fantasies… We won’t be creating Monocle Towers; we will create a new identity. It will be completely fresh. [But] we will use our readership base and design for them.” The magazine currently has a global readership of around 81,500 (mostly rather affluent and well-travelled), and has already branched out into retail, radio and book publishing.
“We don’t see it [the Bangkok project] as a one-off,” said Brûlé; “we see 10 to 12 cities we could do it in. We know where our readers are and where they travel, and we know what they like.”
A statement from Sansiri Public Company Limited: “In Thailand, growth of the real estate sector is linked to the growth of GDP, in which we expect to see only moderate growth. But Sansiri has high business growth ambitions and these strategic investments will develop Sansiri beyond its core business for the first time. We are expanding our global reach and capitalising on key opportunities in order to generate new revenue from the property-related industries and we will utilize the partnerships to strengthen our core real-estate business.
“Our next chapter centres on anticipating and meeting evolving consumer needs by creating a world-class modern living platform. This involves taking Sansiri to the next level as a global brand, ensuring we are at the forefront of tech and innovation, transforming ourselves for the future, and creating a synergistic environment for our business to grow. We will focus on three key activities: strategic investment in global lifestyle brands; developing property technologies in partnership with industry disruptors; and enhancing influence and audience through premium lifestyle media.
“Our core business continues to be development and place making, but our broader focus now encompasses a radical commitment to elevating quality of life, from the homes we live in, to the way we travel, to the access we have to the freshest of produce. Sansiri, along with our partners, will be right there at the edge of the emerging future, shaping the ways that we’ll live, work, learn and play – for the better.”
Monocle: “We have had a long-standing relationship with Sansiri at Monocle and given our growth beyond media, it made sense to partner with a company that fit with our increasing focus on urbanism, retail and new service concepts. ”