Leading businessman overcomes many setbacks on path to success

Mr Khamphay Somxana is proof that one doesn’t always need fancy degrees and higher educational qualifications to succeed in the complicated world of finance and business.
Despite being forced to stop his education after completing year four of primary school 50 years ago, he went on to build a successful business and has played a key role in restoring forests across Laos.
He is the owner and president of Khamphay Xana Group Company Limited, which consists of 12 firms with interests in construction, architectural development, furniture, agriculture, tourism and a mixed concrete factory. 
These firms have participated in prestigious infrastructure development projects such as the construction of the Prime Minister’s Office, the UNDP building, a new building for the Ministry of Education and Sports, and controlling erosion along the Mekong river bank in Vientiane and other provinces. 
His concrete factory meets the needs for mixed cement for projects around the country, and his agriculture development company focuses on food production and the supply of mushrooms, chemical-free vegetables, cattle and poultry. 
Mr Khamphay, 62, also has a grass plantation project spread over 50 hectares in Saendin village of Naxaithong district to feed animals. 

Mr Khamphay poses with a tree that he planted last year.

This year, the government has assigned his company to carry out farm production and infrastructure development projects in Xaysomboun province that are aimed at encouraging farmers to grow cool seasonal crops and plants for commercial purposes. 
Another of his key business operations is the development of the Tadxon Natural Waterfall Tourism Site in Naxaithong district, located 28 km from Vientiane. This project covers 10,000 hectares, including 4,000 hectares he owns and 6,000 hectares granted through a concession.
The entire area has been divided into development zones for tourism, natural forest protection and tree plantation and the project’s main purpose is to serve tourism and education. Different tourist activities and facilities have been arranged at the site, such as a service with 11 elephants, a restaurant, 40 bungalows, 111 huts for tourists, trekking to explore forests and planted tree zones, and caves dedicated to leaders such as President Souphanouvong and Mr Saly Vongkhamxao who took a break in the area after escaping from Phonkheng jail in 1959 during the Indochina war.
A zipline service at the site was officially opened on May 30, the day Visit Laos Year celebrations began in Naxaithong. There is also a massive field with stones near Phouphanang mountain for tourists to explore. From the mountain top, visitors can view Vientiane city.
Mr Khamphay has planted various tree species across the site. Over the years, he has planted more than 1.6 million agar wood trees and millions of native hardwood and softwood species such as Pterocarpus, Sindora cochinchinensis and Hopea ferrea.
He understands the great value of forest resources and started planting trees in 1990. He still plants trees every month and not just on special occasions such as National Abour Day.
“I am a leading businessman today because of wood,” he said.
For the past 28 years, he has established and built up his businesses. It has been a long road for him as he had to overcome numerous obstacles and gain the people’s trust.
Mr Khamphay’s success started when he gave up a driving job to operate a small furniture workshop in 1990. Luckily, the enterprise grew and generated a lot of income. After dealing in furniture for nine years, he established a construction company because his workshop often supplied materials to construction projects.
The furniture workshop played a key role in helping Mr Khampahy to start other businesses, and he went on to establish the Khamphay Sana Group Company Limited.
Mr Khamphay, who lives at Thongsangnang village in Chanthabouly district, was born in a poor family in a remote area of Kham district of Xieng Khuang province in the north. Despite the lack of a formal education, he has achieved greatness through patience and constant desire to excel.
He also attributes his success to proper implementation and use of the government’s socio-economic policies. Strong support from his family also boosted his businesses and infrastructural development projects.
He said he had to give up his education because of the poverty and Indochina war and other problems in 1969. His parents moved the family from their hometown to Xaysomboun Special Zone (now known as Xayxomboun province) and then to Vientiane province.
Hadtha village in Keo Oudom district of Vientiane became the family’s final home and Mr Khamphay grew up there and married Ms Phimkhan Somxana at the age of 22. He worked as a farmer to support his family but continued to face hardship.  He dreamed of getting a new job that would give him a higher income
His two elder brothers, who moved to Vientiane city and began driving taxis, had a more comfortable life. In 1980, Mr Khamphay took his wife and two little children to Vientiane and bought a wooden house within a rice field at Thongsangnang village for one baht of gold (a baht weighs 15 grams).
Mr Khamphay said during every rainy season, the water rose and flooded his house. His family lived in these conditions for eight years.
When he moved to Vientiane, he had only three baht of gold that was given to him by his mother-in-law. After buying the house, he used the rest of the gold to start a small business selling clothes.
At first, he did not khow to buy and sell things for a profit as he was more familiar with farm work. He bought clothes that he put in a bag and travelled to Huaphan province, where he went from village to village sell his goods.
After doing this for three years from 1981 to 1983, he and his wife took all the money they had saved and bought an old pickup truck in 1984 to ferry passengers between various locations in Vientiane. After two years, he realised this was not the right occupation for him because it did not make him a lot of money.
It was after this that Mr Khamphay started his furniture workshop in 1990. In the past, he couldn’t access bank loans because his family didn’t have any assets to use as guarantee. He often borrowed money from a relative and invested about 5 million kip (about US$750) in his business.
Today, he can use his property to secure a loan of more than US$10 million from banks.
Mr Khamphay has received many awards from the government, such as the first development medals and was recognised as the best business person by the Lao Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2016 and 2017.  
Mr Khamphay and Ms Phimkhan Somxana have four children—three boys and one girl. It was very sad for Somxana family after his wife passed away in March 7, 2015. The family lost a good spouse and mother forever.  

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update June 25, 2018)

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