Singapore-backed business accelerator to help Thai SMEs digitalise

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SMALL businesses in Thailand want to use the Internet to boost their marketing - but are concerned about the cost and difficulty, a poll by a Singapore-backed business accelerator has found.

The FinLab accelerator unveiled a plan on Thursday (Nov 15) to digitalise SMEs in Thailand - mere months after the technology training scheme was rolled out in Singapore in August - and will address online sales and marketing in the digital solutions on offer.

More than half of the 770 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand, surveyed in October and November 2018, picked online marketing as a key business growth strategy.

Of these companies, about three-fifths identified social media marketing and digital marketing as their methods of choice to boost sales and improve customer engagement.

Yet 67 per cent of the SMEs polled cited cost concerns, while 44 per cent were worried about the complexity involved in implementing such a digital transformation.

The FinLab is backed by United Overseas Bank. Its three-month Smart Business Transformation Programme, set to start in 2019, will provide participating Thai SMEs with workshops, mentoring and meetings with tech solutions providers.

The scheme is aimed at companies in the food and beverage, fast-moving consumer goods, construction, logistics, retail, wholesale and travel industries that have regional growth plans and an annual turnover of 25 million baht (S$1.05 million) to one billion baht.

Felix Tan, managing director of The FinLab, said in a media statement that the accelerator's mission was to help SMEs across Asean validate solutions and scale their businesses, using digitalisation and business transformation.

The FinLab will spend an average of 910,000 baht on each participating business, but is working with the relevant Thai agencies to subsidise the inaugural cohort.

The Thai edition of the Smart Business Transformation Programme is supported by UOB (Thai) and the Digital Economy Promotion Agency of Thailand.

UOB (Thai)'s head of channels and digitalisation, James Rama Phataminviphas, added: "Many Thai SMEs already have the desire to digitalise and we want to help them harness technology to overcome their business challenges and to grow their business.

"The FinLab's Smart Business Transformation Programme will help participating SMEs gain the knowledge needed to transform their business and will also connect them to our wider ecosystem of technology providers in the region.

"Through our regional network, we will also be able to help these SMEs expand their businesses into other countries."

Chatchai Khunpitiluck, senior executive vice-president in the Digital Economy Promotion Agency's Digital Economy Unit, said: "With Thailand 4.0, we are moving into the next stage of economic growth and will see widespread use of digital applications for business.

"We welcome strategic ecosystem partners such as The FinLab and UOB (Thai) to support us in achieving our national digital economic objectives."

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