Thailand’s ‘mini’ FTA with Hainan pays off in big way
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2023
The “mini” free trade agreement Thailand signed with China’s Hainan province two years ago helped push up exports to the area by 91.9% last year.
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit made this comment after meeting Hainan’s executive vice governor Shen Danyang on Monday.
“The Commerce Ministry has accepted China’s invitation to participate in the Hainan Expo from April 11 to 15,” he said.
Jurin reckons at least 20 Thai businesses will participate in the expo.
He added that Thailand will promote Hainan as a free trade port, and even set up an office there to publicise Thai products.
“Thailand has asked Hainan to further expand the mini FTA, increase the frequency of trade discussions and add Thai products to Hainan’s duty-free shops,” he said.
“The Commerce Ministry is also inviting Hainan to send businessmen to participate in Thailand’s five trade fairs, namely Style Bangkok, Thailand Autoparts and Accessories, Thaifex-Anuga Asia, Tilog Logistix and Bangkok Gems & Jewellery Fair.”
Jurin said China was still Thailand’s key export market, despite the global economic slowdown, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and inflation.
He said Thailand will sign mini FTAs with Shenzhen and Yunnan soon as part of its aim to boost exports to China by 1% this year.
The value of exports to Hainan last year came in at 18.2 billion baht, up 91.9% year on year. The most popular products exported were rubber, fruit, chemicals and ore.
Jurin said the mini FTA with Hainan was signed on August 20, 2021, which further strengthened the country’s ties with China.
He said Thailand currently has seven mini FTAs with key cities globally and expects negotiations on another six to be completed soon.
Govt revenue soars past target in first four months of fiscal 2023
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2023
Government revenue collection for the first four months of fiscal 2023 (October to January) surpassed its target by 12.3%, the Finance Ministry’s Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) said on Monday.
FPO director-general Pornchai Thiraveja said revenue was 866.643 billion baht in the first four months, which was also 10% higher than for the same period last year.
Government agencies surpassing revenue targets this year are:
– The Revenue Department with 613.298 billion, or 11% above target, driven by higher corporate tax revenue due to the expanding economy.
– The Customs Department with 47.112 billion, or 32.7% above target, after receipt of excise taxes following rulings in smuggling cases.
– Other agencies, which have received revenue from their revolving funds and concession fees from mobile phone operators and auction of licenses for FM radio frequencies. Some state firms also remitted their income for fiscal 2022, adding to revenue in this group.
In contrast, the Excise Department’s revenue was 14.4% lower than its target of 160.415 billion after the government cut diesel excise tax to reduce the impact of rising prices on consumers.
Excluding the Customs Department and other government agencies, the government collected 57.928 billion in revenue during the first four months of fiscal 2023, 7.8% higher than targeted and 5.6% higher than the previous fiscal year.
Have 30 satang handy? You can buy YumYum Changnoi noodles then
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2023
The government’s decision to allow a 30 satang increase in the price of “YumYum Changnoi” instant noodles is causing problems at checkout counters.
This is because the Thai currency only has 25 and 50 satang coins, and returning change for 3.30 baht is becoming difficult.
Wan Thai Foods, the manufacturer of YumYum Changnoi, had filed a request with the Department of Internal Trade last year to increase the price of the noodles from 3 baht to 4. However, it was told that it could only raise it by 30 satang to 3.30 baht.
“Manufacturers have never faced a problem like this before,” a source from the consumer goods industry said on Saturday.
Separately, a source from the retail industry said this is yet another evidence of this government’s inability to maintain product prices.
“Instant noodles have become a product used in political games,” the source said, adding that the price of instant noodles is a sensitive issue among Thais. Instant noodles are the cheapest source of nutrition in Thailand.
Pawat Ruangdejworachai, CEO of media solutions firm Media Intelligence Group, said product prices are calculated based on the cost of production, packaging, marketing and the manufacturer’s profit.
Many manufacturers have been suffering from rising costs due to skyrocketing oil prices due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
He said raising the price of YumYum Changnoi noodles by 30 satang was not in line with trade practices. Instead, he said, product prices should be set in a range that attracts consumers to purchase, like selling energy drinks at 10 baht per bottle.
“If brands want to increase their prices, they must ensure consumers get equivalent benefits, otherwise buyers will just go for a cheaper option,” he said.
The price of many consumer goods has risen over the past two months this year. For instance, the Red Bull energy drink has risen from 10 baht to 12, while 125ml packets of Lactasoy soy milk are now going for 6 baht instead of 5.
The price of YumYum instant noodles was raised from 6 baht per pack to 7 baht last year, along with Mama and WaiWai.
The price of Yakult yoghurt drink is set to rise by 1 baht per bottle on March 1, for the first time in more than a decade.
Consumer products likely to cost more despite cut in diesel price
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2023
The move by the Oil Fuel Fund Office to approve a reduction in the retail price of diesel by 50 satang per litre from Wednesday is unlikely to deter consumer goods makers from hiking prices.
President of the Thai Wholesale and Retail Trade Association, Somchai Pornratanacharoen, said manufacturers were forced to hike product prices as skyrocketing energy costs had affected their overall cost of production.
“The high energy prices last year pushed up the prices of items, such as noodles, soaps, and snacks,” he said.
The prices of many products have risen this year, such as adult diapers, “Lactasoy” soy milk and “Leo” bottled beer, he said.
“Some stores in provinces around Thailand have increased the retail price by 5 baht per item,” he added.
Snack manufacturers are itching to increase their prices, but they are waiting for potato chip companies to take the lead.
The popular “Carabao” energy drink has raised its price due to higher packaging costs.
“High inflation and increased energy prices are factors affecting production cost, while the economic slowdown has hit consumer spending,” said Nattha Piyawirojsathien, director of strategic planning at Mindshare, a global media and marketing services company.
Consumers are demanding that the government, the private sector, and manufacturers maintain their product prices, she said.
There is still a necessity to purchase food even though the prices have gone up, hence consumers are moving towards house brands and buying in bulk, according to Nattha.
She added that other countries are facing similar issues, but in Canada and the US, for instance, the original selling prices were maintained during the festive season.
“Consumers may not be able to buy the same quantities as before, but these factors don’t stop them from spending, because the pandemic has already forced them on a budget, “said Nattha.
“Spending will now be smarter and more rewarding,” she added.
FTI suspects speculation behind baht appreciation, urges close scrutiny by government
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2023
The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has urged the government and relevant agencies to closely monitor the baht amid concerns of foreign money entering the country and being used for speculation and inflating the value of the baht.
FTI vice chairman Suchart Chantaranakaracha issued the warning on Wednesday during the release of the Industry Sentiment Index report for January.
He said the baht had depreciated to its lowest point in October 2022 when it fell to 38.80 to the US dollar before gradually appreciating in January to 32 to 33 baht to the dollar without any significant drivers of growth.
He said there had been no indications of a positive outlook for Thailand’s economy over the previous four months.
He pointed out that tourism is yet to make a full recovery, as China has only recently opened its border. The US Federal Reserve is still raising interest rates while the country’s inflation rate is still high and electricity prices are rising.
Suchart said the baht’s steady appreciation against the dollar despite moderate growth forecasts for the country is a matter of concern, as it could indicate foreign capital is entering the country to speculate on the Thai currency.
He proposed holding the value of the baht at around 34 baht, a rate suitable for both importers and exporters, to ensure competitiveness.
Suchart Chantaranakaracha (left)
The appreciation of the baht is a major concern for Thai manufacturers in both the import and export sectors over the next three months, despite the fact that their confidence in Thailand’s economy has reached its highest level in 43 months, at 93.9 points.
Geopolitical tensions, a slowdown in the United States and Europe, the possibility of an interest rate hike and volatile oil prices could all harm Thailand’s industry sector, according to the survey.
However, the return of Chinese tourists after the country ended all Covid restrictions, would help Thailand’s tourism grow exponentially, also increasing domestic consumption demand.
The survey urged the government to adopt a positive attitude in order to strengthen Thailand’s competitiveness by lowering costs, particularly electricity prices.
Meanwhile, the FTI said it supports the government’s bid to forge bilateral free trade agreements with potential markets, such as Europe and the Middle East.
Siam Paragon invests THB3 billion to transform the global landmark to the next level
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2023
Bangkok (February 14, 2023) – Siam Paragon, a world-class destination, has officially launched a transformation project to redefine the ‘global landmark in the heart of Bangkok’ and take it new heights of excellence to meet all the lifestyle needs of the future, reinforcing its positioning as one of the most-visited ‘global landmark destinations’.
Commenced towards the end of 2022, the 3-billion-baht investment project will take 18 months to complete, with a projected completion date in mid-2024. The transformation project is unveiled together with the achievement of the soaring revenue in 2022, which exceeded the target and surpassed the pre-covid sales in 2019, with the luxury segment pushing the jump in sales and achieving world’s top ranking. The roaring success amplifies Siam Paragon’s strong leadership in the high-net-worth shopper segment.
Ms. Caroline Murphy, President – Sales and Business Relations of Siam Piwat Co., Ltd., stated, “Over the past 17 years, Siam Paragon has established itself as a global destination that has earned the top-of-mind position among Thai and international visitors alike. As a vital part of Bangkok’s DNA, Siam Paragon has been meshed into every heartbeat of the metropolis and has breathed vibrancy into the daily life of people in Bangkok. It is also the ultimate microcosm where visitors from across the globe can come and experience the latest lifestyle trends of Bangkokians.”
“Siam Paragon has been a platform for retailers, including luxury brands and local entrepreneurs, to showcase the best of the best. As reception for luxury products has been phenomenal and some of the world’s highest growth in sales has been achieved here, Siam Paragon has established itself as a bona fide destination for luxury items. In addition, many brands have opened pop-up stores in our venue to offer limited collections, thus generating buzz and experience beyond expectations for customers, reinforcing Siam Paragon’s leadership in the affluent customer segment in Thailand. Siam Paragon has also been ranked as the world’s 6th most checked-in destination and the only venue in Thailand and Asia to place on Facebook Review’s list of top-ten global destinations, making it truly a global legendary landmark.”
“Siam Paragon had an exceptional year in 2022, as the revenue not only exceeded the target but showed an astonishing growth of over 50 percent compared to a year earlier and surpassed the pre-Covid-19 figures in 2019 despite the limited presence of international tourists. The leap in sales was driven primarily by the luxury segment, which reported soaring profits and three consecutive years of world-class performance. This success has led luxury brands to prioritize Thailand as their key target in Southeast Asia and Asia for launching special concept stores or unveiling their latest collections, thus boosting demand for space for additional store locations. Siam Paragon’s new investment plan will enable it to meet this demand and accommodate more luxury brands and new brands out of the over 100 names currently on the waiting list. Newcomers will include brands that will be making their debut in Thailand and brands that will be available exclusively at Siam Paragon. These factors all reinforce Siam Paragon’s position as the true global ‘luxury destination.’
Ms. Murphy added, “We will build a new global prototype of a platform where the crème de la crème from every field can come together and co-create world-class projects and experiences that exceed all expectations. This new project is called “The Next Level Evolution,” in which we will create yet another phenomenon in the retail business as we transform Siam Paragon, a world-class landmark in the heart of Bangkok, to redefine excellence and cater to all lifestyle needs of the future. The game-changing transformation of the 500,000 sq.m. destination in the middle of Siam will also place Thailand firmly on the global stage once again and enable it to win over the world.”
Beginning in 2022, Siam Paragon’s ‘Paragon Department Store” has been undergoing a revamp, scheduled to be completed in 2023. Alongside this overhaul, Siam Paragon is investing THB 3 billion more in the transformation of the ‘global landmark in the heart of Bangkok’. Renovation has been ongoing in sections since the end of 2022 and is expected to reach completion in the mid of 2024, or 18 months from now.
Vision for the Transformation of Siam Paragon
Ms. Mayuree Chaipromprasith, President of Corporate Affairs and Communications, Siam Piwat Co., Ltd, described the vision for the transformation of Siam Paragon. “We believe in the ecosystem that we have created and in its the boundless potential. Through the collaboration of various industries, we will co-create new phenomena. We are putting away traditional real estate development playbooks. Siam Paragon will no longer be a shopping center but a global platform where experts from all fields, including architects, engineers, interior designers, art and tech gurus, as well as luxury brands across the world and Thai entrepreneurs can engage in co-creation. The platform will also seamlessly connect the physical world and the digital world through OneSiam SuperApp and the Metaverse to fulfill lifestyle needs for all visitors and deliver world-class experiences beyond expectations in all dimensions.”
“Siam Paragon is highlighting the idea of co-creation on this platform to bring about sustainable development and business growth. This is where everyone will collaborate to redefine excellence. Many entrepreneurs have already launched highly successful flagship stores, and for this next level, we will work with them to bring to life one-and-only ultimate iconic stores in Thailand.”
“Each day, Siam Paragon welcomes visitors from all over the world. We are placing a strong emphasis on shaping Siam Paragon into an ideal community for citizens of the world. We have been conducting our most in-depth and broadest study on the largest group of customers to obtain insights, which will be utilized to enable us to better resonate with their needs and wants, their passions, and a broad spectrum of interests in order to deliver distinctive and engaging experience. As part of this major transformation, we will create an immersive community where customers will be a part of this key milestone. We will soon introduce ‘The Wall of Wonders’ campaign, which features a shared community space where locals and international customers can share on interactive walls their ideas and what they would like to see and experience at Siam Paragon. We will integrate those ideas from people from around the globe into our space with cutting-edge technology to cater to each community and all lifestyles in a fascinating way. More details on the ‘Wall of Wonders” campaign will soon be announced,” said Mayuree.
The Pillars of Siam Paragon – The Next Evolution
To rise to new heights of excellence and meet all lifestyle needs of the future, Siam Paragon – The Next Evolution will be built upon five pillars as follows:
1. Universe of the World’s Excellence
To complete this ultimate transformation, Siam Paragon is relying on co-creation and collaboration with visionaries from every industry to bring about the greatest phenomenon of the 21st century, deliver groundbreaking innovations never before seen in the retail industry, and ultimately elevate Siam Paragon to a global legendary destination, thus setting a new benchmark of excellence.
2. Gateway to the Next Frontier Where the Digital World Meets the Physical World
Siam Paragon will become a new global prototype of a co-creative platform that seamlessly bridges all the five physical senses with the imaginative power of the digital and virtual world to present lifestyles of the future in a way that goes above and beyond all expectations and deliver physical experiences that mesh perfectly with the eye-popping wonder of the virtual world – a new key magnet that will draw visitors from across the globe to Siam Paragon.
3. Celebration of Inclusive Luxury
Over the past 17 years of operation, Siam Paragon has established itself as the leader in Thailand’s highest spending consumer segment and as a destination that boasts the most comprehensive range of luxury brands. The new historic transformation of Siam Paragon will redefine luxury for all, regardless of age, gender, or walks of life, across every sphere, from fashion, lifestyle, dining, travel all the way to technology, finance, and other personalized experiences. This will mark the first time ever in the world that everyone can access and experience luxury in every facet of life and reward themselves.
4. Pioneering Quality Life Experience
As an integral part of this transformation and prototype development for future lifestyles, Siam Paragon will be co-creating a large space with its partners to bring art, technology, and nature into the venue to contribute to a cleaner world, improve energy efficiency, cater to sustainability-minded lifestyles, and ultimately enhance the well-being and the way of life for communities and the world, all this in a way that goes beyond the bounds of imagination. Visitors will be able to spend their time in Siam Paragon as their second home where they can take in nature, in an environment with excellent temperature and hygiene management and one of the best greenhouse gas management systems in Asia.
5. The Paragon Community of Global Citizens
Siam Paragon strives to rise to new heights and deliver both in-store and digital experience beyond expectations, which will further strengthen Siam Paragon’s capability to expand its customer base to global citizens and achieve sustainable growth. Siam Paragon is creating new ‘cluster’ spaces to offer products, services and activities that serve the needs of different communities. By engaging customers and fostering a sense of ownership in their communities, customers can share ideas and interests, create opportunities, and discover new technologies and business opportunities from wherever they are.
Siam Paragon is also in the process of considering more world-class concepts to feature for the first time in Thailand and the world and concluding all the exciting highlights of Siam Paragon – The Next Evolution.
“Research has shown time and again that Siam Paragon has always been the number one destination for Thai and international visitors and has become a familiar part of the lives of Bangkokians of all generations. Through the long-standing and close relationships with its customers, fostered through billions of visits, Siam Paragon has developed a truly unique character. Therefore, while we are going ahead with a major transformation to rise to the next level of excellence and meet all lifestyle needs of the future, which is full of promise of so many exciting offerings, we recognize the necessity of preserving our essence, which gives Siam Paragon its distinctive identity and has earned Siam Paragon a special place in the hearts of all visitors that cannot be replaced by any other development project,” concluded Ms. Murphy.
How’d it go? Giving 800 Saudi VVIPs in Thailand a high-end concierge service
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2023
Late last year, Saudi Arabia dispatched the largest delegation of attendees – 800 people – to Thailand for the Apec summit. The delegation included members of the royal family and staff from nine royal offices, and their transportation needs were estimated at 300 vehicles.
It was in Thailand that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman also spent the maximum amount of time (three days) outside of his home country last year. The necessity to provide “zero mistake” services for 24 hours was the duty of one Thai company.
“They told us to be prepared for around-the-clock work. I thought, it’s just a saying. But this was the toughest and most challenging work of my life,” said Jakrapan Rattanapetch, managing director of World Reward Solution Co Ltd (WRS Group), in an exclusive interview with The Nation.
What did you learn from servicing VVIPs from Saudi Arabia during the Apec meeting? “We were under high pressure because there were many parties involved, not only the Foreign Ministry or Tourism Authority of Thailand. We had to ensure zero mistakes in whatever we did.'”
Though used to serving royal families, WRS’s team of staff were not enough for the Saudi Arabia visit. The firm prepared another squad it named the “Avenger Team“, who were told they weren’t working for WRS but rather for Team Thailand.
The Avenger Team had to be able to handle high pressure and work for 24 hours. The other qualification was a can-do attitude, he said.
“Imagine a VVIP customer abruptly flying in by private jet at 2am. The team had to be ready to go. And at 2am, how can you handle protocols to get between one site and another, like parking and seeking permission from the airport? You need people with a can-do attitude.”
WRS’s concierge group was set up to liaise directly with each of Saudi Arabia’s nine offices under royal command, including the medical team, food, and security. They also prepared interpreters, protocols, and drivers for different kinds of vehicles.
“We had around 100 people working as concierge staff and interpreters during the Apec meeting, in addition to drivers carefully selected from Thailand’s International Tactical & Bodyguard team.”
Jakrapan Rattanapetch, managing director of World Reward Solution Co Ltd (WRS Group)
Jakrapan said WRS deployed 250-300 staff to take care of the 800 delegates from Saudi Arabia.
“We rented a whole building for our staff to stay together as they need to be on standby 24 hours a day. The staff lived there together for 14-15 days.
“You would never know your schedule beforehand. You’d just know it’s time to go, so get ready to take off.”
Impacts of the Saudi visit In addition to diplomatic ties, Thailand is now a focus for Saudi Arabia in terms of medical services, tourism, energy and sustainability.
“I now see an Arab country like Saudi Arabia in a new light. Since visiting the country again after the Apec meeting, I see things differently. I believe people who visit Saudi Arabia will learn something new, different from what we see in news reports.”
He also sees new opportunities arising from tourism links between the two countries.
“Saudi Arabia has a long history and culture, their cities are sophisticated. They want tourists and Thailand’s hospitality will be in hot demand. It’s like they have prepared the hardware [buildings, infrastructure, new attractions], but they need software.”
WRS and its plans “I regarded my business in the first three years as ‘hi-tech plus high-touch’,” he said.
Differing from others in the market, WRS launched its luxury-concierge business in 2018 as a start-up, offering technology-based services with a “digital butler”, e-vouchers, royalty programmes and more to speed up service for demanding customers.
In the years before the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, WRS flourished. The company earned around 90 billion baht in its first year and 80 million in the following year.
But the virus forced the company to stall its expansion plans. It had been eying five countries – China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Cambodia and Myanmar.
This year, WRS plans to resume its business in the target countries, excluding Myanmar due to the political unrest there. Some of its target markets are also emerging economies.
“Cambodia is interesting because the upper and middle-income groups have high growth. Vietnam caught my interest because we have found a local potential partner.
“People in Vietnam have trust in services from Thailand. Difficult to believe but during Covid-19, Vietnamese were among the top five nationalities buying condominiums in Thailand. They tend to spend in Thailand and Singapore.”
Jakrapan said Singapore remains the “hub of Asia” and so will serve as WRS’s springboard to other parts of the continent.
“Our brand is also attracting businessmen and investors from China,” he added.
Saudi not in WRS’s initial expansion plan In 2020, Jakrapan was onboard when the Foreign Ministry led 100 Thai CEOs on a trip to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries after Thai-Saudi diplomatic relations were restored after 30 years.
Two years later, Thailand hosted the Apec (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum, and thanks to his earlier trip to Saudi Arabia, WRS was selected to take care of the government’s guests from the Middle East kingdom as an exclusive luxury-concierge service provider.
Concierge service from experienced professionals like WRS is unlike general VIP service.
“Commercial banks may hire a tour company to prepare services for their VIP customers. It’s different from us. You could compare WRS to a tour operator or an event organizer, but in fact, we are not the same.”
Concierge or high-end service means utilizing the total combination of knowledge and connection to turn customers’ huge demand into [business] success, he said.
“For example, when it came to serving the delegates from Saudi Arabia, others may have simply prepared a motorcade to take care of the visitors. But for concierge service, we go beyond preparing vehicles. We had to get drivers who can speak English and/or Arabic and they had to be ready 24/7.
If a customer wants a limited edition like a watch, we must be able to find it. Customers may want specific decor that they cannot find from their country or Halal food specifically cooked by a Saudi Arabian chef; we must be able to find them,” he said.
In some cases, when VVIP customers’ schedule requires privacy and security, many things are unplanned or unmentioned beforehand, especially when the customers have to deal with authorities. The concierge service needs to have connections to facilitate their needs, for example, travel to the airport.
“You may never know when VVIP customers want to arrive or fly out [so] you need to be well prepared and race against time pressure and the demands of the customer. You need to have ‘access’ to reach relevant authorities at the airport, for instance, to get things done,” he said.
“You may never know when VVIP customers want to arrive or fly out [so] you need to be well prepared,” said Jakrapan, WRS CEO.
Pre-Covid, WRS was focused only on Asean and China.
“We were looking for staff who could speak Chinese,” Jakrapan said.
But when China prolonged its lockdown, businesses tried to find other markets to replace China.
“Of course, Asean markets could not replace China. But the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia is like an older brother, has such potential. When Saudi Arabia takes action, other Arab nations pay attention.”
Gulf customers may not spend as much as Chinese customers, he said.
“But in terms of demand from high-level customers, their spending may double.”
Saudi Arabian visitors stay an average of 10-14 days in Thailand, he added. They spend a minimum of 12,000 baht per night on accommodation and prefer private villas because Arab women often keep out of the public spotlight. They also tend to travel in large family groups.
VVIP corporate customers Banks and insurance companies also hire concierge services like WRS to facilitate their VVIP customers.
“In this type of scenario, it is not the hirer but their client that uses the service.
What the corporate customers want from us is for their clients to be impressed by the treat and love their brand even more,” he said.
Holding a Michelin-star dinner meeting has become commonplace these days but the organisation involved is far from simple.
“What WRS can do is hire a Michelin-star chef that has to be booked three years in advance or a chef that serves only royal families.
“We did fly in 13 chefs for an event called ‘Dinner Incredible’ for customers who invited elite clients. The 13-course set dinner was priced at around 25,000 baht,” he said.
Who can work in this business? Concierge service providers need to have a background that goes beyond “lifestyle” or “tourism”. People from the hotel or travel industry may not be able to do the job.
Instead, Jakrapan looks for recruits with a background in luxury brands.
“They can understand luxury and will compare services from competitors. They travel around the world, not just to enjoy travel, flying business or first class, or staying at 5-star hotels, but they are required to understand luxury lifestyles and cultures and accumulate knowledge to make our services different from others.”
Other companies may hire staff on their ability to speak English, travel experience, and service skills. But that’s not enough for WRS. “Don’t forget that the people we take care of have billions in their bank accounts and they travel the world over. [We have to ask] how can we cater to their needs?
“When such a customer contacts you to ask for a restaurant recommendation, and your staff simply speak English, that’s not enough because their needs are niche.
“We need staff who have accumulated knowledge about luxury brands, fashion, history, lifestyle, diplomatic ties, etc. They are the ones with the experience and background that money cannot buy. We have these people and people with such connections,” he said.
Thai cybersecurity firm reaches for the cloud with US partner, as more firms go digital
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2023
Cyber Elite, Thailand’s leading cybersecurity service provider, has partnered a US firm to provide cloud security and protect Thai businesses and their IT environment from emerging cyber-threats.
The collaboration with Zscaler, a US-based cloud security service provider, comes amid a wave of Thai businesses transforming to digital via cloud.
Supakorn Kungpisdan, managing director of Cyber Elite, told a press conference on Monday that most Thai companies wrongly assumed adoption of cloud would make them safe.
He said that each company must have its own cybersecurity system to protect itself while operating on the cloud. However, the majority of businesses prefer to concentrate on their core competencies. So, more and more businesses are turning to cybersecurity experts for assistance.
“This trend is our opportunity,” Supakorn said.
Thailand’s cloud market is expected to grow by at least 40% this year, outpacing the global average of around 30%. This trend increases the demand for cloud-based security services.
By partnering with Zscaler, Cyber Elite will be able to provide world-class managed cloud security services while saving time and being cost-effective, he said.
“With Zscaler’s innovative technology, enterprises can strengthen their security level without making changes to their systems, while Cyber Elite provides 24-hour threat monitoring and surveillance,” he added.
Foad Farrokhnia, Zscaler’s head of alliance and channels for Asia Pacific and Japan, said that Zscaler’s cloud security technology was built on zero trust architecture, which emphasises the “never trust, always verify” philosophy.
Customers could rest assured that their business and IT environments would be secure due to strong identity verification, he said.
He expected demand for digital solutions, including cybersecurity in Thailand, to increase significantly in the coming years, as approximately 56% of Thai companies are on the path of digital transformation, up from 12% before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Zscaler will provide managed cloud security services to financial sector organisations, such as banks, capital market and insurance companies; the government sector [public agencies and state enterprises]; and large enterprises that are undergoing digital transformation, cloud transformation, and cybersecurity transformation,” he noted.
Karen Chong, Zscaler’s regional vice president for Southeast Asia, added that being a part of Thailand’s cybersecurity journey at this early stage was exciting.
Thailand has the potential to be the region’s cloud hub due to its ready infrastructure, 5G network, cloud data centre, and talented workforce, she pointed out.
She stated that Zscaler, in partnership with Cyber Elite, was expected to be a part of this trend as the leading cybersecurity service provider in the country and the region.
She said Zscaler had been globally recognised for its cloud security solutions for decades. The company is regarded among the world’s largest cybersecurity firms, placing it in the leader group of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.
Supakorn said that Cyber Elite aimed to become Thailand’s leading cloud security service provider in 2023, with a revenue target of 1 billion baht by 2025.
The company also intends to expand its operations to other Asean countries, with emphasis on Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
Cyber Elite is a subsidiary of Benchachinda Group, Thailand’s leading digital infrastructure and solutions provider, aimed at increasing the competency and competitiveness of Thai organisations. The group’s businesses are currently divided into: digital infrastructure and solutions; distribution and fulfilment; content and investment.
Cabinet nod for beginning of talks with European Union for FTA
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2023
The Cabinet on Tuesday gave the green light for the start of negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between Thailand and the European Union (EU).
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said he would inform his EU counterpart and discuss work on creating an FTA with the 27-member group.
“Negotiations on the Thailand-EU FTA will begin once we receive permission,” he said.
He said Thailand currently has 14 FTAs with 18 countries. If the negotiations succeed, Thailand would have 15 FTAs with 45 countries, he added.
If we can make one to two more FTAs, we will gain an advantage over Vietnam in foreign trade and investment promotion, he said, adding that Thailand had waited for 10 years to have an FTA with the EU.
“We will kick off negotiations [on Thailand-EU FTA] within the first quarter this year,” he said.
He added that the EU currently has FTAs with two Asean countries–Vietnam and Singapore.
“If negotiations succeed, Thailand will be the third Asean country,” he said.
EU is Thailand’s fourth-largest trade partner, behind China, the US and Japan. Trade with the EU accounts for 7% of Thailand’s global trade.
Trade between Thailand and the EU last year was valued at US$41.03 billion (1.38 trillion baht), up 2.87% year on year, of which Thailand’s exports to EU were worth $22.79 billion (843.37 billion baht).
Thailand exports many products to EU, such as computer, cars, air conditioners, rubber products, gems and jewellery and processed chicken meat. Thailand’s imports from the EU included machinery, chemicals and medicines.
Thai aviation flying high as demand for flight slots, led by Chinese airlines, soars
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2023
Thailand’s aviation sector is buzzing with activity in February as airlines have requested 6,318 flight slots at Thai airports, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) said on Monday.
“The total number of flights in February this year now is 25,256,” CAAT director-general Suttipong Kongpool said.
He added that the number of flights in some weeks had increased to the level as before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, thanks to the government’s move to lift travel restrictions in July last year.
Suttipong added that 19 Chinese airlines have requested permission to operate flights to Thailand after China ended its travel restrictions on January 8 this year.
China’s Kunming Airlines has requested to operate flights at many Thai airports, while 9 Air and Xiamen Airlines have sought permission to operate both scheduled and non-scheduled flights, he said.
He added that Chengdu Airlines had requested to operate only non-scheduled flights.
“Air China will operate flights on the Beijing-Chiang Mai route every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from February 14 to March 25,” he said.
“Meanwhile, China Southern Airlines will operate flights every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from March 1 to 24.”
He said Hainan Airlines had requested permission to operate flights on the Beijing-Suvarnabhumi Airport route every day from February 15 to March 25.
“The airline also has requested to operate flights on the Beijing-Phuket route every Wednesday and Friday, and the Guangzhou-Phuket route every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from February 24 to March 24,” he said.
Suttipong said the CAAT had allocated 1,910 flight slots to Chinese airlines, including 269 in January, 671 in February and 970 in March.
As many as 500 flight slots at Suvarnabhumi Airport have been allocated to Chinese airlines, followed by Don Mueang (684), Phuket (476), Chiang Mai (197), Samui (27) and U-Tapao (26), he added.