Thailand believes tech start-ups key to stronger economy
Thailand is seeing the fierce regional competition take a toll on a number of its low-wage manufacturing segment. But this is all according to plan.
"In the future, we don't intend to compete on low wages. We are focusing on key sectors that will move Thailand up the value-added ladder," Duangjai Asawachintachit, deputy secretary general for the Thailand Board of Investment, told EE Times.
Embracing the idea that innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs will lay the foundation for a strong economy, Thailand is putting a priority on science, technology, and innovation investment targets and creating an infrastructure to support fledgling start-ups.
One key segment is the $1.6 billion software industry. Though it is growing 17.8 per cent per year, only 15 per cent of the revenue in packaged software, software services, and embedded software today is generated by products developed by Thai-owned enterprises.
Trairat Chatkaew, president of the Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA), said the goal is to increase the growth rate to 25 per cent in three years. With an annual budget of $10 million, his government agency's charter is to encourage government organisations, along with small and midsized businesses, to use Thai software.
A recent big win for the Thai software industry was a contract with BMW won by ThaiGerTec, an automotive embedded system development solution provider.
If more Thai software gained traction in the global market, the credit would be shared with organisations like Software Park Thailand, which provides free assistance to entrepreneurs who are hoping to launch a start-up. Founded in 1997 to stimulate the Thai software industry, Software Park Thailand is a government agency under the National Science and Technology Development Agency. It also maintains local and international networks with software companies, other software parks, incubation associations, universities, and government agencies.
Tuchinda: A lot of these entrepreneurs have brilliant technical ideas, but they don't necessarily know all the ins and outs of running a successful business.
Each year, Software Park Thailand works with 50-60 entrepreneurs, providing advice and support at every stage of the process. "A lot of these entrepreneurs have brilliant technical ideas, but they don't necessarily know all the ins and outs of running a successful business," said director Chalermpol Tuchinda. "We're a little bit like the managers of the Miss Universe [pageant]. We get them dressed up and prepared to be competitive at every stage of the process."
Programs at Software Park Thailand target specific applications and entrepreneurs at different stages of their career. In the Mobile Developers Apprentice Program, for example, professionals from a specific industry come in and talk about the industry and issues that entrepreneurs need to address. Students in the program choose the platform (IoS, Android, Windows) that they want to work on, and they come back with an app-based solution.
"Last year, we had 100 people take this class and participate in a competition for the best idea," Tuchinda said. "Five or six of them ultimately moved on from the idea to the next stage of the business."
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