THE IT CROWD

Thailand 2017 | IT & E-COMMERCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Chalermpol Tuchinda, Director of Software Park of Thailand, on its work to support the local IT sector, upcoming opportunities with the AEC, and his goals for the company.

Chalermpol Tuchinda
BIOGRAPHY
Chalermpol Tuchinda is the Director of Software Park Thailand. He previously worked as the Director of Technopreneur Development and Services at the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA). He also worked at Thomson Reuters in various roles ranging from Technical Manager for Indochina and Myanmar, Development Operations Manager, Technical Directors, and the Head of Transaction Platforms Group Asia. He took a major role in establishing and expanding Reuters Software operations in Thailand from 18 people to more than 1,500 people between 2001 and 2008. He also formed and exited a number of IT businesses startups since 1989.

How does Software Park support the local IT sector?

Our missions are to develop human resources for professionals, support and foster new software companies, help companies that are already on the market to grow further and expand to new markets, and help companies adapt and use ICT. Software Park is a government organization and aims to be self-sustaining, with a source of revenue coming from renting space at a subsidized rate, training professionals, and working with other agencies that share the same goals. We are 85% financially self-sustainable, while the rest of our funding comes from the government. In terms of our major achievements over the last two years, we provided workshop training and seminars to over 11,000 IT professionals, ranging from programmers to CIOs; we train for essentially all positions and tasks in a firm's IT and corporate structure. We incubated 55 new IT startups in 2014, and we have incubated an average of 45 new IT startups each year for the last 12 years. The companies we incubated went on to generate revenue of a little over THB550 million in 2015, which suggests that our incubation program is working. We did a survey two years ago to see how many of the incubated companies are still operating and found that about 48.5% have lasted after three years.

What are the wider goals of Software Park?

Thailand has a strong industrial base compared to other countries in the region. Many of those industries utilize software technologies at some level; hence, there is room to grow. There is a potential to export software technologies to other countries in ASEAN, especially to Myanmar and Indonesia. One challenge is the language; Thailand has its own alphabet. We are conservative in terms of language, and English is not as widely spoken outside major cities. People from neighboring countries have started to learn Thai, and Thai television programs are popular among CLMV. There is certainly potential to be an important regional hub player. We are good in adapting and applying technologies here, rather than break though technology innovation and producing disruptive technologies; that is our strength here for now. In Thailand, technologies are expanded from the manufacturing and enterprise markets into consumer market, but we are still at the early stage of this transition. E-commerce is the key in the digital economy for manufacturers and businesses to reach into the consumer market.

How will the AEC affect your operations and the software sector in Thailand?

The AEC is a major opportunity and represents a huge potential market for products and exports. Cross-border regulations need to be implemented, as all the members are still concerned about protecting themselves, and that is an issue. When more cross-border regulations and laws come into effect, the greater integration will be achieved. Hence, all industries and companies will benefit. People and talent could travel a lot more easily, going where the demand is, where the industry is, and the same would hold true for products and technologies. First, we need to break down barriers in order for the AEC to be a true economic community and for integration to be achieved in a meaningful way.

What are your expectations for the Software Park in 2016?

Despite many ideas, the challenge is finding high potential projects to incubate, because of the lack of market validation. We started a program to foster news ideas into highly marketable or investable prototyping by focusing on solution design thinking and market validation. This is to increase higher quality of deal flow into incubation program. We are also working with corporates on their innovation development leveraging new startups. This would benefit them in the long run, where they can access resources outside their organization to develop new, outside-the-box initiatives that could not otherwise be developed within the organization, in a much shorter time frame.