Jay Mart builds token interest
The firm aims to build synergy among its wide range of subsidiaries
From a small electrical appliance shop on Phatthanakan Road in Bangkok three decades ago, Jay Mart has become a tech-driven empire with a market cap of 35 billion baht under the reins of Adisak Sukumvitaya, who controls the business under the maxim "be first and stay different".
The 65-year-old chief executive of SET-listed Jay Mart believes the company's flourishing growth can serve as a model for others.
In 1990, the company began with 2 million baht in cash through the sales of electrical products on a hire-purchase instalment basis -- a model inspired by Singer Thailand.
The firm was the first to provide instalment payment plans for mobile handsets.
Some 28 years later, Jay Mart bought 25% of Singer's shares for 940 million baht, becoming its biggest shareholder.
"I am proud of that. This involved not just buying a stake, but Jay Mart also collaborates with Singer's 180 branches nationwide to secure a close relationship with local customers," Mr Adisak.
The company also expanded its reach to a myriad of new business opportunities.
In 2018, Jay Mart's subsidiary J Ventures generated 300 million digital tokens, called JFin coins, as the first initial coin offering (ICO) by a listed Thai company. It sold 100 million tokens in the first 55 hours of the ICO with 2,200 buyers acquiring the tokens.
The company earned 660 million baht from the ICO set at 6.60 baht per coin.
Jay Mart mapped out a plan to use the blockchain-backed decentralised digital lending platform as a channel to provide loans to people spurned by banks because of their poor credit history or low income.
In May of this year, Jay Mart announced its mission to promote mass adoption of JFin coins, which could be used to buy products and services from the company and its subsidiaries.
The company recently unveiled a plan to roll out non-fungible tokens (NFTs), featuring nine celebrities.
This made the company a first mover for NFTs in the Thai market. Jay Mart said it aims to foster a strong token ecosystem to diversify its business activities over the long run.
"I would like to see Jay Mart group as a recognised business model in the country that reflects the success of business diversification and synergy driven by technological innovation," said Mr Adisak.
The NFT business is one of the group's jigsaws for this innovation-driven path, he said.
Jay Mart is in talks with the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission about providing a marketplace for NFTs. The company predicts it will be allowed to offer this marketplace in the near future, said Mr Adisak.
Talks have been ongoing since early this year.
Jay Mart's JNFT would be a marketplace where collectors meet token creators, he said.
Under its plan, J Ventures would operate the marketplace and benefit from transaction fees or gas fees, as they are known in the token world, said Mr Adisak.
NFTs to be launched include those featuring Udom "Note" Taepanich, a stand-up comedian; female singer Palmy; and Boy Thaprachan, a renowned Buddha amulet collector.
These NFTs represent unique digital assets or items, such as Palmy's first concert, Note's first stand-up show Diew 1, as well as the first amulet Boy bought and the rarest item he owns.
"NFTs are not utility tokens. They are meant for people with passion who want to collect them," said Mr Adisak.
NFTs can be acquired through bidding at an auction, he said.
Various companies in the real sector have expressed interest in rolling out their own tokens for marketing tools and promoting their brands, said Mr Adisak.
These firms are in talks with Jay Mart regarding their plans, including those from the property, airline, entertainment and transport segments, he said.
Jay Mart is ready to support these plans, providing a blockchain-based platform with transaction fees from the token transactions collected in return, said Mr Adisak.
He said Jay Mart focuses on business diversification in a way that can increase synergy.
Following this approach, Jay Mart's market cap grew seven-fold to 12 billion baht from 2009 to 2017, said Mr Adisak.
Jay Mart transformed itself into a holding company in 2017. Its flagship mobile business was handed over to Jay Mart Mobile Co, which is 99% owned by Jay Mart.
Jay Mart set up J Ventures to focus on technology development and digital platform services. JMT Network Services was created to operate a non-performing debt management business.
JAS Asset was founded to manage leased retail space in shopping malls and operate a property business.
Other affiliates include J Fintech, a provider of personal loans; JP Insurance, which handles a non-life insurance business; KB J Capital, a joint venture between Jay Mart and Korean credit card operator KB Kookmin Card for a credit card business; and Bean & Brown, a retail business operator.
JMT and JAS Asset are both SET-listed firms.
Mr Adisak said he built this business with heart. Its stability and growth rely on executives and staff becoming a family.
That's because Jay Mart is rooted in a family concept, he said.
J is derived from his daughter's name Juthamas and A from his name Adisak. Y is drawn from his wife's name Yuwadee, while Jay is also the nickname of his son Aekachai.
He recounted early hardships when Jay Mart started out selling electrical products through instalment plans in 1990.
At that time, financial service provider Aeon entered the market, providing instalment payment services with a lower interest rate, which undercut Jay Mart's business.
"I decided to set up a joint venture with three friends to build a TV manufacturing business funded by bank loans. This business then collapsed and my friends left me to face a debt of 30 million baht. This was the toughest time in my life," said Mr Adisak.
At that time Aeon only provided loans to purchase home appliances, so he approached the firm and asked if they would collaborate by selling handsets using Aeon's loan service network.
The partnership with Aeon got off the ground in 1994.
"On the first day, we sold 33 mobile handsets through instalment plans. But by the end of the first year, the figure increased to an average of 5,000 units a month," said Mr Adisak.
"In the second year, the number rose to 10,000 units a month."
The company earned 700 million baht by the seventh year of operation, which propelled Jay Mart to list on the SET in 2009 and helped to expand its business portfolio through subsidiaries.
Last year the firm booked 11.2 billion baht in total revenue with a net profit of almost 800 million baht.