Suphachai sets out CP's digital future
Firm to move into cryptocurrency, blockchain and healthcare
published : 5 Nov 2021 at 05:00
newspaper section: Business
The conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) is expanding its reach into preventive healthcare business as well as blockchain and cryptocurrency frontiers as part of its new drive for growth.
The company is looking to combine the power of food tech, bio tech and digital tech to drive the preventive healthcare business while having already established Ascend Bit, under CP's online business arm Ascend Group, to pursue a blockchain technology and cryptocurrency path.
Speaking exclusively to the Bangkok Post, Suphachai Chearavanont, chief executive of CP and chairman of the board of True Corporation, said CP has been a tech adopter for a long time as the group is aware of the changing business landscape.
"We set a goal since I was appointed chief executive that we would become a tech company despite doubts among outsiders as to why this agriculture and retail-based firm wants to become a tech-driven company," said Mr Suphachai.
The group has embraced digital transformation, using artificial intelligence (AI) to understand customers' needs, remodelling business to prevent disruptions, launching spinoff companies and attracting strategic investors.
CP is also investing in tech companies through various approaches, such as through venture capital funds and direct strategic investments, he said.
"In the next two decades, we will see a new landscape of tech competition," said Mr Suphachai.
The capability of the country and corporates will be judged by technology and innovation, and those who lack these advancements will fail in the competition, he added.
CP is now focusing on logistics, financial services, renewable energy and blockchain as its new pathways.
In the next industrial frontier, the group is stepping into the convergence of food tech, biotech or genetic tech, as well as digital tech, to cater for preventive healthcare business, Mr Suphachai said.
"It is unavoidable for a food industry player like CP to step into the healthcare sector," he said.
Preventive healthcare goes along with the Industry 4.0 landscape.
In the future, Mr Suphachai said, people will undergo genetic tests as part of their health checks and monitoring instead of blood tests. This confidential data can be put in blockchain, which can ensure better security.
Health conditions can be determined by both people's genes and behaviour.
Genetic weaknesses and strengths vary among people, he said. "Some people have no problems when drinking alcohol while some could face life threatening conditions when drinking," he said.
Genetic changes can happen according to people's living environment, behaviour and age.
If they know their genetic weaknesses and strengths, they can choose the right diet, Mr Suphachai added.
In the future, people could seek online consultations with doctors by using their genetic records stored in blockchain.
"I call genetics a map of health," he said.
Regarding cryptocurrencies, Mr Suphachai said CP aims to roll out its own asset-backed cryptocurrency for use in its ecosystem, particularly procurement, supply chain and all forms of remittance, even payroll for employees.
"If CP can coordinate with partners who have a large enough ecosystem, this cryptocurrency will have more potential," he said.
"We will use a smart contract or blockchain and seek secure tools for remittance."
According to Mr Suphachai, the cryptocurrency will come with smart features where remittance can be adjusted automatically as part of incentives, including performance, quality of products and compliance.
"This is a smart digital currency," he said. "It will come soon"
He stressed that this cryptocurrency is not intended for speculative purposes.
Ascend Bit, which was founded a year ago, will be in charge of blockchain tech development for the group and its cryptocurrency.
Blockchain is imperative for CP and its massive supply chain system, Mr Suphachai said. Blockchain can address security concerns for digital transaction.
E-wallets can be embedded with blockchain technology that should help strengthen financial security, he said.
According to Mr Suphachai, CP is also venturing into renewable energy in line with the country's commitment towards carbon neutrality by 2030 to address climate change.
"We have a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 otherwise we have to buy carbon credits with enormous cost for the business ecosystem of CP. That leads us to study renewable energy."
Amid changes in the business landscape, the CP-owned telecom operator True Corporation will have to gear up for new technologies, including platforms, digital media and an e-commerce ecosystem, Mr Suphachai said.
True will have to evolve in AI technology and data analytics, creating a new fundamental infrastructure for the industry.
In the future, telecom operators may have to fight in terms of customer services, but can reduce investment in the back-end front or redundancy costs, Mr Suphachai said.
Mr Suphachai said that with the spectrum auction, the government can help solve operational costs among carriers by adjusting the spectrum cost to be more suitable and paying more attention to consumer benefits instead.
"If the telecom industry is getting weak, it would be harder for operators to thrive or create new innovation," Mr Suphachai said.
"Telcos all want to be a tech firm. The government may have to think how to help them become tech companies as a driving force for the country."