Business marches on
Operators adapt on Day 1 of mass rallies
No major business disruptions were noted as anti-government protesters marched through the city to paralyse seven commercial districts under the Bangkok shutdown campaign.
Payungsak Chartsutthipol, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said business operators have adapted well so far, with some relocating offices temporarily and others working online.
Internet connections functioned as usual except where signals were jammed in the protest areas.
Most firms have adopted contingency plans for the shutdown. For instance, PTT Group allowed personnel to work at home while a core team worked at remote offices. The Bank of Thailand also moved its officials to a temporary station.
Prempracha Supasamut, managing director of Friendly Group Logistics Co, warned that if the shutdown goes on for more than three days, modern trade retailers, small shops, restaurants and hotels in inner Bangkok could encounter a shortage of raw materials.
Friendly Group provides services such as delivery of food and consumer goods to modern trade retailers, restaurants and hotels.
In their best bid to stave off traffic congestion, most logistics providers have shifted from trucks to motorcycles despite the latter's limited carrying capacity.
According to Mr Prempracha, most shops have prepared in advance for the possibility of stock shortages, but they could still face a supply crunch driven by a surge in demand from protesters.
FTI vice-chairman Thanit Sorat said higher logistics costs are likely for food and consumer goods delivery in inner Bangkok because of the need to use motorcycles instead of bulkier transport.
Mr Thanit also voiced concern over the supply of oil and gas in inner Bangkok, saying trucks are becoming reluctant to provide services.
He noted, however, that logistics at Bangkok's port is unlikely to be affected, with as many as 80% of the country's shipments now made through the port at Laem Chabang.
Somkiat Anurat, vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, named tourism as the sector to be hit hardest by the protests, with consumer spending also expected to drop.
Mr Somkiat urged entrepreneurs outside of the protest areas to prepare measures such as stock management to ensure inventory adequacy, as logistics services could be delayed.
"Businesses should try to understand the ongoing political situation and wait until politics finds a way to address the contradictory issues," he said.
Chamber vice-chairman Pornsilp Patcharintanakul sees higher spending by protesters offsetting the impact of lower revenue from tourism.
"Businesses are running as usual and sales are flourishing from the protesters' spending," he said, citing a crowded Starbucks at CentralWorld as an example.
The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT) yesterday threw support behind the electoral reform plan initiated by seven key private-sector groups.
In a statement, the JFCCT said: "As foreigners, we don't get involve in Thai politics but as stakeholders in the economy the present divide gives us much concern. We need predictability and a stable political environment."