What's in store for 2024

What's in store for 2024

Changing lifestyles in the digital era are spurring a host of new business segments

People check out the latest models at this year's Motor Expo. Earlier this month, the cabinet approved a new EV incentive package to propel industry growth between 2024 and 2027. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
People check out the latest models at this year's Motor Expo. Earlier this month, the cabinet approved a new EV incentive package to propel industry growth between 2024 and 2027. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

From the planned licensing of virtual banks to the continued rise of lifestyle-related businesses, this is what consumers can expect in 2024.

VIRTUAL BANKING

Virtual banking is a new business trend for 2024 as customer behaviour changes in the digital era, aiming to provide better access to financial services for underserved customers.

The Bank of Thailand completed the licensing regulations and the Finance Ministry is vetting the rules before approval.

The central bank is expected to open licence applications in 2024, with business operation expected to begin in 2025.

The regulator wants virtual banks to offer a full range of financial services catering to all customer segments, particularly unserved and underserved segments for retail and small and medium-sized enterprises.

The central bank plans to grant three virtual bank licences in the first round, deeming that figure suitable to ensure the stability of the local financial market and protect depositors from risks posed by the new banking business.

Many financial institutions and non-financial firms have shown an interest in applying for licences. Two business consortiums are seeking licences.

SCB X teamed up with KakaoBank, South Korea's largest full-fledged digital bank, to apply for a virtual bank licence. It is focused on the underserved, low-income segment, presenting new digital platforms to offer financial access with reasonable interest rates, said SCB chief executive Arthid Nanthawithaya.

In addition, Krungthai Bank recently revealed it was partnering with telecom operator Advanced Info Service on a plan to jointly invest in a virtual bank, to serve both existing and new customers.

SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability has become a focus in every business sector, spurred by the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent global economic downturn.

From January to September 2023, businesses submitted 254 investment proposals in the BCG category to the Board of Investment (BoI) to seek investment privileges. The projects were worth 73.3 billion baht.  (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

In 2015, the UN announced 17 Sustainable Development Goals covering environment, social and governance (ESG) themes for member countries to be aware of, aiming to set guidelines to strengthen standards.

Thai companies are beginning to integrate ESG guidelines into their vision, corporate mission, policies, strategies and risk management.

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), investments in ESG products such as green bonds, social bonds, sustainability bonds and sustainability-linked bonds have surged since 2018 when the commission issued regulations to support fundraising through sustainability debt instruments.

Late last month, the Finance Ministry approved the Thailand ESG Fund to support such investment by focusing on ESG stocks and green bonds.

Investors can deduct tax of up to 100,000 baht from their investments in the fund, and are required to hold the units for at least eight years after purchase.

As of Dec 8, 16 asset management companies have introduced Thai ESG funds for a combined total of 22 funds. They are projected to mobilise 10 billion baht worth of investment on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) by year-end.

The SET revealed the number of listed companies that passed the selection criteria for the SET ESG Ratings group totalled 193 as of Nov 1, up from 166 last year.

At the international level, Thailand is a regional leader with the largest number of companies rated by S&P Dow Jones Indices.

On Dec 8, the venture announced the list of companies selected for membership in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for 2023, with three Thai companies added to the DJSI World Index, bringing the total to 15.

Trading of ESG stocks on the Thai stock market averages 14.3 billion baht per day, accounting for 40% of the total trade value of retail investors.

LIFESTYLE TRENDS

Businesses associated with lifestyles are projected by forecasters to be a promising segment next year given the changing patterns of consumer behaviour.

A house model is displayed at a property fair. Residential developers pivoted to the high-end segment recently, which is less affected by an uneven economic recovery. (Photo:  Somchai Poomlard)

Categories with promise include pet-related businesses, covering pet care services, pet food and accessories, and the wholesale of pet food.

The pet market posted consistent growth for several years, with projections indicating continued expansion for five years.

This trend extends beyond traditional pets such as dogs and cats to exotic animals such as small mammals, avian species and reptiles, which have surged in popularity, according to a Business Development Department study.

In 2018, the value of the pet market was 31 billion baht and it continued to grow despite challenges posed by the pandemic, reaching 38 billion, 43 billion and 50 billion in 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively.

The market value for 2023 is estimated at 55.5 billion baht and is expected to soar to 66.7 billion by 2026.

The study also predicted environmental businesses show promise for 2024.

People are becoming more aware of the importance of sustainable practices as they impact the environment.

This awareness has led consumers to seek products and activities that are environmentally friendly, aiming to reduce their impact now and in the future, noted the study.

Certain businesses such as recycling ventures, environmental consulting and electric vehicle (EV) components have gained increased attention, according to the department.

DIGITAL FAST FOOD

Quick service restaurant (QSR) operators are embracing digital transformation in response to shifts in consumer behaviour induced by the pandemic.

While a few companies initially geared towards digital offerings, the closure of restaurants during the pandemic prompted major QSR operators to expedite the digital transformation.

Large players are working to familiarise customers with their digital services, introducing cashless payment options in urban hubs.

Consistent investment in proprietary mobile apps has been a priority for QSRs, with a significant upgrade to these platforms taking place this year.

Customers have a myriad of choices and channels for food purchases, ranging from self-order kiosks at restaurants to self-pickup and other options.

Beyond the customer experience, ordering via kiosks reduces labour costs, an important consideration given the daily minimum wage is set to increase.

TOURISM SOFT POWER

The use of soft power in tourism is projected to play a vital role next year, drawing more "high-quality" tourists and increasing the nation's competitiveness, according to state planners.

The government established the National Soft Power Strategy Committee (NSPSC) to promote 11 soft power industries, aiming for 4 trillion baht in revenue.

For its first draft, the NSPSC proposed a budget of 5.14 billion baht to promote soft power.

Top industries with the highest allocated budget are festivals and food with 1 billion baht each, while tourism was allotted 711 million baht.

The pet market has experienced consistent growth for several years, with projections indicating continued expansion over the next five years. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The budget has yet to be finalised as Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin ordered related ministries to revise the amounts, aiming for the most effective results.

Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, said the authorities should work on increasing tourism spending per person, attracting visitors to secondary destinations and ensuring sustainable practices for operators.

On the supply side, an all-in-one tourism data centre should be established, covering all relevant information for the private sector, as well as a central platform to connect tourism talents in Thailand, she said.

Meanwhile, upskilling and reskilling programmes are essential for operators or communities in secondary tourism provinces in order to cater to growth with quality, said Mrs Marisa.

She said tourism policies should be integrated to promote other soft power industries, such as festivals, design and Muay Thai.

HIGH-END PROPERTY

Property developers shifted to the high-priced low-rise housing market this year as purchasing power in the mid- to low-end segments remained stagnant, while Chinese demand for condos failed to rebound.

In early 2023, negative factors carried over from 2022, including an unfavourable economy, high household debt, the expiration of eased loan-to-value limits, stricter lending criteria by banks and rising home prices, though incomes were stagnant.

These factors affected homebuyers in the mid to low-priced segments, resulting in sales that fell short of expectations and a higher mortgage rejection rate.

Numerous developers pivoted to the high-end segment, which was less affected by these negative factors.

Their focus was low-rise houses as most demand came from local buyers seeking larger spaces following the pandemic.

Local demand for high-end condos to live in was limited, while investment buyers paused as they lacked confidence in the economy, noted industry observers.

Foreign buyers did not contribute significantly to the luxury condo market, though new markets emerged as buyers from Myanmar purchased a substantial number of luxury condos.

Consequently, developers exercised caution when launching new condo projects, holding back because of uncertainty about achieving a satisfactory sales rate, which could be as low as 10-20%, said some developers.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

State efforts to make Thailand a regional EV hub are expected to bear fruit in 2024 as global EV manufacturers start producing passenger EVs here.

People check out the latest models at this year's Motor Expo. Earlier this month, the cabinet approved a new EV incentive package to propel industry growth between 2024 and 2027. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Car companies are building EV assembly plants and designing production lines in Thailand.

The first locally-made EVs are expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2024, said Krisda Utamote, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand (EVAT).

Horizon Plus, a joint venture between PTT's wholly-owned Arun Plus and Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, plans to open a car assembly facility worth US$1-2 billion in Chon Buri next year with an annual capacity of 50,000 units.

BYD plans to operate its first battery EV factory in Asean here in 2024. Its facility in Rayong has an annual production capacity of 150,000 units.

Firms granted an EV incentive package by the previous government are committed to building EV production facilities in Thailand.

Dubbed EV3.0, the package includes tax cuts and subsidies to promote EV consumption and production between 2022 and 2023.

Earlier this month, the cabinet approved a new EV incentive package, known as EV3.5, to propel industry growth between 2024 and 2027.

The package includes subsidies, reduced import duties for fully assembled cars and an excise tax cut.

Given the rapid growth of the EV market, EVAT predicts sales to rise next year from a projection of 60,000-70,000 units in 2023.

RISE OF HEALTHCARE

The healthcare and wellness industry is predicted to grow next year thanks to the tourism recovery and economic growth.

Government stimulus measures are projected to increase spending on healthcare and wellness businesses.

Thailand is known as a major tourist destination. Foreign travellers visit here not only to experience unique food and culture, but also to enjoy wellness tourism, said Siriphot Manoch, chief strategy officer of Aikchol Hospital Plc, which operates two hospitals in Chon Buri.

The healthcare segment has the potential to grow because people are more interested in taking better care of themselves, he said.

"People focus on lifestyles that keep them fit and healthy," said Mr Siriphot.

"They don't want to visit hospitals for treatment, so many hospitals offer preventive healthcare programmes. The preventive healthcare trend is growing rapidly and will continue to gain momentum in 2024."

CARBON PLUNGE

Thailand's commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions will continue to play a key role in driving bio-, circular and green (BCG) manufacturing in 2024, according to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

"BCG is a national agenda item, which shows the government is concerned about global warming and climate change," said Kriengkrai Thiennukul, chairman of the FTI.

Many manufacturers started or adjusted their businesses in line with the BCG concept, which promotes manufacturing techniques that add value to products while causing zero or minimum impact on the environment.

"We believe investment in BCG projects will increase in 2024 because the government has attractive incentive packages to draw investors," said Mr Kriengkrai.

From January to September 2023, businesses submitted 254 investment proposals in the BCG category to the Board of Investment (BoI) to seek investment privileges. The projects were worth 73.3 billion baht.

During the same period, the BoI approved 416 total projects worth a combined 55.7 billion baht.


Additional reporting by Molpasorn Shoowong, Kanana Katharangsiporn and Lamonphet Apisitniran

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