Digital drive to survive
How Thai tech solution providers help SMEs tap into the digital economy.
Thailand's digital industry is projected to grow by double digits this year, boosted by a robust digital services sector, according to the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa). This growth reflects the shift in consumer behaviour under the new normal as more organisations make the transition to digital services.
Over the past 12 months, the number of consumers using e-commerce increased by 35%, a trend driven in part by ongoing movement restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.
What does this exponential growth mean for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? As their customers go online, SMEs are also embracing technology to remain competitive and sustainable.
According to the Depa survey, while the majority of SMEs remain in Industry 1.0 or 2.0, the digital adoption rate continues to rise as digital technology becomes the primary driver of the global economy. Our UOB Asean SME Transformation study found some 71% of Thailand's SMEs ranked technology investment as their top priority, the highest among Asean countries.
Encouraging SMEs to adopt technology is a key element in the drive towards a digital economy, says Chatchai Khunpitiluck, senior executive vice-president of Depa. Not only does Depa seek out and connect technology providers with SMEs to help spur technology adoption, but also it provides funding to SMEs to help them overcome challenges and deepen their digital skills.
This opens up a plethora of opportunities for business matchmaking between SME entrepreneurs and technology solution providers.
UOB and The FinLab have been helping SMEs and tech solution providers seize digital transformation opportunities. For example, through the Smart Business Transformation Programme (SBTP), SMEs are matched with appropriate and innovative fintech and technology solutions that support their digitisation needs.
During a recent knowledge-sharing session with our SBTP alumni, we heard insights into how Thai tech solution providers are capitalising on the digital economy.
John Persson, CEO and founder of Zaviago, an e-commerce platform and web development company, said: "The first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit the world with full force and we were all mostly unprepared. … During that first period of uncertainty, we took decisive action based on consumer feedback to focus on a new approach: developing a next-generation platform that responds directly to product-market fit with target customers.
"It is critical that our platform development remained true to the market needs of SMEs while also allowing for commercial flexibility. Our team has grown beyond our expectations in just four months, outperforming other web platform competitors in Thailand.
"We have more than 3,400 SMEs and users who have chosen our trial programme since the platform's inception. We also see around 40 SMEs signing up daily, which can add up to more than 1,000 new businesses monthly. Over three months, we saw a 500% rise in our consumer base."
Jutiphan Mongkolsuthree, CEO of GoFive, the developer of the Venio customer relationship management (CRM) software, said: "High on the list of technology solution providers' pain points is how to get their digital solutions noticed in the market and chosen by customers.
"Fortunately, being part of the Depa network and joining the SBTP has introduced us to a slew of prospects, both domestic and international. Venio has grown in recognition, visibility and credibility among targeted SMEs as a result. We have seen a 20% rise in the number of SMEs adopting our solution when compared to when we first joined the programme.
"Venio is now supporting more than 50 SMEs that have joined the SBTP in managing customer data systematically, allowing them to plan, record and track each client's status more effectively."
Chanakarn Chinchatchawal, CEO of Robolingo Co, the developer of the AI chatbot Zwiz.AI and analytics tools for business, agreed with the notion of increasing credibility through the establishment of the right business ecosystem. He also underlined the importance of SMEs having access to solutions.
"We have joined many SBTP virtual training sessions. They have been an excellent opportunity to introduce our solutions and services to SMEs," he said.
"However, we recognised that many SMEs are reluctant to adopt due to financial constraints, which is why we offer them a free trial. Once they have tried our product and determined that it meets their requirements, they are willing to make a financial commitment."
Zwiz.AI has seen 100% increase in SMEs utilising its chatbot since it joined the SBTP in 2020, he said.
As part of the SBTP, UOB Thailand has organised a series of complimentary virtual training sessions to help more SMEs gain the know-how to use digital solutions. They can benefit from an array of tech solution providers being introduced at each training session, as well as free trials for up to six months.
The next session will be held on Oct 14. Three Thai technology companies -- Zwiz.AI, PEAK, an online accounting platform, and SmartUp, an e-commerce platform -- will introduce solutions that can help SMEs increase sales, optimise accounting processes and enhance their brand and customer base.
Sirinun Jiradilok is head of digital engagement and fintech innovation with UOB Thailand