SMEs are about to receive a helping kick-start, thanks to the Thai government's new policies and to entrepreneurs like Bee Taechaubol, who are putting up and attracting private equity to get the economy moving in the right direction
As member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), one of the world’s up-and-coming economic communities, Thailand is poised for sustained growth. Nevertheless, this alliance alone will not be the sole impetus; Thailand’s strong entrepreneurial spirit will also drive economic expansion.
For foreign investors, this is a winning combination and Bee Taechaubol – local entrepreneur, investment guru and board member of various successful enterprises – stresses that Thailand is optimal, especially as a base from which to move into other ASEAN markets. However, a foreign player may not be able to do it without local help.
“I think investors should look for strong partners that can help navigate the local business scene. If you want to use this as a springboard to other countries, it is possible. I do believe that Thailand can become the hub for this region. Geographically, it is in the right place,” says Mr Taechaubol.
The government has implemented many policies to encourage the growth of SMEs and innovation, such as the Entrepreneurship Development Programme, yet one thing that has been holding back Thailand’s entrepreneurs is access to credit. And that is something Mr Taechaubol intends to address personally; through a special platform for international investors and foreign funds, he wants to attract venture capital and private equity firms to help kick-start some of the promising and fledgling SMEs in his native Thailand.
Having lived in both Australia and Thailand, Mr Taechaubol is comfortable in both Eastern and Western business settings, yet his personal motto is “think fast, act fast”. Add this to his list of connections and contacts, and the Thai is a formidable business partner.
|If you want to do business here, you need strong partners. If you want to use this as a springboard to other countries, it is possible.|
Mr Taechaubol isn’t the only one with aspirations to get venture capital up and running; the Ministry of Finance has also set up a venture capital-fund to help boost the competitiveness of the country’s SMEs.
The end goal is to ultimately produce more entrepreneur success stories, similar to that of Mr Taechaubol. Having lived in Australia since the age of one, he studied civil engineering before returning to his birthplace to study an MBA. “Doing business in Thailand is about connections, so I was advised to go to business school here,” he says.
Following university, Mr Taechaubol made his first investment in online real estate advertising, which he later sold with the business listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.
He then spent a few years amalgamating the largest digital advertising network and subsequently merged it with a listed media company. That media business grew to include Channel V, four cable channels and a movie distribution business as well. There was also an investment into a mobile handset retail and wholesale business, which he managed to increase its market share from 6 per cent to 30 per cent in two years before selling the business.
The enterprising young Thai then found himself in stockbroking, where he turned around a loss-making small brokerage into a profit making business with the second highest market share, the largest retail client base in Thailand and added to that the third largest fund management business (with £7.7 billion under management) all in just over two years. “We almost became number one in terms of market share,” he recalls. “We had 10 per cent of the stockbrokers in Thailand.”
After the brokerage business he went into equal partnership with Ayupun Karnasutra. Its first investment was into a listed construction and engineering firm KTech, which proved to be a lucrative decision for the prudent businessman. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy when he bought it, but he managed to turn the company around.
Things are looking good for K-Tech and the chairman expects to see a lot of growth this year, particularly given the construction sector’s promising outlook. Indeed, the Thai government is pushing through a THB2.2 trillion (£46 billion) infrastructure project aimed at making Thailand a true logistics hub and that will facilitate connectivity among the regions.
Mr Taechaubol is proving to possess the Midas touch, and he hopes to apply this to his private equity investments venture. And as he did with his previous pursuits, he’s got his sights set on success, regardless of the sector. “For me it is not about which sector; it is more about opportunities. Every time we do something, we are very hands-on. It isn’t like I have THB10 billion of cash lying around, but I know where to get it.”
This could present SMEs with just the chance they need to get off their feet running. Having started from the bottom himself, Mr Taechaubol certainly respects those who “have the hunger to try to make something” and “do it right”.