(Thailand) – On July 10, the US-ASEAN Business Council with the Office of SMEs Promotion (OSMEP) Thailand and the Thammasat Business School conducted a webinar for Thailand SMEs. The event was part of a broader webinar series in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Around 100 owners and executives of Thailand SMEs participated in the webinar session titled “Enhancing Digital Skills from Thailand SMEs in COVID-19.”
“Thailand has been one of the economies in Southeast Asia that has been hit hard as a result of COVID-19 and it is doing an excellent job of recovering swiftly and safely. Even so, the Travel & Tourism Industry has been affected particularly strongly and The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised Thailand’s overall GDP growth rate downward for 2020 to -7.7%” said Ambassador Michael Michalak in his opening remarks. “The work of recovery cannot be done without the over 3 million SMEs that make up the heart and soul of Thailand’s economy.”
The webinar was officially opened by Ambassador Michael Michalak, SVP and Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council, along with Dr. Wimonkan Kosumas, Deputy Director General of OSMEP, and Associate Professor Dr. Ruth Banomyong, Dean of the Thammasat Business School.
“Upskilling digital competency of Thai SMEs is a critical survival requirement in this era of uncertainty” said Dr. Ruth in his remarks.
Thailand SMEs have a vital role to drive forward the Thai economy. According to the Office of SME Promotion (OSMEP), SMEs accounted for 42,4% of the national gross domestic product (GDP) with a value of 6,5 trillion baht in 2018. SMEs also created more than 12,1 million jobs positions in 2017. However, SMEs are some of the businesses most impacted by COVID-19. Helping SMEs cope with the disruption is vital to Thailand’s economic recovery. As the government increases restricted movement and limits outdoor activities, consumers in Thailand are moving online. The number of e-commerce users has increased by 30% since March 2020.
Welcoming remarks were followed by a panel discussion featuring Dr. Wimonkan Kosumas of OSMEP, Ms. Natsicha Voraprukpisut, Head of Market Development for Mastercard, and Ms. Boonthida Ratanavilaikul, Marketing Manager for FedEx—moderated by Dr. Suthikorn Kingkaew, Assistant Professor for International Business at Thammasat Business School
“Technology and digital commerce are not only useful or just an option for doing business, but also have a very important role as one of the keys for business to overcome challenges in the situation now. From this point forward, SMEs are not only required to be agile and resilient in different circumstances they encounter, but they also need to master digital skills to strengthen their businesses. According to OSMEP’s survey, only 12,8 percent of Thai MSMEs nationwide chose digital technology to cope with COVID-19 crisis, while the rest still chose other forms of cost reduction. Therefore, it is very important to encourage them to realize the importance of digitalization and identify the right digital tools to support their businesses,” said Dr. Wimonkan during her presentation.
The Council offers a collaborative intervention to support Thailand SMEs, to adapt to disruptive technologies, and to embrace a Digital ASEAN. Maximizing ASEAN’s digital potential will accelerate intra-regional trade and encourage Thailand SMEs to compete globally. The Council observes the urgent need to facilitate an engagement between the private sector, government officials, academics, and the public, to to improve human resource capacity.
“Mastercard is honored to be partnering with the US-ABC in bringing to Thai SMEs this virtual training. Digital payment is a key enabler of e-commerce and the digital economy. COVID-19 is accelerating the trend towards digitalization and Mastercard believes that equipping SMEs with the required knowledge and skills set for this transformation is not only the right thing to do now but is something that will also prepare them for the future.” said Ms. Natsicha Voraprukpisut, Vice President of Market Development for Mastercard.
Mastercard, as a leader within the Council and sponsor of the 2020 SME program, has promoted the benefits of digital payments and cashless transactions for SMEs.
In 2011, the US-ASEAN Business Council established a training program for ASEAN SMEs in response to a request by ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) to support ASEAN SMEs leverage technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. Today, nearly 7,500 SMEs have benefitted from Council’s SME programs in all ten ASEAN Member States. In the Thailand alone, the Council has conducted seven workshops.
In 2016, the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy, a self-help and self-paced online learning platform for SMEs, offering free courses and resources from the Council’s member companies. The Academy is co-administered with the Philippines Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). You can read more about the academy and access it here www.asean-sme-academy.org.