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Fri, March 23, 2007 : Last updated 20:07 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > Business > Despite realty slump, strong baht, Rockworth eyes growth

Despite realty slump, strong baht, Rockworth eyes growth

Big orders from Gulf states, China and Indochina boost sales

As the property boom subsides and a strong baht slows exports, one local company remains upbeat it can continue to grow and profit.

Rockworth, Thailand's second biggest Grade-A office furniture firm after Modernform, is looking outside the Thai market for expansion, said its top executives.

"As the local market consolidates, the future for growth now lies overseas," said executive directors Dusdee Pongsuthmanus and Chakrit Vorachatcreyanan.

Both men also believe the challenges they face can be easily overcome by applying a more outward and efficient way of running its business.

The two operation chiefs said a strong baht may make business tough but the company can persevere by using bold plans to sell outside the country.

Rather than whine like some exporters, Rockworth is learning from Japanese exporters who more than a decade ago recognised their currency was appreciating and started building plants in places where their new markets were located.

Dusdee said it has been wisely investing in overseas ventures.

"We have set up joint ventures and formed distribution outlets in more than 25 foreign markets to keep costs low and create brand awareness," said Chakrit. That number will soon reach 50.

As Toyota and Honda was able to penetrate the North American market by using this strategy, Rockeworth believes it too will increase sales faster by reaching out for foreign customers, rather than wait for Thailand to boom again.

"The markets are always changing," said Dusdee.

"We must adapt to the new environment".

Recently the firm has merged its steel-furniture and wood-furniture plants under one roof in Bang Plee.

It has shut down its old plant in Navanakorn Industrial Estate.

Producing everything under one roof is more efficient. At

the same time, with savings in time and costs, it can speed up delivery time and better service clients.

Five years ago, the company saw a big revival in its fortunes with the expansionary policies of the Thaksin government.

During the boom, it also saw massive orders for its furniture from emerging Gulf states such as Kuwait and UAE which were profiting from high oil prices.

While those boom days are over for Bangkok, the demand from oil-rich Gulf countries continue to power the firm's fortunes.

"Vietnam, Cambodia, India, China and Eastern Europe are among the top future markets for Rockworth, said the directors. Foreign sales last year accounted for Bt200 million in revenue, said Chakrit.

"Today 30 per cent of our sales are overseas, with the rest being sold at home," said Chakrit. "In the near future, the ratio will be 50:50."

He said Rockworth's products, which fuse the technology of top line US and European designers into its products, is popular as it is recognised for its attractive appearence, comfort and pragmatic application.

"When we display our lines abroad, we are proud to say our products are from Thailand," he said.

"Many local furniture firms copy shapes without understanding the relationship with its user. We take in the conditions, how to make workers happy and more productive and how well our work stations can function under real conditions."

The new products are lighter, more roomy, more brightly lit and have plenty of neat storage spaces. At its new showroom near the Asoke-Ratchada junction, dozens of visitors, many Japanese among them, make daily tours to locate top lines for their offices.

Itthi C Tan

The Nation

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