ONLINE ADVERTISING PUSH
Google opens Thailand office
Global ad leader wants to raise local spending on new media
Giant search-engine service provider and creator of the Android smart-phone platform, Google, has opened a local office in Thailand.The move reflects a commitment by Google to focus on the Thai market. The American multinational, which is based at Mountain View in California, hosts a variety of Internet-based services and products and generates revenue mainly from advertising. Along with the opening of its first office here, Google has announced the appointment of Ariya Banomyong, 38, as its first country head for Thailand. Having taken his new post on July 1 this year, Ariya will oversee Google's sales and business-development operations in this country.Google's aims in Thailand are to encourage local businesses to go online successfully and to raise online-advertising spending in the Thai market from the current level of only 0.3 per cent of total advertising spending to a level closer to that in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, which have a well- developed Internet infrastructure and where online-advertising spending is 30 to 50 per cent of total ad spending.Ariya comes from 10 years' experience in the telecom business with True Corporation, where his last position was chief commercial officer of True Corporation's Convergence. His experience will serve Google's mission of dealing with Thailand's Internet market, which is seeing a convergence of fixed-line and mobile Internet usage."It is the same passion for me in working with Google," he said. "I desire to be the pioneer to help the company settle down in the Thai market - the same as I did with Orange when it brought its business to Thailand with True Corporation more than 10 years ago."He said the beauty of his new position with Google Thailand was that it allowed him to join one of the largest technology companies in the world, while still being a pioneering leader in his home country as a new market for Google.Thailand has around 25 million Internet users, which means more than 30 per cent of the total population are online. About 40 per cent of these users access the Internet via mobile devices. Importantly, these people are using search services every day. Of all the counties in Southeast Asia, Thailand has the highest number of searches - 55 million per day. Ariya said the number of mobile-Internet users in Thailand was expanding rapidly, having grown three-fold in 2009 and 2010 to represent about 40 per cent of all Internet users. Every day, three out of every five Thai smart-phone users employs a search service. This figure is higher than that in many developed countries, including the US, the UK, Germany and Australia. And the most important key word of these mobile searches is "restaurant"."Through their search behaviour, these people are obviously telling us what products and services they are looking for. Our mission is to help businesses to utilise and benefit from this searching," he said.This gives the Thai market big potential for Google, with huge opportunities for the search-engine leader to capture. Currently, the country's total annual spending on advertising amounts to around Bt100 billion. Less than 1 per cent of this goes to online advertising, leaving more than 99 per cent of the total as Ariya's potential market - and he is, after all, representing the biggest player in the global online-advertising field."We don't see other players in online advertising as direct competitors because the market is very big. We all have opportunities to capture the business of those not-yet-online, and I will do my best for Google," he said. Ariya said his priority was setting up a local team of 10 to 20 people by next year to oversee marketing, sales and operations. Then, the company will offer more products and services to local businesses. Google sees its main role as that of an assistant, helping Thai businesses - both large and small- and medium-sized enterprises - to go online and benefit from Google's products and services."A priority job is to educate the Thai market, including agencies, business partners and corporate customers, on how to go online successfully and what they will then find by way of products and services from Google that can bring them continued success online. For large corporations we will use a one-on-one approach, while for 300,000 SMEs in Thailand, we will assist them through marketing activities like the recently launched 'Go Online' campaign."Ariya said he had spent about three months, involving several interviews, in the course of his appointment as Google's country manger for Thailand. After starting the job on July 1, he spent time in training at Google's operations Australia and Singapore, learning more about Google's products and services and its corporate culture. In the course of his introduction to his new company, he met Google's executive chairman and former chief executive Eric Schmidt.