THE NEW chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) plans to change the internal structure of the organisation to increase support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) while supporting Thailand as the region's industrial hub.
FTI chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree said in an interview with The Nation that previously the federation was more like a voice and a guide for its members but now he wants it to implement a strategy to provide real support and outcomes for members, especially SMEs.
“I want all of our members, SMEs and large industries to feel like they can truly benefit from being a part of the FTI,” he said.
“In the past our approach was only skin deep. My plan is to go deeper and provide more assistance to strengthen our members.”
One of the ongoing changes within the organisation planned by Supant is the creation of a new agency within the federation’s secretarial department with the purpose of promoting border trade.
Supant explained that the plan was to open more channels and strengthen existing ties with Thailand’s neighbours in order to help SMEs expand their market by encouraging them to sell products abroad or import goods and resources to improve their product line.
“The plan to provide more support for SMEs is two-fold,” he said.
“The first part is to help them expand their market through an increase of trading activity in border areas, since our neighbours’ economic growth is apparent. The second part of the plan is to help them lower their production costs.”
Apart from the border agency that will be created this month, Supant also plans to open another agency this year to provide more assistance for SMEs, which account for 70-80 per cent of its members.
The FTI has around 7,000 members, who come from 42 industrial groups in 74 provinces.
Supant’s plan is for his administration to concentrate on providing additional support for members rather than concentrating on the commercial side alone.
“Currently there are 10 agencies within the federation that provide support for SMEs and the new agencies will provide further assistance in this aspect,” he said.
“These new agencies will be run by a new generation of successful entrepreneurs who will also help with the development of the federation.”
Other changes in the FTI structure include the moving and merging of departments to further support SMEs, such as merging neighbouring business councils and placing the Greater Mekong Sub-region under the border trade agency, while placing the rest of its business councils under the trading and investment agency.
In regard to the plan to help SMEs lower their marketing costs, Supant plans to introduce and encourage the use of information technology to promote and sell goods online via the improved FTI website, which promotes SME products and the establishment of an “E-Market Place” for all 42 industrial groups.
He also said that the FTI would need assistance from the ministries of Industry and Commerce to help promote and create public acceptance for the website.
Supant’s other plan is to lower costs for SMEs by encouraging “big brother” trade industries to provide support for smaller businesses by giving them technological and IT support, extra employee training and counselling on ways to minimise production costs.
Supant said FTI members and the country as a whole should be prepared for the setting up of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) at the end of next year, through the strengthening of personnel and infrastructure.
“Everything in the management level of the industrial system should be well prepared for the AEC,” he said.
“We should have the right kind of personnel, investment environment, and infrastructure that are suitable for investors in order to secure the most benefit from the AEC.”
He explained that the role of the FTI was to provide suggestions for the government and to let it know what industries need to improve the way they do business, such as the introducing or eliminating regulations and the introduction of new technological innovations.
Supant has also shown support for the government’s infrastructure projects, which will lower logistic costs and help the country become the region’s industrial hub.
“We have to invest in infrastructure to increase our competitiveness and lower our logistic costs, which are currently higher than others [in the region] at 10 per cent of production cost,” he said,
“If we can make these lower than 5 per cent that would be ideal. The lower the better.”