Global Entrepreneurship Thailand (GET), a working group established to promote entrepreneurship in the Kingdom, believes that government promotion and outward-looking plans are key to the expansion of small and medium enterprises.
In an interview with The Nation, GET’s president Steve Cheah said the lack of access to finance, start-up knowledge and incentives were the main problems faced by the entrepreneur.
An increase in cross-border trade and looking outward was necessary for both entrepreneurs and SMEs so they can benefit from the Asean Economic Community (AEC), once it is launched in 2015.
"Thailand is full of talented individuals with vast amounts of creative ideas. The problem is that they cannot develop these ideas into a sustainable business, and this is where our experience and expertise from Global Entrepreneurship Week [GEW] can help," Cheah said.
GEW is an international initiative and a large global campaign that introduces entrepreneurship to more than 30 million people from 138 countries since it was founded by Enterprise UK and the Kauffman Foundation in 2008.
To promote cross-border entrepreneurship, Cheah suggested that the Thai government provide knowledge to people who wish to expand or set up business outside the country.
He added that people’s minds would also have to change, and they must understand that entrepreneurship is a global phenomenon and that businesses in Thailand should understand that their market covers the entire Asean region.
People’s perception can change once the government promotes business awareness and provides information about business regulations in neighbouring countries. Cheah added that the government should also show how hassle-free it can be to start a business locally and overseas since all you need nowadays is a computer with Internet access.
"With added incentives from the AEC and cheaper flights, the time is right for Thai people to think of business potential outside Thailand and to realise the potential of Asean as a whole since there are 600 million people living here," Cheah said.
He added that the government should also provide easy access to finance and other incentives to encourage entrepreneurship, such as tax exemption during start up, direct financial help and low-interest loans in order to help them sustain their new business until they can stand on their own.
"Right now, Thailand is the third largest economy in the Asean region and the next step for the country’s development would be to concentrate on creative economy and do what they can to tap into their human resources," he said. "The eco-system for start-ups and entrepreneurs need to be improved and the government should lead the way."
Cheah said that GET aimed to turn the country into a start-up hub in Asean since the cost of starting a business in Thailand was half of what is needed in Singapore and is a third cheaper than Malaysia. He added that local firms, entrepreneurs and government-related agencies could partner up with GET in order to help showcase Thailand’s talent in the next GEW in November.
GET has recently partnered up with Minor International to set up a "Thailand go-viral" video competition offering a cash prize of Bt500,000 for the best two-minute clip showing entrepreneurial skills. However, this competition has had to be put on "pause" for the time being due to current uncertain political situation. The competition would resume once the situation was more conducive, Cheah said.