CHAIPORN Pattanajak, 56, has over a number of years developed what started off as a silk research project at Triamudomsakka Pattakran Udon Thani secondary school into a business that now generates sales of Bt1 million a year.
“I worked with my students to research and develop a silk-stretching machine and then proposed the project to the National Research Council of Thailand at ‘Inventors’ Day’ on February 2, 2003. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who was chairperson of the event, suggested how to develop silk for use as dental floss, which would help reduce the country’s imports of floss,” Chaiporn, founder and managing director of Smile Floss (2010) Co Ltd, said during a recent interview with The Nation.
He then began to research and develop the production of silk dental floss in 2006 and 2007 after getting an R&D budget of Bt200,000 from the National Science and Technology Development Agency to develop a machine for that purpose.
When the development work was complete, he applied for a budget of Bt400,000 from the National Research Council to develop a stretching machine for commercial-scale production, with this phase of the project taking place in 2008 and 2009.
After making the |final development breakthrough in 2009, Chaiporn used his savings to establish Smile Floss (2010) with registered capital of Bt1 million in 2010, and two years later opened a plant in Udon Thani to produce dental floss made from silk.
“We launched our first product at the National Research Council’s ‘Inventors’ Day’ event in 2013, at which sales worth Bt40,000 were generated,” he said.
Still a teacher at Triamudomsakka Pattakran Udon Thani secondary school, he then expanded the company’s distribution channel by putting his project on show at 7-Eleven’s “Seven Contest Awards” event last year.
His project won Best Product award at the contest, after which 7-Eleven introduced his silk dental floss in its catalogue under his company’s M-Press brand.
The floss got positive feedback from the market, and Twin Lotus then contracted Smile Floss (2010) to produce it under the Twin Lotus brand for export to China.
This boosted sales from Bt100,000 in 2014 to around Bt1 million last year, with some Bt800,000 of the revenue generated under the Twin Lotus brand and the remainder from M-Press sales. Early this year, the company also won a contract from a Vietnamese firm that visited its booth at “Inventor’s Day” in February.
Chaiporn then needed to increase production capacity from an average of 40,000 packs a month this year to 100,000 packs monthly, in order to fulfil the order from Vietnam next year.
“We will invest about Bt2 million [in capacity expansion] and have applied for a loan from the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand, as well as a loan guarantee from Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation. This will enable us to start to invest in boosting our production capacity next year,” the teacher-cum-businessman said.
Crucial to Smile Floss (2010)’s business expansion is the fact that it owns its technology and has the intellectual rights for its product, which helps in the management of production costs and generates a high return for the company, he explained.
“Our products are also friendly to the environment by using a natural raw material, silk. This, in turn, is friendly to customers looking for eco-friendly products, which is a growing trend this century,” he added.