SONGTHAM Phianpattanawit’s many years on the badminton court taught him the importance of keeping on his toes. And so it was when the aspiring national team representative missed the cut on selection, he made a strategic pivot from the net to the classroom.
Songtham put behind him that disappointment of not realising his childhood dreams on the national stage of badminton and opted to study computer science in the United States.
It was a decision that has paid off for Songtham, who has since risen to become executive director of IOT Business Group at True Corporation.
Songtham, who had enjoyed success for many ---years on the court with his badminton club in Chon Buri, left for Alabama to make good on his ambitions for a career in technology. After graduating with a bachelor of science (computer science) from the University of South Alabama, he returned to Thailand looking for an entry-level job.
“I had chosen to study computer science since I did not want to read textbooks all that much,” he recalls. “I always liked mathematics more than reading textbooks. After I graduated and came back to Thailand, I submitted application forms for work with every IT business located in Silom Road and other areas.”
IBM invited him in for an interview and his salary expectations for a raw recruit had been low, at around Bt10,000 a month. He was pleasantly surprised when he was told that the starting salary at the US technology giant was Bt15,000 a month.
What followed was a two-decade rise through the ranks that saw Songtham serve as country general manager and managing director at IBM Thailand from 2001 to 2003.
He says that during his time at IBM – working as an “IBMer” as he and his colleagues called themselves – he gained experience in every department and business unit. He had been keen to gain an understanding of how every business department worked as took on increasingly senior executive roles in the organisation.
Songtham went on to work his way up over 20 years to reach the post of managing director at IBM Thailand. It was then that Suphachai Chearavanont, group chairman of the executive committee of True Corporation, invited him to join True Multimedia as a director in 2003.
“I had worked at an international company for 20 years. I thought that, as I am Thai, I should create value for a Thai company or Thai business. I also thought of it as a challenge for me to manage and reorganise the business at True,” Songtham says. “I am an athlete that likes a challenge and joining True presented just such a challenge.”
In his first year at the company, Songtham served as a director at True Multimedia, which provides IT services and solutions to support private sector, state enterprises and government agencies. The firm had gained revenue of around Bt6 billion. For this year, with him serving as executive director of IOT Business Group at True Corporation, he says the company has pulled in around Bt13 billion from about 5,000 businesses.
“I have been working at True for many years and the revenue from IT services and IT solutions is still enjoying continuous growth,” Songtham says. “We also set up a new S-curve business to support the private sector, state enterprises and public sector in their efforts to transform themselves and improve their businesses and organisation in the digital era.”
He says the company has also set up True digital group to run the S-curve business, which covers seven areas: Big Data and analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) platform, cyber security, blockchain, digital advertising, smart retail with smart vending machine to be rolled out nationwide and robotics.
Songtham says the company is on the lookout for promising startup and other businesses in Thailand and abroad for possible investment in terms of mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures in order to expand the business.
As part of his efforts to better get to know his team, Songtham takes his lunch at the staff canteen every day. He also either rides the MRT system to work or drives in by himself. Throughout his career he has never neglected exercise and keeps up a fit
ness routine in the morning at the office as well as playing guitar to help relax before his hectic schedule of meetings.
On the weekends you can find him riding his bicycle with his two children and friends.
As for the secrets to his success, Songtham has utilised transfer knowledge as well as other forms of know-how such as those relating to commissions, process management, mobile office and a creed of business ethics from his time at IBM. He has implemented these practices at True.
Songtham, looking back on his time at IBM, says he had been responsible for 20 middle-level executives and had created a business with revenue of Bt500 million. He recalls with pride how that made him feel happy and successful.
Now, he is responsible for more than 1,000 employees. He says he will step down when the True Digital Group businesses have bedded down sustained growth and when business such as the IoT operation can achieve revenue of Bt500 million and True digital group can reach Bt1 billion. He expects this to happen by the end of next year.
“True is a big company and covers various business areas. It is stimulating to collaborate with people in each of the business areas as we support each other,’ Songtham says. “I also have a passion to give opportunities to my staff and the new generation of workers.
“I am happy when my workers and team members enjoy success and rise up. This means that I have to manage the business and the organisation in the right way. I think that I have had the kind of success that has exceeded my expectations.”
As for the future, he will pursue a dream to set up an academy for the transfer of knowledge and know-how in order to enhance IT literacy and support the goals of the technology-boosting Thailand 4.0 scheme.