STUDYING marketing kept Anothai Wettayakorn busy during his student days, but it was computer programming that fired up his imagination.
Anothai, now 48, fell in love with computers when he first encountered them on his university campus.
Despite his workload as a marketing student he felt driven to learn all he could about computer programming. He even worked as a teaching assistant at computer lab. These were his first steps on a path that would take him to the vice president’s office for Asian emerging markets at Dell Technologies.
After graduating with his marketing degree from Assumption University (ABAC), he lost no time in finding work a sales person for a Thai computer company, SVOA, where he stayed for three years.
By that time, he made good on a plan to become an entrepreneur. He joined with a friend to set up a local brand PC company and ran the business for two years. With that taste of entrepreneurship behind him, he returned to the corporate world, joining Compaq Company in its product and marketing department.
He recalls that the PC market had been dominated by local brand PCs, with such brands making up 80 per cent of the market. In that environment it was difficult for premium brands to gain market share.
But, when the Asian economic crisis struck in 1997, the PC market shrank rapidly. His company slashed the ranks of its employees until it was just Anothai left on his own in his department. He turned that crisis into an opportunity by carrying out a marketing strategy of his own creation. He hit upon the idea of bundling the products with a broadband internet service, provided by another company. That helped make to revive sales and he was rewarded with a promotion to manager of the consumer PC business unit.
He continued to work for Compaq and helped to deliver healthy growth as he moved upwards in his career path. His company acquired the rival Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), leading to his promotion as the executive overseeing the consumer and corporate markets as well as the business market. Then, when the company was acquired by Hewlett Packard (HP), he was promoted to the role of PSG director, overseeing the whole PC business of HP. Three year later, he moved to Dell as country manager of Dell Thailand.
From overseeing only Thailand, in 2010 he was also made responsible for the Indochina market, on the way to being put in charge of 32 emerging markets in the Asia Pacific region. He is the first Thai executive in the global technology company to be assigned such an extensive reach in marketing.
His role is to deal with the multicultural dimensions of the company in terms of markets, employees, and partners. He prides himself on getting along well with people of all cultures and backgrounds, he says. Anothai says a childhood in a military family, involving moves around the country, saw him get used to meeting a variety of people and build his interpersonal skills.
As his role as vice president for Asian emerging markets at Dell Technologies, he has promoted his Thai teams to oversee the market, naming members as country managers overseeing Indochina, with individual country managers for Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.
Across the 32 countries, the two main business of Dell Technologies are commercial and consumer businesses covering commercial PCs, notebooks and enterprise business. Dell’s business also includes the South Asia consumer division that takes in the Philippines and Indonesia.
“In APJ, Asia Pacific and Japan, Dell has six regions - Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, Southeast Asia - and the rest are emerging markets,” says Anothai.
He says that when it comes to moulding a successful operation, what’s important are the right attitude and mindset, together with patience and a sense of endeavour. He has practised all of these qualities and has sought to imbue his with staff with them.
He says he is focused on goals, not rewards, so he is always striving to optimise in every way, rather than merely meet the targets. A key motivation is to turn the spotlight on Thailand.
“I am pleased, but not satisfied, when my staff meet the target. I always advise them to have sense of entrepreneurship, to strive to optimise and not just to meet the target,” Anothai says.
“We need to put pressure on them but always with showing respect towards them. We need to push them to gain a sense of ownership with responsibility and accountability. Having a sense of entrepreneurship
means we will not stop simply because we meet the target; we will go beyond that.”
When he started working at Dell, Thailand was a third-tier market for the company, but now it has grown into a first-tier market. The size of business at that time was just a tenth of what it is now.
As with any business, he says, the core strength rests with the people. Dell’s business expansion requires not only gaining the trust of customers and partners, but also the employees.
“The team is very important since they work for the company, They need to be motivated and have a growth mindset. We need to learn the differences in culture and people, and to motivate and support them,” says Anothai.
He regards problems as challenges and enjoys resolving them. Problems, he says, are part of life. He believe any problem has its own cycle; after it arises it will ultimately disappear.
“We need to have the right consciousness to deal with and solve such problems. And even after a problem disappears, it will come again,” Anothai says. “We just have to realise that and deal with it. So, mindset and attitude are very important. Luckily, we can practise what is needed. I do not believe it is a born-to-be skill.”
As work keeps him busy, he prefers not to talk about a work-life balance; instead, he speaks of work-life integration. Since he travels a lot, he is always working and living life at the same time. He loves local food, history, culture and people when he is on business trips, and he often stay longer to experience a given city and its people.
“I always integrate work into life and life into work. I do not wake up to go to work; I wake up to spend my life. If we have an attitude like this, we will never be bored working every day of the week,” says Anothai.
He says everyone and every business in the era of digital disruption need to adjust their attitudes and mindsets as well as prepare themselves for the changes ahead. The winners are those businesses that can adjust themselves quickly, regardless of their size.
“In the span of every five years, technologies will become powerful and notch advancements at the rate of 10 times. Therefore, in the next 15 years, we can expect to see 1,000 times more advances in technologies. This principle is the same as what happened in the last 15 years,” he says.
“In the next 15 years, nobody knows how the world will be, but one thing is sure – it will be never the same and we cannot escape that conclusion, no matter what people think about that.
“For example, artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, and the Internet of Things will play important roles, absolutely. Thai businesses and corporates need to be aware of this and prepare themselves to avoid the risk of being disrupted.”
As for individuals, he says, people need to make adjustments. Even though he has worked at Dell for 16 years, he says it feels as if he has worked for different companies over that period - such is the pace of change.
“Dell always adjusts itself, such as when it expanded from being a hardware provider to offering solutions as well as end-to-end solutions. Now, Dell Technologies offers a lot of solutions for data centres and the cloud, says Anothai.
He says Dell has always offered reskilling and upskilling for employees. For example, it has quarterly training, with its own university, Dell Sales University, providing the courses. Employee need to pass the core courses in order to move up.
Dell places great importance on people development.
“As a company, Dell has also always adjust itself. It started with direct model, but today it relies on a hybrid mode with channels. It changed from a model of built-to-order to be build-to-stock – all while retaining its DNA that is effective supply chain management,” Anothai says.
Dell created a big impact on the PC industry with its direct model and supply chain management that pulled down prices for PCs.
“Dell is still creating an impact, now with data centres and the cloud with the recent launch of Dell Technologies Cloud Platform,” Anothai says. “The company spends around US$4 billion on research and development each year. The vision of the company is to supply the advanced technologies that help our customers make the transformation to the digital era.”