ALIBABA Group’s plans for investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and associated e-commerce initiatives will be revealed after the technology giant’s founder, Jack Ma, arrives in Thailand tomorrow.
Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said that Ma, the executive chairman of the Chinese e-commerce operator, would use the visit to announce the group's planned investments and collaborative schemes with Thailand that are aimed at upgrading the digital technology skills of the workforce.
Representatives of the Ministry of Industry and other government agencies have had discussions with Alibaba on ways to advance cooperation since the Ma visited Thailand in 2016. The other agencies include the EEC office, the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), the Board of Investment, the Customs Department, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Thailand Post.
These agencies have drafted the details of five collaborative projects to help drive forward Thailand's digital industry and promote the greater use of digital technology in order to support the government’s Thailand 4.0 innovation policy.
Among these projects, a Smart Digital Hub would be set up in the EEC, drawing on Alibaba's technology prowess in logistics, for faster transport of goods between Thailand and China, as well as the so-called CLMV states - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam – among other countries.
It is envisioned that the hub will help Thai startup ventures and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to use digital technology to develop their products and services. Customs procedures will also be upgraded to enable digitally processing.
The Department of Industrial Promotion and the DITP will join with Alibaba Group, through the Alibaba Business School (ABS), to develop digital talent and promote the more widespread use of e-commerce platforms, while networking with technology experts in China.
Thai startups and SMEs will be helped to gain access to the regional global value chain via industry transformation centres in Thailand.
A Thailand Tourism Platform will be set up by the TAT and the Chinese e-commerce behemoth for marketing activities on online platforms and tourism Big Data will be used to penetrate targeted markets and promote Thailand's tourism industry.
In yet another initiative, the MOC will work with Alibaba Group to launch the Thai Rice Flagship Store on Tmall.com – an Alibaba platform - for online trading of Thai rice in China. The plan will boost business for rice exporters, with direct online access to the Chinese market.
Ma would meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and sign a memorandum of understanding on investment projects in the EEC, Uttama said.
Alibaba Group's greater focus on Thailand comes after a study by the company indicated the country’s potential to become a regional digital and e-commerce centre. Worldwide, about 68 per cent of the population have Internet access through mobile phones, while the ranks of active social media users on phones have expanded 14 per cent – with a 16 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region.
Thailand's e-commerce market is expected to jump from Bt113.4 billion this year to Bt186.5 billion in 2022.