THAILAND will challenge Singapore for supremacy as the region’s hub for startup ventures under a vision set out by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak yesterday.
Somkid announced the goal as he presided over the opening of a three-day event to promote the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The event, held by the Industry Ministry's Department of Industrial Promotion at the Impact Muangthong Thani convention centre in Bangkok, is aimed at showcasing the government’s support for SMEs, which the government says comprise one of the nation’s economic pillars.
Somkid has urged state agencies in the economic sphere and the private sector to join forces to clear the obstacles in the path of Thailand becoming a startup hub.
He has ordered the Industry Ministry to work more closely with other state agencies and state and private banks to drive forward the policies required to strengthen the competitiveness of the country’s SMEs.
Thailand has more than three million SMEs, which employ around 10 million.
Somkid also urged Krungthai Bank and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand (SME Bank) to develop their Big Data systems and use artificial intelligence (AI) to more efficiently target their lending to smaller ventures. He also urged SMEs to adopt digital technology to enhance their competitiveness.
The government of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has given to priority to support for SMEs by launching a number of regulatory and financial measures.
The Industry Ministry has joined with state agencies to develop a Big Data resource base for SMEs, enabling the government to better design policies that fit with what these ventures need, Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said yesterday at the same event.
Somchai Harnhirun, Deputy Minister of the Industry Ministry, said that in order to create more opportunities for SMEs, and aid their digital transformation, the ministry will set up 76 Industry Transformation Centres (ITCs) nationwide. These centres will help the owners of SMEs to improve their products and reach more customers through online channels. This would enable value creation, the minister said.
Somchai said that under the first stage of the plan, the ministry had already set up more than 10 ITCs in a number of provinces, underpinning the goal for the 76 centres to open by the end of this year.
The ministry will also create the concept of an industry village in order to develop value-creation activities in villages and help to provide sales channels to the domestic and international markets, Somchai said at the event.
Furthermore, the ministry will serve as a facilitator behind an online-based business-matching scheme that will connect around 1,600 Thai SMEs with 17,000 of their Japanese peers.
This initiative will help achieve a cluster effect and open up more opportunities for SMEs in both countries, Somchai said.
As part of this plan, the ministry will provide online business matching online between local SMEs and those in up to five other Asean countries. This exercise would create opportunities for SMEs in the global market.
Elsewhere, Somchai said the Industry Promotion Department and International Trade Promotion Department, under the Industry Ministry, would join with Alibaba Business School to train some 500,000 people over the next five years with the skills required for a technology-based workforce. The collaboration will see the development of a digital technology curriculum required for the workers in these new industries.
The ministry expects that in the first year some 10,000 people will be trained. This boost in education would strengthen SMEs in their efforts to provide their products and services on e-commerce platforms, Somchai said. This initiative would help drive the whole economy forward, the deputy minister said.