Business leaders are optimistic about post-pandemic opportunities, with digital technology, online transactions and environmental concerns driving new trends.
Jirayut Srupsrisopa, founder and group chief executive of Bitkub Capital Group, Isao Sekiguchi, president of Nissan Motor (Thailand), and Jackie Chang, president of Delta Electronics (Thailand), shared business lessons from the pandemic and looked ahead at the Bangkok Post International Forum 2021, with the theme "Unleashing the Future: A Glimpse into 2022 and Beyond".
EVOLVE OR DIE
Mr Jirayut said the Thai financial market needs to adapt to the digital world.
The technology 3.0 era will come with the metaverse, and traditional financial institutions will gradually be replaced by decentralised finance, while digital currencies will play a greater role in exchange of goods and services in the digital economy, he said.
Mr Jirayut said although the Bank of Thailand does not yet support the use of cryptocurrencies for payment, it has no authority to govern cryptocurrencies because the law is from 1932 and does not cover digital currencies.
He said the tech 3.0 era will bring about new financial platform protocols to support the digital economy and the metaverse.
"In the next year, a lot of ATMs will disappear as they will be replaced by a cashless payment system on apps. A cashless society is coming faster than ever," Mr Jirayut said.
He said the rise of cryptocurrencies is in line with the 3.0 trend because it works on a blockchain platform. If Thailand continues to block its use, it will waste an opportunity to develop the digital economy, said Mr Jirayut.
He said Thai firms are losing market share in many industries to foreign firms through modern app platforms, such as Lazada and Shopee in retail, Grab in the food delivery, and Facebook on social media.
Finance is probably the only major local industry that is largely owned by Thais, said Mr Jirayut. However, they may lose out to foreign firms with more technological prowess if they don't adapt to the changing financial technology.
Facebook is developing a blockchain for the metaverse next year, which could bring big changes to the global financial industry, such as the birth of Meta Bank, the first virtual bank on the metaverse.
Facebook's capacity to reach 3.3 billion people gives the company the power to build a massive customer base for its metaverse's world of economy and finance, he said.
Given this digital disruption, Thai financial institutions should adjust their business models, said Mr Jirayut. If they adopt new technologies now, they still have a chance to make the industry "a national champion," he said.
As for the digital asset industry, he said there is still a lot of room for growth with the proliferation of the metaverse.
However, he admitted the digital asset industry is highly volatile as its market size is small compared with other assets. If the market increases, volatility can be reduced, said Mr Jirayut.
Regarding the risk of quantum computing undermining the safety of the cryptocurrency blockchain, he said it is a potential risk. However, Mr Jirayut believes quantum computing's disruption will not happen anytime soon because the blockchain system is thought of as complex and highly secure.
Crypto makers and blockchain experts are not underestimating the threat and are devising intense defensive measures right now, he said.
Covid-19 gave the industrial sector an opportunity to think of novel business plans, adjusting to new lifestyles and people's growing concern for environmental protection, said Mr Sekiguchi.
"We should not just talk about the negative side of the pandemic. There were positive aspects too," he said.
The past two years provided time to contemplate new business plans. The highly contagious outbreaks awakened Nissan Motor Thailand to the benefits of online marketing, said Mr Sekiguchi.
Previously when Nissan wanted to launch new car models, it organised large press events and made a big production, with the intent of creating an impression.
"We launched new models digitally during the pandemic," he said. "Creativity is needed to maintain a good impression and make the cars attractive."
Up to 60% of Nissan cars produced at its Thai factory were exported to Japan last year, said Mr Sekiguchi.
The auto industry has an opportunity to increase sales as a result of changes in travel behaviour, he said. Many people are avoiding public transport for fear of contracting the virus. This is likely to translate into more car sales, said Mr Sekiguchi.
Even sales of electric vehicles (EVs), which are more expensive than oil-powered cars, increased during the pandemic, he said. This trend is in line with Nissan's Ambition 2030 campaign, which aims to direct the company towards more EV production.
The company plans to launch 23 new electric models, including 15 new EVs, aiming for 50% electric models by 2030, according to Nissan Motor Corporation's website.
"The pandemic caused people to become more aware of the environment and the impact of air pollution," said Mr Sekiguchi.
Creating an EV industry in Thailand is still a challenge because more investment in EV infrastructure is needed, he said. Nissan plans to wait and see when local customers are ready to buy EVs.
"People in Thailand are being educated about EVs," said Mr Sekiguchi.
CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE
SET-listed electronics component manufacturing firm Delta Electronics said digital transformation, proper public infrastructure for EV manufacturing and clean energy generation are the keys to shaping a better future for Thailand.
Mr Chang said Thailand's continuous progress in becoming a smart city is helping the manufacturing sector thrive.
"5G is playing a big role in Thailand. As 5G expands, it helps Thailand become a smart city, especially in different provinces. Smart manufacturing also comes into play in order to increase the supply chain," he said.
Mr Chang said 5G connectivity in Thailand in telecommunications and at data centres is crucial for business because many of them have adapted and implemented the "Think Global, Act Local" strategy during the pandemic to avoid disruption from supply chain issues, such as the semiconductor shortage.
This strategy is also known as decentralised manufacturing. The strategy involves using cutting-edge technologies to set up operations and then run facilities at their optimal rate.
For example, it allows Delta Electronics to collaborate seamlessly with partners in Thailand to assemble parts for any products without delays related to shipping or shortages, he said.
Mr Chang said Thailand should also step up its efforts on sustainable development and set up proper infrastructure for the private sector to support EV manufacturing and clean energy generation.
"Infrastructure for EVs needs to be more populated around the country. We are working with our partner Nissan to push this issue in the Thai market, in terms of public infrastructure," he said.
"We also believe electrification and clean energy in Thailand could be improved, creating an easier and freer market. It needs to be easier to trade energy so we can build more solar plants and wind turbines, creating clean energy here."
As for the coronavirus impact on Delta Electronics' business, Mr Chang said the firm recorded a 30-year peak this past September. The company has been vaccinating its workers and equipping them with digital training.
Isao Sekiguchi, president of Nissan Motor (Thailand), left, and Jackie Chang, president of Delta Electronics (Thailand), share business lessons from the pandemic. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
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