Thailand's business leaders
Major private sector companies lead the way as Thailand gears up for growing regional competition and outbound global investment
Whilst His Majesty King Bhumibol is without doubt Thailand’s national leader and force for stability, economic leadership is undoubtedly the realm of Thailand’s growing collection of world-class private sector companies. As confusion and uncertainty continue to reign in Thailand’s fractured political environment, major private companies continue to exceed expectations with their commitments to world-class standards, sustainable growth and the communities that they work alongside.
Representing approximately 25 per cent of total market capitalisation, the Stock Exchange of Thailand is dominated by international energy giant PTT. Despite being majority owned by the Government of Thailand, PTT’s fundamental mandate to ensure energy security for Thailand has driven the company to world-class standards across a diverse range of indicators such as international procurement, corporate social responsibility and corporate governance.
Now operating in 14 different countries globally, PTT has grown to such a scale that operational financing requirements extend beyond the capacity of the entire Thai capital market. President & CEO Dr Pailin Chuchottaworn elaborates further on PTT’s international scope: “Actually, PTT already outgrew its own country. Our turnover last year was about the same as our national budget. So we have to grow outside the country. On the other hand, we have to secure resources for the country, and those resources are not in the country. So naturally we have to go outside.”
Of particular interest from a UK perspective is the company’s ongoing bid for UK based oil & gas explorer Cove Oil, as PTT continues its global expansion in an effort to serve the exponential growth in Thailand’s energy demands, as the flow of energy struggles to keep apace with economic growth.
Of pivotal importance to the success of PTT, is the collective acceptance and social license of local communities. Thus a clear focus on working with, and investing in local communities has evolved at PTT so as to ensure that Thailand’s energy supply is maintained at all times. Dr Pailin is taking this concept several steps further by using PTT’s cemented position of economic leadership to encourage all of Thailand’s company’s from SME’s up to the country’s leaders to continually strive for the best possible international standards with a view to making Thailand as competitive as possible looking ahead to developments such as the ASEAN Economic Community’s (AEC) inauguration in 2015.
Thailand’s legacy of diverse regional immigration and cross-cultural interlocution has had a marked effect on the profile of businesses. Of greatest significance to private enterprise in Thailand is the legacy of a profoundly skilled group of Chinese entrepreneurs establishing small businesses at the beginning of the 20th century, later to grow into global conglomerates today.
Hands down, the most influential of such families is that of the Chearavanont, the foundation of the increasingly influential international conglomerate – Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group. With relatively modest origins in the Chia Tai Seed Shop, first established by Bangkok based Chia brothers Ek Chor and Siew Whooy in 1921, the CP Group has steadily grown since into a diverse range of industries beginning with animal feed production in 1959, and later poultry and shrimp production, retailing, dairy products, and later multimedia with True Corporation, as well as a range of high tech consulting businesses.
CP Group’s growth in diversification has been matched equally by the company’s geographical expansion. First, opening a trading office in Hong Kong in 1960, subsequently building upon these expansions with trading operations in Singapore, Indonesia, USA, Japan, the UK and China amongst many others. Today CP Group’s international reach accounts for at least 20 of the world’s major international markets, with a particular focus on agribusiness and agricultural produce. CP Group was the first major international investor in China in 1979, and still today boasts the business registration number of 001.
CP Group’s pioneering leadership is not exclusive to the international expansion of Thai business. The company has steadily expanded its portfolio of business interests to match both the technological capacity of modern business and the rapidly changing lifestyles of the Thai people.
True Corporation best embodies CP Group’s spirit of innovation, as well as leading the conglomerates principles of togetherness, epitomised by the three principles that define the business operations of the company: benefit to the country, benefit to the people and benefit to the company. Only when these three principles are met, does True Corp move ahead with investment opportunities.
True Corp leads the way in terms of facilitating the synergy between established technology platforms towards a single lifestyle of convergence. As one of the world’s fully integrated technology services providers covering fixed line, internet, mobile telephony and satellite television, True Corp is now working on bringing all services together in single devices so as to maximise the efficiency and availability of communications for Thai people and business.
Inspirational CEO of True Corp, Supachai Chearavanont elucidates on the vision one finds at the pinnacle of Thailand’s private sector: “True Corporation has dedicated itself to bringing something new to the Thai people all the time. We are working to challenge new frontiers, such as convergence. We are an innovative company that markets many different products. People see us all the time in their daily lives, as well as new products being added to the market.
“The True brand itself consists of four core values, which are also called the 4C’s; caring, credible, creative, and courage. ‘True’ comes from the true value of life. Universal love and compassion is the true meaning of life. If you only take, what would be the value of your life? The natural way of togetherness is giving to one another. Business is the same. Although it is about a bottom line profit, which is only about how much value you can create, creating value is also giving. The only business that can create value is the one that continues to give. Aside from coming here to earn a salary, our employees come here to create value. This is all part of Buddha’s teachings. We are born with the instinct to compete. It’s in our DNA because we have to survive. But it is also important that we survive well, forming communities that depend on each other. We must combine our basic instincts with moral principles.”
True Corporation’s commitment to giving and togetherness is best represented by the company’s ambitious programme to bring modern, multi-media based education to some 10,000 of Thailand’s underprivileged schools. Building upon True’s strengths in broadcasting, infrastructure development and multimedia technologies the company has installed satellite dishes and receivers in 4,000 schools throughout Thailand, as well as providing support software for teachers in order to provide access to leading documentaries and educational films for Thailand’s youngest generations.
As skills and education grow in accordance with the upcoming inauguration of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, Thailand’s leading companies are increasingly aligning their own strengths with the demands of the nation to give the country the best chances of success.
The inauguration of the AEC in 2015 will have a minimal impact upon companies such as PTT, CP Group and SCG, these companies already have major operations throughout the region; reflecting the tendency of Thailand’s private sector to be well ahead of the public sector in terms of strategic delivery and international outlook. The key challenge of the AEC for Thailand’s private sector as a whole is more limited to small and medium sized enterprises and the financial services sector expected to come under pressure from more efficient and internationally focused major banks in countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.
PROJECT TEAM: Alisdair Jones, Vanessa Massimini and Christian Carter