Mabuhay: Article

Software Park Thailand Collaborates, Encourages Entrepreneurs

Park Director Suwipa Wanasathop Talks about Its Investments and Prospects

Software Park Thailand was created by the Thai government in 1997 "to become a top-rate learning organization that supports entrepreneurs, and to create a strong, world-class software industry, thus making software an enabler for competitiveness of the Thai economy," says the Park's director, Suwipa  Wanasathop.

This is the second part of a two-part interview with her. Part One covered the Park's mission, how it has unfolded, and how Cloud Computing is beginning to play a role. In this final section of the interview, Suwipa talks about her motivations, the Park's investments and prospects, and why investors should consider Thailand.

Roger: What makes you happy to go to work in the morning?

Suwipa: The opportunity to do something good for my country always makes me happy to go to work in the morning.  Every time I hear the success of a Thai software company, especially from our incubation center, I am most proud and very happy.  It is like a mother who is always happy to see the success of her child.  In addition, I am fortunate to have a great team, good boss, and excellent people around me who I always cherish to work with.

Roger: How optimistic are you about the Park's future?

Suwipa: I'm confident that Software Park's future will be promising as long as we in the management team continue to be vibrant and proactive in adding value to our clients and stakeholders. In fact, the "soft side" of the Park counts more than does its hard infrastructure.

We have to foster efficient linkages and positive relationships with resource org anizations such as academic institutions, R&D centers, other government authorities, private sectors, and potential buyers both within and outside the country. We have to be able to initiate collaborative programs that are fruitful to our software ecosystem.

Roger: What do you view as your main challenge?

Suwipa: The main challenge I am facing is the pressure to create a greater impact for the country. To expand our impacts with the same amount of resources, I realize that the only way to achieve this is through working with partners and alliances from within the country and outside.

Roger: What can you do specifically?

Suwipa: Last year, we put into action an emphasis on creating and strengthening partnerships under the "Local Link, Global Reach" approach. We aim to cooperate and synergize our strengths with partners to ensure a supportive environment for Thai software companies to grow successfully. Still, to continue to expand and engage the right partners is a real challenge.

Focus on Collaboration
Roger: Where do you see Thailand's place in the technology world, then?

Suwipa: Our IT professionals are strong in the front-end type of work like animation, multimedia and graphic design. They are outstanding in mobile application and game development in all platforms, user interfaces, and website development.

More generally speaking, the strengths of Thai IT people lie in their creativity and service-minded approach. And we believe technology has to go hand-in-hand with a good understanding of business process or domain expertise so, that we remain able to create competitive software applications.

Roger: Are there any specific vertical markets in which you have particular strengths?

Suwipa: We focus on applications that support the industries that Thailand has its strengths in.  So presently, Thailand demonstrates its capabilities in implementing the software applications to serve major industries such as Hospitality and Tourism, Food, and Healthcare.

Roger: How do you compete with other initiatives in the region?

Suwipa: Software Park Thailand is not competing with other Parks in the region, but is indeed collaborating. Software Park Thailand was one of the founding members of the Asia-Oceania Software Park Alliance, for example, and I was elected to be its first President.

Collaboration among alliance members is important. We share best practices and experiences in operating software parks. We use the alliance as a platform for knowledge sharing among members and entrepreneurs in our parks for market access.

Roger: So you aim to collaborate at home and with other countries...

Suwipa: Sure, the partnerships among software companies can also be created to utilize each other's strengths for building up new software solutions to serve customers, not only in their own country but also in third-country markets.

I see that unlike other products, the nature of software business lies in selling trust. Software Park Alliance acts like a soft-landing zone, so that entrepreneurs gain insights into doing business in other countries and reduce the risks of doing business abroad.

Investment Levels and Incentives
Roger: How much direct foreign investment is there in the Thai software industry? How much homegrown investment is there?

Suwipa: According to the Board of Investment report, investment has increased dramatically. The BOI has calculated that from 2005 through March 2010, 387 software projects were approved, generating investment worth 1.8 billion baht (about US$56 million.)

Foreign investment accounted for about US$22 million in 154 projects, while the Thai investment accounted for about US$34 million in 233 projects.

Note that these figures count only investment projects which have been approved by the BOI; another two-thirds of this figure has come from investors who have not applied for BOI privileges.

Roger: What are those privileges, or incentives, for companies that apply for them?

Suwipa: Under Board of Investment policies, investors in the software industry in Thailand are exempt from corporate income tax and customs duty on imported machinery and equipment for a maximum of 8 years. They are also able to claim land-use rights and employ skilled foreign workers and specialists.

Roger: And you have not just investment, but foreign companies locating facilities here as well?

Suwipa: Yes, many large multinational software companies have established their software development centers in Bangkok, including Thomson-Reuters, DST International, Asia Online, 3 View Group, and others, as well as Hitachi, as I mentioned.

Roger: To sum it up, what are the Top Three reasons for companies to invest in the Thai software industry?

Suwipa: Thailand's top three advantages are:

  1. Competitive human resources with creativity, strong technical skills, service-mind and good attitude. We are working towards international quality standards. We have 34 CMMI-certified software companies, ranking second in Southeast Asia and seventh in Asia. We have 35 PSP-certified, ranking first in Asia and third in the world. At the end of 2008, Gartner ranked Thailand in the top 30 off-shore service providers.
  1. A large untapped local and regional market. Thailand's large domestic demand coupled with its strategic location as a gateway to Southeast Asia and the Greater Mekong sub-region offers great business opportunities for foreign partners, allowing businesses to easily connect with China, India and other ASEAN countries At the moment, there are about 1,300 companies in the Thai software industry, but 70% of its value is still imported. The forecasted growth rate for 2010 is around 5.5%. In addition, the upcoming Thailand 3G commercial licenses and WIMAX will definitely increase investment in the area of 3G infrastructure and content.
  1. Strong government support. The software industry is regarded as our strategic industry; therefore, the software business is granted maximum privileges and favorable support.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.