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Start-up accelerator and bank partner to help Thai SMEs go digital

According to a recent report, the Thailand branch of a Singaporean multinational banking organisation has launched the Smart Business Transformation Programme to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the country to go digital.

The programme will be run in collaboration with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), the Office of SMEs Promotion (OSMEP), and a famous start-up accelerator.

During the three-month programme, experts from the accelerator will help SMEs to identify their business concerns and to equip them with the tools, know-how and confidence to innovate. SMEs will also be matched with specially-chosen technology solution providers to implement digital solutions to address the concerns.

Interested SMEs from the food and beverage, fast-moving consumer goods, construction, logistics, retail, wholesale and travel industries can apply for the programme. Applications are open until April 2019.

Those considering joining the Programme should be keen to adopt the technology, have regional growth plans and an annual turnover of between 25 million baht and 1 billion baht.

Under Thailand 4.0, the Thai government aims to raise the contribution of SMEs to 50 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025, up from 36 per cent in 2018. With almost three million SMEs comprising 99.7 per cent of Thai companies in 2018, the performance of SMEs is crucial to the country’s GDP growth and economic development.

The Thailand 4.0 initiative is an economic model that aims to unlock the country from several economic challenges resulting from past economic development models which place emphasis on agriculture (Thailand 1.0), light industry (Thailand 2.0), and advanced industry (Thailand 3.0).

Moreover, Thailand 4.0 has set the policy to support start-up development at all stages with the policy to push Thailand towards becoming “Center of Connectivity and Destination for Start-up Investment in ASEAN” by encouraging competition for business ideas, providing clear and strong incentives to angel and venture investors, undertaking policies to support incubation and growth of start-ups and establishing stock exchanges for startups to sell the equity of successful start-ups to interested investors.

In an online survey conducted by the accelerator, SMEs in Thailand said their top two business growth strategies are entering new markets (54 per cent) and using digital marketing to grow sales (51 per cent). They also shared that they are concerned about the costs (67 per cent) and complexity (44 per cent) of implementing digital solutions.

To help Thai SMEs overcome these concerns, the programme will focus on helping them enter new markets and use digital marketing to grow sales.

For example, UOB (Thai) will help the Thai SMEs selected for the programme with their regional expansion plans and will also provide working capital funding for the SMEs to implement technology transformation projects.

The start-up accelerator, having run three acceleration programmes in Singapore to help both start-ups and SMEs grow their businesses, will run the programme for selected Thai SMEs.

DEPA will provide funding support to the participating SMEs to implement technology solutions and organise workshops to educate SMEs on how to apply for these funds.

The NSTDA will provide grants to participating SMEs through the Innovation Technology Assistance Programme (ITAP) for consultancy and expert services on digital transformation.

OSMEP, as a policymaker for SMEs promotion in Thailand, will design new policies and plans to help SMEs leverage technology to grow their businesses.

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