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Digital drive gains momentum (Bangkok Post)

The world has witnessed the emergence of new advanced technologies meant to provide more convenience, boost competence in business operations and offer cybersecurity protection.

The technologies, such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, blockchain and digital payment, are gathering pace throughout the world.

Businesses are at risk of losing out if they fail to undergo digital transformation or employ technologies to help boost their effectiveness.

Many businesses, particularly major players in the industry, have now embarked on a digital drive to stay competitive and bolster their efficiency.

BANKING

Digital technology is radically reshaping the banking industry landscape, with electronic money transfers and payments becoming the norm, while online platforms, particularly super apps, are invading business areas traditionally dominated by financial institutions, especially payment and lending.

Even though the hyperscale of tech giants is considered a threat to entrenched banks, partnership with them also presents opportunities for financial institutions to access their large customer base, helping them shift to a customer-centric model from a product-centric one by providing personalised financial services to keep pace with clients' needs.

Some local banks have forged partnerships with tech giants and large corporates.

Take Kasikornbank (KBank), the country's largest mobile banking service provider by users, as an example. It has embedded itself in selected financially relevant ecosystems by striking partnerships with Line, Grab, Lazada, Shopee, PTT and Central Group to facilitate customers through an open banking landscape.

KBank president Predee Daochai said the bank aims to use disruptive technology in three main areas -- ecosystems, digital lending based on data analytics, and comprehensive cybersecurity and customer data confidentiality enhancement in 2020.

Kasikorn-Line, a joint venture by KBank and Line Corporation, plans to roll out personal loans and nanofinance on the Line platform in mid-2020, aiming for millions of borrowers in the initial stage. The digital lending service will be available via the Line BK feature of the Line app.

Line BK takes aim at the underbanked and unbanked segments, especially small business owners, the self-employed and freelancers, as its main customers.

Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) chief executive Arthid Nanthawithaya said the bank's priority in 2020 is to continue building capabilities through digital and platforms.

On the capability side, the bank plans to improve customer engagement through AI and machine learning.

With the use of big data through partnerships and ecosystems, SCB can offer predictive banking to better keep pace with customers' digital lifestyles.

"Being customer-centric has always been the most important core value and will remain a central theme in 2020. With the rapid shift in customer behaviour, we are actively looking for ways to disrupt ourselves with investment in technology and new capabilities to continue enhancing the customer experience," he said.

SCB needs to strengthen its core technology foundation with open application programming interfaces to be more flexible and adaptive, integrating with tech partners and future technology, said Mr Arthid.

The number of SCB Easy users increased to above 10 million in 2019, with financial transactions through its mobile app contributing to more than 60% of the total.

SCB also launched digital lending for unsecured loans to existing customers. The digital lending platform contributes above 20% of total approved unsecured loans.

TRUE

Digital transformation may happen too late in Thailand, given the rapid development of the technology, said True Digital Group Co, the digital arm of telecom operator True Corporation. The company would prefer to be at the stage of digital enablement.

Corporations that have yet to embark on digital innovation are likely to be disrupted very soon, said Ekaraj Panjavinin, managing director for Internet of Things (IoT) and digital solutions at True Digital Group.

Established in 2017, True Digital Group works with True Corp's conglomerate parent Charoen Pokphand on innovation development.

Its TrueID digital content platform has been provided in the Philippines and Indonesia, and the group now aims to expand innovative services, especially IoT tech and digital solutions, in these two markets before reaching out to others in the region.

True Digital Group wants to become a tech enabler in Asean over the next few years through comprehensive digital solutions for vertical industries.

"Business and industry sectors face a tough challenge adjusting as digital tech changes consumer behaviours," said Mr Ekaraj.

"Digital is a core" is a vision of the group, which aims to use digital tech to enhance individuals' efficiency, strengthen organisational operations, create a sustainable society and ensure the betterment of the planet.

The group's strength lies in around 120 data scientists working to come up with digital solutions through data analytics, he said.

True Digital Group believes digital power is the key to unlocking employee potential, creating sustainable business, improving customer experiences, building new products and optimising business operations.

Data and manpower, according to the group, are the key elements in all organisations.

Raw data can be analysed by AI and data scientists to shed a light on ready-to-use business insights, said Mr Ekaraj.

Regarding manpower, employees need to be reskilled and learn how to cope with rapid changes in innovation.

"Technology and industries cannot be separated," he said.

The group recently unveiled the country's first cattle monitoring solutions in collaboration with AllFlex, a global leader in livestock innovation.

The service is provided by the group's strategic business unit, called Tech Village, which focuses on enhancing the capacity of those in vertical industries.

Tech Village is focused on seven sectors: retail, supply chain, consumer, agriculture, property, healthcare and manufacturing.

The group wants to provide solutions covering all seven sectors in 2020. The services are expected to branch out to other countries in the region in the future, said Mr Ekaraj.

SINGHA

Singha Corporation, the country's largest beer manufacturer, has gradually transformed its business structure over the past few years after the digital wave changed consumer lifestyles. The company envisaged unsteady growth for its beer business.

As part of the effort, Singha ramped up its non-alcohol business, focusing more on food, digital, logistics and property.

As part of the moves, its property business, Singha Estate Plc, acquired Rasa Property Development Plc through a backdoor listing in 2014.

The property firm focuses on developing luxury residential and office buildings and hotel businesses.

To cash in on continuous growth of tourism worldwide, Singha Corp also spun off its hotel business to be handled by a new company called S Hotels & Resort, which recently listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

The group also set up Singha Ventures in Hong Kong a few years ago. The venture capital firm is looking to invest up to 25% in startups.

Singha Ventures focuses on three industrial pillars: consumer goods, including food, drinks, health products, seasonings and packaging; supply chain management; and logistics technologies.

The company is also interested in investing in healthcare, which is expected to grow significantly as Thailand transitions to an ageing society.

In 2018 the group established SBP Digital Service Co to provide information technology solutions and services, both within the group and for outside customers.

It recently consolidated all food businesses under a single management roof called Food Factors Co, which is tasked with the expansion of the group's food business in domestic and international markets.

Food Factors recently acquired an 88% stake in KT Restaurant Co, the operator of Santa Fe steak restaurant chain, for 1.5 billion baht.

The acquisition not only expands its steak restaurant chain in the region, but also allows it to use Santa Fe to distribute Singha products and test new products.

About 2-3 acquisition deals are pending negotiations and the group is upbeat about its food business prospects.

Piti Bhirom Bhakdi, director of Singha Corporation, said Boon Rawd Brewery Group has been restructured over the past two years and plans to focus on six growth pillars.

The six pillars encompass beverages (beer, soda and drinking water); packaging products; regional business under Singha Asia Holding Company; real estate business under Singha Estate; supply chain under Boon Rawd Supply Chain; and food business by Food Factors.

Mr Piti said to elevate the business operation cycle from upstream to downstream in the food business, the group is emphasising operations synergy in the group to create broad-based growth.

He said the company expects to spend 5 billion baht to expand its food business over the next five years, starting from 2019.

To read the rest of the article, please use this link: https://www.bangkokpost.com/tech/1831084/digital-drive-gains-momentum


By Bangkok Post | January 10th, 2020

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