Alibaba signs deal to support expansion of Thai SMEs

alibaba1Alibaba, the China-based global e-commerce behemoth, signed a letter of intent with Thailand’s government last week to support the expansion and promotion of Thai small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), with a focus on assisting Thailand in developing its digital human resources and logistics systems, and possible investment in the new Eastern Economic Corridor.

The agreement was signed during a trip to China by a high-level Thai economic team. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the cabinet’s economic czar, said the letter of intent also spells out a role for Alibaba in helping Thailand develop into the digital and data center capital of Southeast Asia. One result of the new partnership could be the establishment of a “new economy academy” in Thailand to advance the Kingdom’s human resources, Somkid added.

“Our trip this time was not aimed at enticing investment in Thailand,” Somkid said. “We’re looking for partnership from the e-commerce giant to help provide e-commerce know-how not only to SMEs but also educational institutions and locally-based small or the grass-roots businesses. More importantly, [Alibaba founder] Jack Ma himself is ready to contribute.”

The delegation invited Alibaba to invest in the Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC. The corridor is planned as the Kingdom’s center for high-technology development and will cluster the 10 industries that will be emphasized under Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to transform Thailand’s economy and society into ones driven by innovation, creativity and digital and high technology.

The industries receiving support under Thailand 4.0 are next-generation cars; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemicals; digital; and medical services.

A huge amount of new and upgraded infrastructure will be built for the corridor and it will link with the Dawei Economic Zone in neighboring Myanmar.

Uttama Savanayana, a government adviser, said the new economy academy may involve support from the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank, Commerce Ministry, Digital Economy and Society Ministry, and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.

Ministry of Commerce Permanent Secretary Wiboonlasana Rusmraksa, said the ministry will develop e-commerce training courses for interested businesses and create an e-commerce platform that enables SMEs and farmers to sell their products directly to consumers.

The ministry is also planning on using the “Agoda model” to help develop business in Thailand. Named after the global hotel booking website, it involves building a network of businesses to exploit opportunities and synergies.

“Especially for start-ups and newly established SMEs, it is hard to grow fast without having a network. The department intends to close the gaps,” said ministry official Banjongjitt Angsusingh.

The ministry will use the network to match small business that can complement each other or make for collaborative partnerships. The network will be expanded to include businesses in Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.