Thai SMEs lead ASEAN in investing in technology

Small- and medium-sized businesses in Thailand are outpacing their counterparts in Southeast Asia when it comes to investing in new technologies to drive business growth and performance, according to a study released last week by United Overseas Bank, Ernst & Young, and Dun & Bradstreet.

“The study shows that Thai SMEs recognize the important role that technology plays in improving their competitiveness and building sustainable businesses,’’ said Sayumrat Maranate, head of business banking at UOB Thailand.

Over 73 percent of Thai small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) prioritized investing in technology over devoting resources to factories and machinery, the study found. That placed them well ahead of their closest rivals in Malaysia and Singapore, which registered 65 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

The findings pointed to a synergy between the private sector and the government. The Thai government has been promoting policies to expand the digital economy and has designated new technology as a driving force in Thailand 4.0, the government’s 20-year strategy to advance the Kingdom’s level of development.

“This finding reinforces the government’s plans to create a digital economy and an e-commerce hub within the next few years,’’ Sayumrat said.

The leading category among Thai SMEs for technology investments was software and services such as mobile applications or digital marketing to increase customer loyalty and to meet customer needs better. Over 82 percent of SMEs invested in software and services.

Coming in second was information and communication technologies (ICT) hardware and network investments, cited by 66 percent. Structured ICT training programs for employees ranked third at 53 percent.

“To do business more effectively, Thai SMEs need to adopt an innovative mindset and to embrace digital transformation. One way they can do so is to use enterprise technology solutions, which were available mainly to large corporates only but have now become widely available for SMEs in a cost-effective manner,” Sayumrat said.

“Such solutions span areas from accounting and customer relationship management tools to data analytics and cybersecurity. With these solutions, SMEs can increase productivity, manage business costs, scale up operations and explore new revenue opportunities easily,” Sayumrat added.