Archive for July, 2014

July 30, 2014

Smartphones + LINE Drive Online Sales In Thailand

Smartphones + LINE Drive Online Sales In Thailand

Susan Cunningham Contributor

Forbes Asia 7/28/2014 @ 7:54AM

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/susancunningham/2014/07/28/smartphones-line-drive-online-sales-in-thailand/

Korea’s newest billionaire: Naver Corp. founder Lee Hae-Jin. Korea’s newest billionaire: Naver Corp. founder Lee Hae-Jin

Mobile sales increased 300% on shopping site Tarad.com  in 2013 

Mobile  payments: That’s the fastest-growing trend in online shopping in Thailand and the wealthier states of Southeast Asia. In January 2013, only 11% of purchases on Thai shopping site Tarad.com were made with smartphones or tablets; by December, they accounted for 33%–a 300% leap. Pawoot (Pom) Pongvitayapanu, Rakuten  Tarad’s managing director, forecasts that within three years, the majority of purchases on the site will be made from  mobile devices.

The problems that Tarad encountered on the way to establishing a B2B marketplace in Thailand, described in an earlier post,  were aggravated by the way the majority of customers were paying for goods for most of Tarad’s existence. After finalizing the deal with the seller directly, buyers made a direct deposit into the seller’s bank account.

Many customers still pay by direct bank transfers, although 45% of Tarad purchases are now made via credit card. Customers can also pay with debit cards, PayPal or the stored wallets of their mobile phone service. Since mobile devices encourage more impulse buying, mobile buying will likely grow rapidly.

Smartphone face of messaging app Line

The face of smartphone messaging app LINE

Mobile payment was accelerated by the cheap made-in-China Android smartphones that flooded into Southeast Asia in 2013.  Android finally dislodged Blackberry as the country’s most popular smartphone operating system last year.  Apple’s iOS system is now in third place. Somewhere between one-quarter and one-half of Thai mobile phone owners–which means just about every adult–supposedly now owns a smartphone (more on that below).

Additional spurs  to the mobile buying spree in Thailand last year were the belated arrival of 3G and the popularity of  messaging app LINE. LINE was the smartphone app of  the year in Thailand and Japan. Korean-created but Tokyo-based, LINE is a free super-fast text and visual messaging app for smartphones and tablets. It offers one-to-one and group chats, free one-to-one VOIP phone calls and Facebook-like networking. The cute animal icons and virtual stickers have a lot to do with the app’s popularity too.  As of February, there were 22 million registered (if not active) LINE users in Thailand, the largest number after Japan. 22 million: that’s equivalent to almost half the adult Thai population.

Can Viber challenge LINE’s speed and security?

LINE won more publicity in the aftermath of the May military coup in Thailand. Many Thais reportedly shifted their chatting from Facebook to LINE as the military pledged to conduct more rigorous online snooping. It was said that LINE  might be more  secure than Facebook but Hong Kong democrats are finding that, even if the Chinese government can’t eavesdrop on LINE, it certainly can disrupt the service.

For e-commerce companies like Tarad, which adds its own security features, LINE  serves as a secure, speedy communication and payment channel. When Tarad announces a special sale, MD Pom told me, “We can send it instantly to 6.5 million accounts; you can buy immediately with one click, even if you are in the toilet. Within 30 minutes, we can have more than 1,000 sales. LINE is faster than email, faster than any other communication channel. That’s why mobile sales is growing so fast. Within three years, it will overtake PC commerce. Mobile will be the majority.”

LINE rivals  WhatsApp and WeChat are more popular in other Asian countries. Here’s a prediction, though: In the coming year, Japan’s Rakuten, Tarad’s principal owner, will try to persuade customers at its shopping sites in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia to switch to yet another app, newcomer Viber. Rakuten spent $900 million in March to buy Viber from developers in Cyprus and is setting up an office in Singapore to promote it throughout the region.

Smartphone penetration?

Does Nielsen’s estimate that 49%  Thais own smartphones seem rather high? Even for Bangkok? After all,  only about 10% of  Bangkok’s 100,000 taxi drivers own smartphones and they are hardly at the bottom of the very steep economic pyramid.

Staff at the research companies Nielsen and Frost & Sullivan told me that  ”smartphone penetration” refers to the share of mobile phone owners who own a smartphone–not the share of total mobile phone subscriptions active at one time.  Especially in conspicuously consuming Bangkok, an individual might own a smartphone, tablet and a few less smart mobiles with active numbers.

The 93.8 million or so active mobile phone numbers in Thailand, as reported by the three mobile phone companies,  exceed the entire Thai population of 67 million. (That population figure doesn’t include the 1 million undocumented Burmese, Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese workers and millions of tourists in the country at any give time.  Many of them have an active Thai  mobile phone number.)

From that huge number, the  Frost & Sullivan study estimated there were 15.3 million owners of  at least one  smartphone in Thailand at the end of 2013 and these owners  accounted for about 25% of all mobile owners.

On the other hand, Nielsen in a January report put overall Thai penetration at 49%, with levels even higher in urban areas. The same Nielsen report put smartphone penetration at 80% in Malaysia  (sounds high to me),  23%  in Indonesia (probably mostly Blackberrys),  15% in Philippines and 87% in Singapore.

Smartphone play – 3 hours per day

Ericsson Consumerlab meanwhile estimated back in September that smartphone penetration in Thailand was 36%, though on closer inspection that was just among “urban” (Bangkok?) residents. It was based on interviews with respondents.

Given the momentum in smartphone shipments and sales, Frost & Sullivan has projected that there will be 20 million smartphone users in Thailand by the end of the year. They would then constitute about 38% of all mobile phone users. Nielsen’s estimate is 22 million.

Off-topic from the Nielsen report but chilling enough to be worthy of mention:

In Southeast Asia alone smartphone owners spent on average more than three hours per day on their smartphones in June 2013, with activities such as chat apps, social networking and entertainment activities like games and multimedia driving the highest levels of engagement.

Meanwhile, Thais on average spend more than five hours a day watching TV. Phone game-playing time can overlap with TV watching, of course, but still… how many leisure hours are left in a day?

Related:

Popular Free Messaging Service ‘Line’ Mints New Korean Billionaire

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2013/12/09/popular-free-messaging-service-line-mints-new-korean-billionaire/

Lee Hae-jin, the 46-year-old founder and head of Korea’s No. 1 Internet portal operator, Naver Corp., has joined the billionaire’s club thanks to explosive growth in the number of the company’s free messaging service, which is called Line. More

 

July 30, 2014

Reform, the only way out of political conflict for Thailand’

The Nation

Reform, the only way out of political conflict for Thailand’

July 31, 2014 1:00 am

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Reform-the-only-way-out-of-political-conflict-for–30239839.html

In this concluding part of the speech by former deputy prime minister Surakiart Sathirathai at the international conference “Thailand is Back”, co-organised by the Federation of Thai Industries and The Nation at Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok, on Tuesday, he talks about the way forward for the country through a process of reform:

With Thailand back to business, there are still a number of tasks that have to be performed to ensure sustainability. The public and private sectors need to devise strategies and action plans to handle the decline in tourists and sluggish export growth. Relatively weak small and medium-sized enterprises need capital facilities and other assistance to enable them to benefit fully from the Asean Economic Community. Innovation is needed for Thai industrial production. Proper programmes to assist farmers, particularly rice farmers, have to be devised to provide them better income without excessive burden on the government budget. Income and job creation programmes for the poor have to be created in ways that are sustainable.With the rapidly changing regional and international economic landscape, Thai businesses need support from the government to open up new markets and seize new opportunities. But for this to happen during this “special situation” that we find ourselves in, it is absolutely necessary that both the government and the private sector join hands to lay down new approaches, to build good or special relationships with countries which are potential new markets. Relevant ministries and the private sector must examine both economic and political obstacles and potential in different markets and devise different strategies and approaches to each market. Strategies and approaches to build good and special relationships with the US, Latin American countries, Central and Eastern European and Central and Western Asian countries, and African countries which have purchasing power, must be carefully crafted, must be properly focused, and must vary, based on circumstances and the special characteristics of each country. We cannot rely just on being a part of multilateral processes.

This is the time when foreign policy, international economic policy, and the strength of the private sector have to work in tandem. The “special situation” we are in must be seized as an opportunity to reposition the country in order to enhance overall competitiveness and maximise benefits.

Political roadmap important

While the economic roadmap has been spelled out and is in the process of implementation, the political roadmap is indeed equally important, if not more so, as it will bring all sectors in Thailand to share in the future we want, a future that is sustainable. Political stability is a necessity for economic growth and prosperity.

The 11 areas outlined by the Transitional Administration for reforms are therefore to be welcomed. Reform of the process of political participation, reforms for better checks and balances in government, strengthening of anti-corruption regulations, transparency in decision-making, and good governance in public and private sectors, all are critical for the success of a new Thailand. Reducing income disparity, reform of the justice system, decentralisation and wise use of resources in order not to destroy environment for the next generation are other important elements of reform. Therefore, the establishment of the National Reform Council to work on these issues will be the most significant undertaking facing a new Thailand in the months ahead.

It is an ambitious agenda. Not everything can be accomplished at once, or even in a short time span. Priorities therefore have to be set, consecutive phases in implementation have to be outlined, and continuity of the reform processes will have to be guaranteed. The composition of the National Legislative Assembly, the Cabinet, the National Reform Council, and the Constitution Drafting Assembly will be crucial to sustaining the momentum of confidence in the political roadmap. Confidence is key to economic recovery and advancement. Thus far, the general public has drawn comfort from the abundance of good intentions shown by the interim administration. This popular support and confidence has to be constantly nurtured and maintained.

Building a sustainable democracy

We in Thailand are in transition from a dysfunctional democracy to a new and sustainable, deliverable democracy. A sustainable return to normalcy will require successful reforms. For the reform process to be successful, it would appear to me that the process must be inclusive and participatory, encompassing people from all parties to the conflict and those not party to the conflict. There must be constant dialogue and exchange of views until the agreed package of reforms can be adopted. The reforms must not be a victor’s reforms; it has to create a sense of ownership for the people. Ownership can only be created when people can participate, not only in the National Reform Council, but through various mechanisms and forums to enable those outside the Assembly, all over the country, to have the space to discuss, debate and exchange views, to have their voices heard, and provide them with channels to make inputs to the reform council for deliberation. The efforts that the interim administration is making on reconciliation is therefore to be commended. It is a necessary precondition for setting the right atmosphere for dialogue. It is perhaps important to note that reconciliation and reforms are part and parcel of the same process. While reconciliation can lead to successful and acceptable reforms, a successful and acceptable reform will also lead to successful reconciliation. To me reconciliation does not mean that all must agree on everything. Reconciliation means that people can appreciate and accept differences and are able to live together in harmony under agreed rules. Diversity can bring strength. We must build a new Thailand with strength coming out of diversity.

We, in Thailand, have embarked on an ambitious but necessary undertaking that will have enormous consequences not only for the Thai people, but for all our friends and partners, and the wider region as a whole.

In the aftermath of the international financial meltdown of 2008-09, the World Economic Forum issued a study in 2010 on the state of the world economy entitled, “Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild”. There was an opportunity to overhaul the world’s financial, trade and economic architecture in order to provide more equity, transparency and sustainability, and to lessen conflicts. As we all know, that window of opportunity, regrettably, was not fully utilised.

For us here in Thailand, in the aftermath of a series of traumatic political conflicts, the battle cry is now “Reform, Reform, Reform.”

The foreign business community should view Thailand’s reform agenda as a great opportunity to engage with us even more than before in order to bring about a strong Thailand with more economic opportunities for everyone. We should not let this opportunity pass us by. The head of the interim administration has indicated that well-intentioned proposals from foreign partners would be welcomed.

The international business community and foreign countries can contribute to the economic and political reform process by sharing best practices, bringing in experts to provide new ideas and experiences in areas such as prevention of corruption, checks and balances, good governance, electoral reforms, and public participation. We need to learn and study the successes and failures in many countries, many corporations, and pick and choose what are suitable for Thailand.

I am confident Thailand will emerge stronger, more resilient, more democratic, more content, with an open, vibrant and outward-looking society. But we will have to roll up our sleeves and get down to work.

Challenges remain. We do not have the luxury of time; we must make the full and best use of the window of opportunity that has opened up before us. Each of us here today, in our own ways, have talked the talk. Now, there is a clearer economic as well as political roadmap.

We invite our friends to now walk together with us on this journey to a brighter future for all.

 

July 30, 2014

Chinese gold miner flees Laos

Chinese gold miner flees Laos

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/world/423046/chinese-gold-miner-flees-laos

VIENTIANE —A Chinese firm suspected of illegally mining gold along the Mekong River in Laos has fled the country, state media reported Tuesday.

The unnamed company had permission to extract sand and gravel but was instead mining gold in Bokeo province in northern Laos, the Minister of Energy and Mines Soulivong Daravong told a press conference Friday, according to the Vientiane Times.

The authorities were alerted to the company’s activities by a member of the public who called a hotline concerned at the environmental effects of chemicals used to extract the gold.

The company threatened to detain villagers who approached the area where the mining was taking place, the caller reportedly said. The call prompted the provincial Public Works and Transport Department to order the firm to stop its illegal work.

“After learning about this (the warning), the firm feared that the government would fine them so they escaped back to their country (China),” the minister said.

July 29, 2014

Toyota Sees Thailand Coup as Turning Point in Halting Sales Plunge

The Wall Street Journal - World

Toyota Sees Thailand Coup as Turning Point in Halting Sales Plunge

Automotive Company Still Expects 2014 Sales to Drop 25.9%, but Consumer Sentiment Is Improving

By Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol

July 29, 2014 8:28 a.m. ET

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://online.wsj.com/articles/toyota-sees-thailand-coup-as-turning-point-in-halting-sales-plunge-1406636889

BANGKOK—Thailand’s lucrative automotive industry has yet to recover from months of political instability, with Toyota’s local arm forecasting Tuesday that its own annual sales in 2014 would drop 25.9% year-over-year to 330,000 units.

But Kyoichi Tanada, president of Toyota Motor Thailand, the country’s largest auto maker, said a turning point had been reached with the May 22 coup, consumer sentiment was improving and Toyota would keep investing in Thailand.

Toyota Motor Thailand, which has a 35.9% share of the Southeast Asian country’s domestic market, also projected that 2014 local vehicle sales for the industry would fall to total 920,000 units, a 30.9% decline from a year ago following a 40.5% year-over-year plunge during the first half of the year.

Mr. Tanada told a semiannual briefing that Toyota would continue to invest in Thailand, though he offered no details. In February, Toyota Motor Corp. said it might need to rethink an investment of as much as 20 billion baht ($610 million) to expand its capacity in Thailand.

“In order to introduce new products to the market, we will need to make more investment, especially when we are not only serving today’s market but also the future market,” Mr. Tanada said.

The company continues to view Thailand as “one of the most important production bases and positions and the regional research and development centers of Toyota,” he said.

Thailand’s military rulers adopted a provisional constitution last week to set up an interim government, and they have been implementing various measures to bolster the economy. The army drove out a civilian government, led until shortly before the takeover by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, after seven months of street protests and rallies.

While Mr. Tanada said he doesn’t view a military seizure of power as a way to restore political stability, coup leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha should be partly credited for helping return order and improving consumer sentiment.

Mr. Tanada said that the expiry of a popular tax rebate for first-time car buyers under the previous government, as well as the political upheaval and economic falloff, had hurt sales.

The company said it has concerns over some of the junta’s policies, especially the imposition of martial law and its impact on the tourism industry, which accounts for around 10% of Thailand’s gross domestic product.

“If the military government would consider lifting martial law, it would really be good for both the economy and the auto industry,” said Ninnart Chaiteerapinyo, vice chairman of Toyota Motor Thailand.

Write to Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol at nopparat.chaichalearmmongkol@wsj.com

———–

 

July 29, 2014

Mine digs Lao communities out of poverty?

The Australia - logos-s95cca2bc86

Mine digs Lao communities out of poverty

 

The Australian

July 28, 2014 12:00AM

Supplied Editorial Fwd: Emailing: Photo_2 (1).jpg

MMG’s development funding has supported communities near the Sepon mine to build schools, roads and access to water. Source: Supplied

It is not the biggest copper ­operation around. But in terms of national impact, the Australian-built Sepon operation in southern Laos is right up there in its economic and social development contribution.

Now in its 12th year of production — it started out as a gold producer — the Sepon project accounts for just over 8 per cent of the impoverished, but fast-growing, nation’s GDP through direct and indirect benefits.

It has just passed a milestone when it comes to direct benefits (taxes, royalties and dividends), with total payments since production started now standing at more than $US1.1 billion after the payment to the government (a 10 per cent partner in the mine) of $US136 million in respect of 2013 earnings. Sepon is expected to produce about 90,000 tonnes of copper this year and has studies underway in the possible resumption of gold production.

Built by Owen Hegarty’s Oxiana Resources, Sepon is now part of the Australian-managed but Chinese-controlled MMG, following MMG’s acquisition in 2009 of a portfolio of mining assets from OZ Minerals (formed through the merger of Zinifex and Oxiana in 2008).

MMG chief executive Andrew Michelmore told The Australian that while the $US1bn-plus direct payments milestone was important, the “greatest legacy we are creating is in local skills”.

“Our Lao employees have taken the opportunities at Sepon and turned them into skills and careers, within the mine and beyond. “From scratch in terms of mining skills, we’ve trained and developed a workforce that is more than 90 per cent Lao, and we’ve moved 100 Lao nationals into management roles. Whatever way you look at it we are in this together with the people of Laos,’’ Mr Michelmore said.

MMG’s community investment is also significant. Development funds have been made available for 42 local villages or more than 10,000 people. Since 2010, the development funding has supported communities near Sepon mine to build schools, roads, latrines, fish ponds, access to water and village offices.

“We also invest for the future by helping local businesses target national and international markets. We work in partnership at every level, from national government to local communities,’’ Mr Michelmore said.

One of the local business projects being supported is the milled rice enhancement project in Vilabouly. The project aims to build capacity among 1300 small farming households for rice-growing around the mine. It promotes a high-yield rice seed, improved production methods, and marketing solutions.

Mr Michelmore said the hope was that local producers would ultimately supply the Sepon mine with its total annual rice requirements of 150 tonnes.

In comments provided by MMG’s Sepon office, the vice president of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and ­Industry, Daovone Phachanthavong, said that a 2012 survey by Earth Systems Lao found that household incomes in villages near the mine had increased tenfold since Sepon commenced ­operations. “Sepon mine is an excellent example of how the sustainable management of natural resources can contribute positively to human development,” he was quoted as saying.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 582 other followers

%d bloggers like this: