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  • Global payments firm Rapyd raises US$300 Million to support accelerated growth
    A recent development within the global payments industry has illustrated the extraordinary impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic, along with associated widespread restrictions on social behavior, is having on international financial transactions and technologies.

    COVID-19 pandemic brings massive acceleration to global payments industry 

    A recent development within the global payments industry has illustrated the extraordinary impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic, along with associated widespread restrictions on social behavior, is having on international financial transactions and technologies.

    California-based global Fintech-as-a-Service company, Rapyd, has announced a US$300 million Series D financing round led by technology-focused investment manager Coatue.

    Among other things, the funding will be used to double Rapyd’s engineering and product teams and expand its online platform following a massive acceleration in the adoption of local and cross-border digital payments.

    Several new investors have joined in the financing, including Spark Capital, Avid Ventures, FJ Labs, and Latitude, along with further investment from current investors General Catalyst, Oak FT, Tiger Global, Target Global, Durable Capital, Tal Capital and Entrée Capital. 

    Rapyd’s platform embeds fintech services into any application and simplifies the complexity of offering local payment methods through an easy-to-use application programming interface (API) while managing diverse compliance and regulatory requirements.

    Businesses can accept and send payments through the Rapyd Global Payments Network without having to build their own infrastructure. The network supports hundreds of local payment methods including cards, bank transfers, ewallets, and cash. 

    Rapyd says it has experienced tremendous global growth. According to a recent McKinsey Report, one of the primary impacts of COVID-19 has been the acceleration of changes in areas that are typically much more gradual – in this case, consumer behavior – with five years of change compressed into less than one.

    Changes in purchasing habits have propelled consumers and businesses online, in both mature and emerging markets. Along with that has come the need to accept and send payments using cards and alternative payment methods en masse. 

    “The demand for online payments has skyrocketed following the restrictions due to COVID, and as a company, we are well placed to provide businesses across the globe with the solutions they need and to get them up and running fast,” said Rapyd’s co-founder and Chief Executive Arik Shtilman.

    “To kick off 2021 with this substantial round of funding to further invest in our platform is a tremendous vote of confidence, both in the growing need for local payment solutions that can be deployed on a global scale, and more specifically, in our vision and company.”

    The Managing Partner at New York-based Coatue, Kris Fredrickson, said the payment landscape varies dramatically across countries, and a company doing business globally might need to accept hundreds of local payment methods.

    “Rapyd’s API, which abstracts away this complexity, is currently powering what we think are many of the world’s most exciting companies,” he said. “We are honored to partner with Arik and his team for the next phase of the Rapyd journey.”

    The new funding will be used to double Rapyd’s engineering and product teams, as well as to expand the “self-service” element of the company’s platform, enabling businesses around the world to join Rapyd and begin utilizing any of its financial capabilities in the shortest possible time.

    The company will continue its focus on core markets that serve business-to-customer and business-to-business ecommerce payments, marketplaces, and financial-services businesses.

    Following its acquisition and integration of European card acquirer Korta in early 2020, Rapyd is also exploring additional strategic acquisitions in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 

    18 January 2021
  • New Leadership for Gojek Thailand
    Gojek, Southeast Asia’s leading on-demand multi-service platform, has announced a leadership change that will see the company’s current international Head of Food, Shri Chakravarthy, take on the role of General Manager of Gojek Thailand.

    Former international Head of Food to lead next stage of growth

    Gojek, Southeast Asia’s leading on-demand multi-service platform, has announced a leadership change that will see the company’s current international Head of Food, Shri Chakravarthy, take on the role of General Manager of Gojek Thailand.

    Launched in Thailand in 2019 as GET and rebranded as Gojek in 2020, the company provides services for food delivery (GoFood), motorbike ride-hailing (GoRide), courier delivery (GoSend) and e-wallet (GoPay), connecting its users in Bangkok to more than 50,000 drivers and nearly 40,000 merchants, of which more than 80% are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). 

    Shri will be responsible for leading the company’s next stage of growth, as it sharpens its focus on innovation and continued enhancement of user experience across the platform, while strengthening its commitment to the success of MSMEs. 

    He brings a decade of leadership experience at a number of consumer-goods and technology businesses and a deep understanding of the increasingly dynamic food-delivery market. Prior to joining Gojek, his roles included leading regional operations at UberEats Asia Pacific and running business operations at Swiggy for multiple cities in India. 

    Shri said that the market in Thailand has seen remarkable growth over the last few years, accelerating in recent months as a result of pandemic-related shifts in consumer behaviour. 

    “As we look ahead in 2021, Gojek is in the strongest position it’s ever been in, to accelerate growth in Thailand, underpinned by a new app built on world-class tech and a thriving ecosystem of users and partners. I’m excited to play a role in shaping what’s next, alongside an incredibly talented and dedicated team in Thailand and across the region,” he said.

    Shri will take over from the previous General Manager, Pinya Nittayakasetwat, who will draw his Gojek story to a close following a successful three-year tenure leading the company’s Thai business. As a founding member of the Thai team, Pinya led the creation of GET, oversaw its trajectory as one of the fastest-growing platforms in Bangkok, and established a thriving ecosystem that has positively impacted the lives of millions of people.

    Pinya will remain in his role through January 2021 to ensure a smooth transition to Shri and the Thai leadership team. He said that working at Gojek had been one of the most exciting and challenging chapters in his career.

    “We started as GET in 2018, with a team of five, and in less than two years, we’ve grown to more than 350-strong, and have created income-earning opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Thais,” Pinya said.

    Gojek’s Co-Chief Executive, Kevin Aluwi, described Shri is a seasoned leader who is uniquely suited to leading Gojek’s next chapter in Thailand, given his experience and passion for building successful businesses that drive digital economies and create positive impact. 

    “He is taking the helm at an exciting time, as we double-down on unlocking new growth in international markets in 2021,” he said. 

    Aluwi paid tribute to Pinya, who he said had poured everything he has into furthering Gojek’s focus on using technology to improve lives. “Pinya has played a pivotal role in establishing our company in Thailand and setting it on a path towards long-term sustainability. We will always be grateful for his contributions and wish him all the best for the future,” he said.

    16 January 2021
  • The Thai Berng community of Khok Salung
    Culture and tradition drive sustainable development and conservation

    Culture and tradition drive sustainable development and conservation 

    There is not much that is conventional about the Thai Berng community of Khok Salung, in Lop Buri’s Phattana Nikhom district. Yet the people of Khok Salung have been so successful in preserving their cultural identity and traditions that the community is regarded as a kind of ‘social laboratory’.

    Its strong and sustainable development and its embrace of modern knowledge and lifestyles, without losing its distinctive culture and wisdom, stands it apart from many other small communities in the Thai countryside.

    The people believe their community’s name, Khok Salung, derives from Khok Thalung, meaning ‘smelting hill’. They point to a pond north of the Thai Berng community where iron slag can be found.

    Evidence also suggests that the community was once located along an important trade route between Ayutthaya and the ancient city of Srithep, to the north. 

    Cultural tourism is a strong aspect of Khok Salung’s community spirit, and the head of its cultural tourism group, Prateep Onsalung, points out that Thai Berng does not refer to an ethnic group, but rather a group with a distinct cultural identity. He says members of this Thai Berng group can be found in Buri Ram, Nakhon Ratchasima, Saraburi, Chaiyaphum and Phetchabun, as well as in Lop Buri. 

    “We are the biggest Thai Berng community though,” he is quick to add.

    Thai Berng culture is defined mainly by its language and its costumes. The Thai Berng language has a distinctive accent, with some unique words. Locals usually end their sentences with berng. When they use a negative sentence, they end it with dok. If they have some doubts, their sentence concludes with wei. When they say goodbye, their final word is der. When Thai Berng people talk about lightning, they do not use fah lab, like most Thais. Instead they refer to it as fah khayaeb. Such unique words led university academics to help locals compile a dictionary for the Thai Berng language, as it is spoken in Khok Salung. 

    Elderly locals – those aged over 80 years – still wear traditional costume. Women wear a sarong tied around their waist, a loose vest with a detailed neckline, and a hand-woven pha khao ma hanging from one shoulder across their body. Men wear a sarong of fine silk and a pha khao ma

    The Thai Berng of Khok Salung also have distinctive family names. The surnames of all local people include the word salung

    Their local wisdom is also reflected in their cuisine. Local dishes are simple and rely on seasonal ingredients. The diet consists mainly of soup and chilli paste. They eat hardly any fried or deep-fried foods, and when planning a trip, will pack chilli with salt.

    The community also has unique local games, songs, crafts and toys.

    Conservation Efforts

    A little more than 20 years ago, the Pasak Jolasid Dam project took away more than 20,000 rai of land from the people of Khok Salung, and they were paid generous compensation. Many local families built new houses with modern facilities. 

    Recognizing their home town’s fast-changing landscape, Prateep and some like-minded locals invited villagers to a forum, to discuss the importance of their cultural capital and the options that were open to the community. 

    “Fortunately, we chose to build our future on the basis of our cultural capital,” Prateep says, “For this reason, many conservation and development projects have followed.” 

    The people of Khok Salung were given more than Bt1 million by the Thailand Government’s Social Investment Fund, which was established in 1998 to mitigate the erosion of social values arising from the “boom years” of the country’s economy, followed by the disastrous Asian financial crisis in 1997. The funds received by the Khok Salung community were to support its development of a fabric-weaving network, to set up a local museum, and to develop community leaders. 

    “Our museum has recreated traditional Thai Berng houses and features activities where people can come in and do something together,” Prateep says. “We also focus on developing human resources because people are our key driving force. Only people can use tools and local wisdom for the community’s benefit.”

    The ultimate goal is to generate a mutual happiness that is rooted in local culture. 

    Prateep places a strong emphasis on people and process development, while adopting new tools and modern knowledge. For example, his work process includes dialogues that foster mutual understanding, and ‘after-action reviews’.

    Khok Salung’s conservation efforts have also taken a forward-looking approach. While retaining their cultural roots, local people welcome new knowledge, with which to do better. They have learnt from experts how to develop local products. Among other things, local fabrics that are woven according to tradition are being used for contemporary attire. 

    Tourism as a tool 

    Prateep says he has used tourism to strengthen his community. In his view, tourism is a means to generate income for his community while the people reveal and conserve their cultural identity. 

    “When there are jobs back home, young members of our community will come back to their families with new knowledge and skills that can be used to conserve valuable local wisdom and culture,” he explains. 

    Next steps

    The Thai Berng Community of Khok Salung is preparing to register itself as a legal entity, or a social enterprise, to pave the way for further development and sustainable cultural conservation. 

    Nowadays, the community not only has its own museum, but has prepared courses so that its people may pursue their common goals.

    “We educate our kids about our culture. We prepare next-generation leaders and we even have a tourism-design course to ensure that our visitors will be happy,” Prateep says.

    When asked about community leaders, he emphasizes that they must have leadership skills, excel in systems thinking, and be adept at networking. 

    “We cannot work on our own. We need support and collaboration. That’s why networking is important,” he says.

    NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020 

    One of the Thai Berng community’s most important partners is the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC). Under this partnership, the community’s information is brought to the online world via NECTEC’s NAVANURAK platform.

    “Thanks to NAVANURAK, we can properly maintain our data and become better known among outsiders,” Prateep says. 

    Recently, NECTEC organized the NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020, which requires that students must spend a few days at Khok Salung to gather information before presenting impressive stories on Thai Berng community through digital media.

    “This challenge gives opportunities to both our community and the students,” Prateep says, “It is possible that some of them will go back to their home towns and use our example to develop them on the basis of their local culture.” 

    13 January 2021
  • The COVID cloud has a silver lining
    The race to provide vaccines for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus – the virus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic

    Surge in personal investment in medical technologies

    The race to provide vaccines for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus – the virus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic – has brought a surge of popularity for personal investments in health and medical innovation.

    -A mission to tell the oldest stories on the newest media
    -Imagination and innovation in food delivery

    It is a trend that has been highlighted by KBank Private Banking (KPB), which is promoting investment in its K-Global Healthcare Equity Fund (K-GHEALTH). The fund focuses on long-term investments to capitalize on ‘the new horizon of medical innovation’. It describes this as precision medicine that works ideally through customized treatment, practices and medical decisions that are made according to the needs of individual patients, after diagnosis that is led by the individual’s genetic structure.

    KASIKORNBANK (Kbank)’s Managing Director and Financial Advisory Head for KBank Private Banking Group, Siriporn Suwannagarn, expresses the hope that the successful development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines will ‘turn the pandemic around’, allowing a return to normal life that will bring Thailand’s economy ‘back from the brink’. This has led to the emergence of innovative technologies and, as a result, there are abundant opportunities for investment in global healthcare.

    The point was confirmed by the Professor of Medicine and Head of the Medical Genetics Division at Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, Dr. Manop Pithukpakorn, who said the medical-business segment had one of the largest research and development budgets of all industries.

    He said the COVID-19 pandemic had proven to be an important accelerator for pharmaceutical companies to apply innovative technologies in making vaccines as quickly as possible.

    There is a new understanding that human genetic codes are important factors of disease and illness, Manop said. Moreover, technological advancements mean that genetic decoding can now be done far more rapidly and at a considerably lower cost.

    Precision medicine identifies the sickness and physical abnormalities of individual patients, and how these differ from others. Formerly, seriously ill patients with the same basic issues were all treated by the same methods, and the results differed on a case-by-case basis. Treatments have now become more efficient, with precision medicine using genetic codes to learn where each patient’s problems are coming from and which treatments should be applied for the best results.

    Precision medicine can also detect existing risks, to prevent illnesses before they become serious.  

    Manop said global anticipation and concerns over COVID-19 had enlisted all of the innovations and knowledge around the world in a joint effort to achieve the most rapid vaccine development in history – only eight months, and the first vaccines are already being administered. This was a ‘first’ in the medical field.

    There are now 140 vaccines under development, and those developed by two companies, Moderna and Pfizer, have been approved, with four or five others close behind.

    This year, the combined production capacity of these companies will reach 8 billion doses, to cover more than half of the world’s population. With proper allocation of vaccines, the COVID-19 pandemic will hopefully be halted, and normalcy will return, Manop said. 

    The Executive Director and Investment Specialist for J.P. Morgan Asset Management International Equity Group, Nicholas Wilcox, said it was exciting that various groups had joined forces in an effort to end the pandemic. This, along with large amounts of investment in public health, staunch efforts to combat the pandemic, successful vaccine development, supply-chain restructuring, and the use of technologies in daily life – including social distancing, telemedicine, and real-time remote communication between patients and medical personnel – are some examples of megatrends.

    At the same time there is clear evidence of long-term drivers in global healthcare, he said. These include disruptions caused by the transition towards aging societies and expansion of medical services into developing countries. Although healthcare services have been popular among personal investors for some time, it cannot be denied that the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly prompted people to become more health conscious, causing health-related businesses to thrive.

    “Looking deeply into the healthcare sector, we are of the view that many sub-categories in this sector, including large market-cap pharmaceutical companies and small to medium market-cap biotech companies, will be major beneficiaries of mergers or acquisitions”, Wilcox said. “They presently remain strong, while prices are not too high. Finally, we believe that the healthcare sector exhibits a promising outlook and will steadily launch innovations going forward. Therefore, investing in healthcare businesses remains interesting, as it will likely offer favorable returns over the long term.”     

    K-GHEALTH invests mainly in four groups of medical and healthcare stocks:  

    Pharma: Effective drugs and medical equipment, such as those produced by Roche, which manufactures serology (blood serum) test kits;

    Biotech: Treatments that provide a cure at the genetic level;

    Medical Tech: Technology used for precision medical diagnosis to deliver accurate treatments; and

    Healthcare Services: Providing access to public health services at reasonable prices. K-GHEALTH has made a total of eight dividend payments, worth Bt1.90 per unit. Last year, the fund offered an average dividend yield of 3 per cent per year, with dividend yields totaling 45.5 per cent since the fund’s inception.

    6 January 2021
  • PLAY NEWS invites Thais to join in celebrating the New Year 2021
    PLAY NEWS, a news platform for Thai people, is offering special news content for Thais to follow the atmosphere of celebrations welcoming 2021 from various countries all over the world, all important landmarks of the countdown.

    With reports from around the world with Suthichai Yoon and Jam-Thapanee on AIS PLAY

    Despite the worrying situation of Covid-19, both in Thailand and around the world, with everybody required to have their guard up to strictly prevent the transmission of new infection, the passage of the old year 2020 into the New Year 2021 remains a festival of fun for both Thailand and the rest of the world. Everybody is gearing up to celebrate in the unprecedented New Normal format.

    PLAY NEWS, a news platform for Thai people, is offering special news content for Thais to follow the atmosphere of celebrations welcoming 2021 from various countries all over the world, all important landmarks of the countdown.

    There will undoubtedly be New Normal-style adjustments to the celebrations.

    Exclusive to PLAY NEWS is the commentary of Suthichai Yoon on the segment Suthichai 5 Minutes, and the tracking of New Year celebrations all over Thailand with Jam-Thapanee Eadsrichai, in the segment Breaking News with Thapanee.

    It is celebrating a special time for Thai people to have hope and courage for the incoming New Year of 2021.

    The news content is delivered to the screen by AIS PLAY through every channel on the night of 31st December 2020 and 1st January 2021. Mobile subscribers on every network can watch it for free at https://m.ais.co.th/myaisPlaynews

    30 December 2020
  • A mission to tell the oldest stories on the newest media
    NECTEC and Navanurak’s new approach to cultural tourism focuses on Lop Buri’s Thai Berng community

    NECTEC and Navanurak’s new approach to cultural tourism focuses on Lop Buri’s Thai Berng community.

    At 6am on a recent morning, more than 40 university students gathered at Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station for a brief train journey, which took them about 117 km to the northeast, to Khok Salung in Lop Buri province. They were on a journey into culture and tradition, whereby the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) was playing an unconventional role.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    With a passing interest in the historic aspects of Hua Lamphong station – a wooden plaque from the reign to King Rama V and a statue of a three-headed elephant – the students set off for a three-day challenge that would call upon their creativity and photography skills. They were the finalists in the NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    For NECTEC’s Navanurak platform, this was potentially a turning point. The state agency developed the platform For NECTEC’s Navanurak platform, this was a potentially turning point. The state agency developed the platform about two years ago to digitize culture, tradition, and history, and to play a major role in presenting and promoting tourist attractions based on culture and tradition.

    The NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020 aims to make the difference, by adding video storytelling to the platform, and it was hoped that this would inspire young generations to add value to the economic and social aspects of cultural-tourism attractions.

    On their way to Khok Salung, the finalists were fascinated by their train’s scenic route – especially when it passed by the Pasak Jolasid Dam. At this point, the railway track almost touched the water, leading to the local term “the floating train”.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    Arriving at Khok Salung station, the students were met by a collection of farm vehicles, which carried them to the focal point of their visit: Lop Buri’s famous cultural attraction, the Thai Berng Community.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    Their task was to create beautiful stories about the Thai Berng Community’s culture and traditions; the local way of life and local wisdom. Their aim would be to attract tourists in a new way, via video storytelling.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    Thai Berng Community representative, Prateep Onsalung welcomed and thanked all arrival participants for choosing his community to explore culture and innovation. He said the community had established a museum 20 years ago with a clear intention that it would serve as a living museum and a learning space.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    “Although there were no students of culture-based community development, the locals wished to use their culture to live happily. Today, our community has prospered, with many opportunities, including economic activities,” said Prateep.

    The Thai Berng culture is defined by three main elements:

    1. The Thai Berng language, which the Ministry of Culture has registered as a cultural language, has a distinctive accent and some unique words. Locals usually end their sentences with “berng”. In the case of a negative sentence, they end it with “dok”. If they have some doubts, their sentence concludes with “wei”. When they say goodbye, their final word is “der”. 
    2. For traditional costumes, Thai Berng women wear loincloths and the men wear hand-woven cotton pha khao (better known as pha khao ma). Thai Berng people usually carry a Thai-style satchel. Although most Thai Berng people nowadays wear modern clothes, the older generations continue to dress in traditional style when going to a temple.
    3. Thai Berng people have a family name either beginning or ending with salung

    Prateep urged the youngsters to realize that money was not equal to happiness. He pointed out that living with a family based on Thai Berng culture, while having a job and safe food, could be better.gsters to realize that money was not equal to happiness. He pointed out that living with a family based on Thai Berng culture, while having a job and safe food, could be better.

    The young finalists in the “NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020” were introduced to Thai Berng culture at the Local Wisdom Learning Hall, where there was a conventional museum-style zone and a zone of active learning. Visitors to the active-learning zone were taught about local culture through various activities such as cooking classes and workshops.

    The executive director of the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), Dr. Chai Wutiwiwatchai, gave the event a clear perspective. He addressed that young people should learn how to use fast-evolving technologies for tourism development and efficiently utilize available tech tools for differentiation.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    Tourism, he said, had been a major revenue source for Thailand. In the World, Thailand ranks among the top four destinations, but in terms of international tourism receipts, the country ranks tenth. This reflects the fact that many tourists to Thailand do not spent much on what they see and learn.

    “We aim to use Khok Salung as a model. We hope other communities will learn from it and develop digital tourism by highlighting and bringing sustainability to the value of their community’s culture and history,” he said. 

    “On behalf of NECTEC, or the platform developer, I expect to see video clips from this challenge used for promoting the NAVANURAK platform. But furthermore, I really hope that this challenge will inspire young innovators to directly bring knowledge to communities,” Chai added.

    The Chief of Lop Buri’s Phattana Nikhom district, of which Khok Salung is a subdistrict, Acting Sublieutenant Songpon, said it was undeniable that people now lived in the online world as much as in the real world. Therefore, NECTEC’s move created new opportunities for the Thai Berng Community at Khok Salung, the strength of which was its unique culture. Although considered a secondary city, Khok Salung was a hidden gem that was second to none.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    “Prateep has played a vital role in developing the community. With a passion to communicate his community’s history to others and conserve its culture, he has studied and worked hard for local causes,” said Songpon, “Also, I would like to thank NECTEC for choosing this community for its project. My thanks also go to the university students who have jumped in to spread words about this community. With their contributions, more tourists will come to us.”  

    The Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Lop Buri office, Jirarat Meengam, said Khok Salung offered an impressive culture, historical sites, natural attractions, food, agrotourism and community ways of life.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    “Our communities are strong,” she said. “We are especially proud of the Thai Berng Community. It boasts solid strengths and self-reliance, and has generated income for Lop Buri.”

    Jirarat thanked the challenge for highlighting eight more aspects of the Thai Berng Community, saying that her office could use these to attract more tourists to Lop Buri.

    “NAVANURAK”: The cultural platform

    The Director of Artificial Intelligence at NECTEC, Dr. Thepchai Supnithi, described Navanurak as a platform for cultural data. He pointed out that while community cultural museums were enjoying increasing popularity, they lacked the opportunity to gather knowledge and technology to develop their own local museums.

    NECTEC therefore decided to create the Navanurak platform to support this aspect of community cultural conservation, with a focus on using technologies for this purpose.

    As a first step, the platform will enable communities to gather cultural data and manage it on their own. The concept under which the platform was developed insists that communities must learn to be self-reliant and pursue a sustainable approach to cultural conservation.

    “Importantly, we emphasize data digitalization and data utilization,” he said.

    Eight teams, eight themes

    During the final round of the NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020, eight teams were assigned to produce video clips based on eight different themes:

    1. Wonder team: Khok Samran temple;
    2. Arch Travel team: Mat weaving;
    3. Victory team: Chilli-salt mixture;
    4. Digital Local team: Fabric weaving;
    5. Black Light team: Thai Berng pancakes;
    6. Team 921: Hanging decorations
    7. Charlotte team: Palm-leaf toys; and
      Baby Group team: The train station.
    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง
    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง
    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    As well as producing video clips on these assigned themes, each team also had to produce a second clip based on its own choice of subject.

    The Story Thailand interviewed some of the finalists and learned of their points of view. 

    Members of Team 921 said they had previously spent time in Khok Salung and studied its culture, so they were chosen to join the challenge.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    “The local culture is interesting. It can be applied to learning. When we came to Khok Salung, we also discovered its distinctive local wisdom. But we were most impressed by its friendly and kind people. Every visitor will love this community because of the hospitality and kindness of its people,” the team chorused. 

    Members of Black Light team said, “We have majored in culture. So, when we saw a poster about this challenge, we decided to jump in. Not only do we love cultural tourism, but this challenge is interesting. Normally, when people visit Lop Buri, they go to Three Pagodas and check out the monkeys. But Khok Salung presents something different. It underlines cultural tourism”.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    Black Light team members said Khok Salung had very strong tourism management and promotion. Locals welcomed tourists very warmly, and the team said they felt like members of local families when they walked into the community.

    ““In joining this challenge, we are not focused just on cash rewards. We are focused on local ways of life. We really want to produce great clips for this community.”

    An official at the community museum, Areerat Mansalung, said she returned to her home town after finishing her university studies. During the NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020, she was assigned as a mentor to Baby Group team.

    พันธกิจ สร้างสรรค์เรื่องเล่า “นวนุรักษ์” ณ ชุมชนไทยเบิ้ง ที่โคกสลุง

    “Khok Salung has a distinctive culture, which is being kept alive,” she said. “Although locals do not wear traditional costumes in their everyday life, they continue to carry a satchel and wear pha khao. Local dishes are also widespread. We are sincere in hoping that tourists will truly experience our local and traditional way of life.”

    For the finalist teams, Areerat also oversaw “knowledge stations” related to making pancakes, preparing chilli-salt mixtures, making palm-leaf toys and hanging decorations, weaving mats and fabric, the train station and the Khok Samran temple. She was also in charge of the finalists’ food and accommodation.

    “The NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020 is a very good project,” said Areerat. “With the help of the online platform, it will become easier for outsiders to see our community’s value. When university students come here, they will experience our culture too. Many will be inspired to develop their own communities and conserve their own culture.”

    The finalist teams, all of which spent three days at Khok Salung in December, must submit their video clips by January 11, 2021. The winners will be announced later.

    The teams are competing for a first prize of Bt50,000. The second place-getter will receive Bt30,000 and the third, Bt20,000. There will also be three “special mention” prizes worth Bt10,000 each.

    A conceptual statement supporting the NAVANURAK Story Creator Challenge 2020 said the event aimed to spread stories about the culture and community of Khok Salung: a community that welcomed the new world without abandoning its heritage.

    As well, the challenge sought to develop young creators of digital content and to encourage interest in local cultures among members of younger generations, in the belief that they had a key future role to play in passing on knowledge of community cultures.

    29 December 2020
  • Imagination and innovation in food delivery
    Gojek’s quest to customize individual needs in a booming market

    Gojek’s quest to customize individual needs in a booming market

    The Indonesian ride-hailing and food delivery giant, Gojek, is bent on becoming a household name in Bangkok. But the task is not an easy one: Gojek is Indonesian and boasts success stories in Singapore, India, and Vietnam. How different are the unique preferences of Thai customers?

    With a determination to understand and cater to the personal tastes of Thai people, Gojek is calling on the expertise generated by four busy markets, and is relying heavily on data to provide a pathway to the hearts and pockets of Thais. 

    It is rare, at the end of the pandemic year, 2020, to find a business that is booming. But it was the pain of Covid-19’s lockdowns and social distancing that led food-delivery services to not only survive the consequent economic recession, but also to thrive.

    According to Kasikorn Bank Research, food-delivery services were on the rise in Thailand in the “old normal” years before the coronavirus.

    In 2019, the business was worth between Bt33 and Bt35 billion, up 14 per cent from the previous year. And as hope of a “new normal” gathers confidence, the industry is now expected to grow even faster.

    Seeing that Thailand’s food-delivery service industry was still nascent, Gojek Group seized the opportunity and set out, in the first instance, simply to offer Thais another choice. But studying the market has opened far greater prospects, calling for innovation and originality. Gojek Group’s Head of Product for International Markets, and a co-founder of Gojek Thailand, Feng Chen, revealed details of developing products and services to The Story Thailand

    Normal procedure for Gojek in entering a new landscape is to conduct data analysis and customer research in order to plan a roadmap for providing what that market really needs. In Singapore, the best play for Gojek was to offer choices in the ride-hailing market. In Thailand, the results showed that the big opportunity was in food delivery. 

    “To fulfill our mission, we try to reduce any friction in the lives of our users. And we do this by adapting our technology to meet the needs of the unique landscape in each market; we need to tailor our product to fit those needs to which we can relate,” she said.

    Personalization the core strategy 

    Feng Chen pointed out that people’s choices and preferences of what they would like to eat are fundamentally unique. The challenge is to customize Gojek’s product to create an experience that reflects that individual uniqueness.

    “We are constantly working to improve our customers’ experiences at every point of the journey. We are always looking at the data and conducting customer research and interviews to understand how we can better serve our customers’ needs,” she said.

    Gojek has three applications, used by consumers, merchants and drivers, and these are constantly being upgraded, with new features to facilitate food on offer and placing and taking orders, while emphasizing the measure of uniqueness that only Gojek can provide in serving different groups of clients.

    Feng Chen said customers’ needs were basic to the way that Gojek attracted customers to its platform. There were many different customer segments, and each had different levels of sensitivity towards different factors in their decisions about what to order or which platform to use. For example, some were price-sensitive, while others were attracted by the way Gojek merged different offerings.

    By focusing solely on the needs of its customers, Gojek could avoid worrying about its competitors because its only goal was to customize the pleasure of customers. 

    Data to create differentiation and find the right consumer needs 

    To differentiate and truly serve customers’ personal tastes, data is a vital key to Gojek’s services. Data helps the firm to understand what different user segments expect from its platform. And there is no end to how Gojek can improve its platform to serve all of the specific needs expressed by people wishing to use its service. 

    Feng Chen said that in terms of advantages gained from data, Gojek is poised to become one of the best platforms in Thailand’s food-delivery service industry because data provides more efficient ways to create social impacts.

    “We have tech members in Indonesia, Singapore, India, Vietnam and Thailand. And it has taken all of these amazing team members to deliver the unified tech platform,” Feng Chen said, adding that remote collaboration has always been a normal activity, so there has been no disruption felt from the pandemic.

    As the team members are based in five countries, Gojek brings together their unique perspectives and relies on data to drive decisions or support ideas with strong rationale.

    “This gives us a lot of collective intelligence. When there are so many different members coming from so many different perspectives, you really get a lot of great ideas. And then, based on data or, at times, customer research, the best solutions usually come from that. That’s how we work. Even though we come from different places and have different backgrounds and different expertise, at the end of the day we are all trying to do the same things; we are all on the same mission. That’s how it comes together,” Feng Chen explained.

    Empowering “hyperlocal” business

    As well as personalizing customers’ experiences and focusing on data, another of Gojek’s secret weapons to help differentiate its business from other food-delivery services is hyperlocalization.  Feng Chen said that in Indonesia, Gojek had gained an advantage because it began with a unique insight into what customers, drivers and merchants needed. This is something that contributed to Gojek’s main mission in entering the Thai market.

    “We need to differentiate, to customize and hyperlocalize, to provide an experience that really speaks to users in Thailand as well. This has always been a core part of our strategy,” she said.

    The term hyperlocal refers to a small area or a specific demography. However, in terms of the delivery business, it defines a model in which service providers acquire requested products locally and deliver them to customers in the nearby area. And for Gojek, hyperlocal also means giving more support to local businesses. 

    “We start with a strategy that is hyperlocalized and it takes us all the way down to actually releasing and marketing products. Everything we do is at a hyperlocal level,” Feng Chen said.

    An example of hyperlocalization undertaken by Gojek was the delivery of food orders in Bangkok by runners. The firm’s planners noticed the uniqueness of Bangkok’s merchants and residential density – there were many restaurants and condominiums in the same area. So Gojek developed and experimented with a runner service. 

    “If people need to order over a short distance, why not have someone who doesn’t have a motorcycle deliver the food?” Feng Chen asked. “This allowed us to expand our driver base and offer even more jobs to people who don’t have a motorcycle to deliver the food, and we have grown into more and more area across Bangkok. So, that’s something that’s working really well here, but may not be applicable to other markets.”

    Following positive feedback since its launch in Bangkok, Gojek has been encouraged to pursue more modern, friendly and approachable features, including a safety feature, on its platform.

    “There are many more ways to customize ordering experiences, for example, dishes in a list of favorites, and beyond. It’s really been driving us to enable personalization on our platform, so that customers can really get a tailored experience when they come to Gojek,” Feng Chen concluded.

    28 December 2020
  • Thai robot developer Obodroid arrives – along with servants of the future
    A recent seminar in Bangkok has given a surprising glimpse of how closely a particular aspect of our personal lives will, in the very near future, resemble what was, just a short while ago, merely science fiction: living with robots.

    Introducing KAITOMM, SR1, PINTO and MIRROR, with tasks in future lifestyles, healthcare, and security

    A recent seminar in Bangkok has given a surprising glimpse of how closely a particular aspect of our personal lives will, in the very near future, resemble what was, just a short while ago, merely science fiction: living with robots.

    The seminar – in fact entitled “Living with Robots” – launched a new Thai company, Obodroid Corporation Ltd. Moreover, to demonstrate the strides that have been made in robotics, the event introduced a group of robots that are designed to enhance the quality of human life and boost sustainability.

    In the first instance, they will serve in residential projects, including those of the leading property developer, Magnolia Quality Development Corporation (MQDC).

    Obodroid’s Chief Executive Polnut Chalermwan explained that his company developed service robots and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to provide an improved and sustainable quality of life, in partnership with MQDC.

    The robots will operate in residential properties and other business segments, extending to general services, with the aim of raising the quality of life for residents and the general public.

    The debut seminar showcased KAITOMM, a companion-cum-personal assistant robot, and SR1, a security robot. Obodroid has also jointly developed PINTO, a delivery robot linking medical personnel and hospital patients, and MIRROR, a tablet to help medical teams and to reduce the risks of exposure to COVID-19 in hospitals across Thailand.

    “Obodroid is focused on developing service robots and AI technology to serve the people of Thailand by providing an enhanced and sustainable quality of life,” Polnut said.

    “Robots focused on quality of life can provide security at residences, for example, and interact naturally and efficiently with users. Obodroid unites Thailand’s leading engineers in robotics and AI, and is focused on research and development for service robots with functions such as security, reception, advertising, delivery, companionship and personal assistance.” 

    Obodroid’s Chief Technology Officer, Mahisorn Wongphati, said that KAITOMM was a companion-cum-personal assistant robot that made life easier for people of all ages, connecting them quickly and easily with “everything on the planet”. The robot understands commands and can converse with users in Thai and English. It can link with home automation to control lights and electrical equipment, and can also connect with medical devices to measure vital signs to help maintain its user’s health. A built-in camera can be used for security and video calls, and its other functions include reminders, alarms, prayers, and weather checks. KAITOMM is suitable for home use as an assistant caregiver for users of all ages.

    SR1 is a security robot that can follow a set route using an auto-navigation system. It carries a 360-degree camera to collect information, images, and sounds, and has artificial intelligence (AI) to identify items such as faces, objects, animals, or weapons, and can send swift alerts to security staff.

    An emergency call function lets residents or bystanders request instantaneous emergency help. SRI is suitable for maintaining security at residences, department stores, and other large spaces.

    Mahisorn said Obodroid’s team was proud and honored to have worked with the Faculty of Engineering of Chulalongkorn University (MI Workspace) to produce PINTO, a prototype quarantine delivery robot that can be controlled remotely, and MIRROR, a mini robot tablet to help patients communicate with medical staff or request assistance without having to touch buttons.

    This technology reduces the risk of patients spreading COVID-19, helps to keep surfaces free from pathogens, and assists doctors and nurses, who are able to use the robot and tablet immediately because they are independent of other systems and can be installed without additional tools or structures. The robot and tablet have been distributed to hospitals in every region of Thailand.

    The Chief Advisor of FutureTales Lab by MQDC, Karndee Leopairote, revealed the property developer’s close interest in this aspect of our near future. FutureTales Lab, which he described as a “futurology center”, has gathered valuable data about the future of robotics.

    The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has forecast exponential growth of 31% for the robotics industry, providing 48 million devices by 2021.

    Service robots will be the leading segment, becoming part of everyday life and disrupting many established industries, unless they adjust. 

    Karndee says Thailand will lead ASEAN in robotics by welcoming the “robotic economy”. IFR data shows that Asia is the world’s leading market for robotics, accounting for more than 60 per cent of global demand.

    Thailand’s industrial-robot market is forecast to expand by 19 per cent in 2021, the fastest growth in ASEAN and the fourth highest globally, after Brazil (33 per cent), India (26 per cent), and China (22 per cent).

    “Society will open up to accept the use of robots as part of everyday life, rather than just a symbol of modernity. The industry has been accelerated by the COVID-19 epidemic and more and more people are open to using robots to enhance hygiene and maintain social distance,” he said.

    “A case study from China’s Huazhu Hotels Group, which has more than 5,700 branches in China, found that robots providing services such as giving information or serving food made guests more confident during the epidemic.”

    “Reflecting the positive image of this technology in daily life, robots will inevitably become a part of both society and the ‘new normal’. While there are concerns that robots will compete for jobs, the robot industry – on the contrary – will create employment. In the long term, robots will become closer to humans, helping in the service sector in areas like healthcare and eldercare, and enhancing the value of actual human services,” Karndee said.

    22 December 2020
  • Pandemic fails to affect KBank’s private-banking performance
    KBank Private Banking (KPB) has announced that it has achieved more than 9-per-cent growth in its customer portfolio in 2020, despite the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Family wealth planning, land loans loom large in 2021 strategy

    KBank Private Banking (KPB) has announced that it has achieved more than 9-per-cent growth in its customer portfolio in 2020, despite the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    The firm says this shows that its investment strategy is capable of generating sustainable returns regardless of economic circumstances. As well, it has continued to focus on its ‘3S’ strategies of Sustainability, Sharing and New S-Curve. KPB is confident that it will maintain its leadership in the Thai private-banking industry in 2021. 

    The Head of the KBank Private Banking Group, Jirawat Supornpaibul, said that the pandemic sent global stocks into a tailspin early this year, but they bounced back. Of late, many bourses, including China’s A-share and the US and Japanese stock markets, have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

    He said that KBank Private Banking Group’s business operations continued to grow in 2020, with approximately 12,000 customers and assets under management valued at about Bt800 billion. Total investment assets currently stand at around Bt540 billion, or roughly 67 per cent of the overall figure. 

    The bank remains confident in its investment strategies that focus on diversification under a ‘core and satellite’ investment approach. Notably, its recommended funds have offered remarkable returns, including K-GA; K-CCTV, which invests in China’s A-Shares; K-CHANGE, which focuses on global stocks of companies operating businesses that positively impact global society; and K-HIT, which invests mainly in shares of four megatrends. 

    The company recommends that its customers invest in its K-Alpha and aspiration portfolio, which focuses on long-term alternatives. This recommended portfolio generated a return of 9 per cent in 2020. 

    Jirawat said that throughout 2020, KPB maintained its 3S strategies. 

    The first S is for ‘Sustainability’, in which KPB offers investment advisory services that have sustainable goals. It seeks and initiates investments that will create a positive impact on the environment and society.

    The second S is ‘Sharing’, as KBank believes that individuals and society must forge ahead together. For this reason, it has collaborated with all sectors, including charitable organizations and relevant agencies, to provide support to build societal unity in a sustainable manner. 

    The third S is ‘New S-Curve’, in which KBank helps its customers to build their wealth by investing in businesses of the future abroad, via mutual funds.

    Meanwhile, KPB is organizing an event called “Perfect Wealth Perfect Night Special Concert”, to help charitable organizations in Thailand. At this event, KPB will coordinate with donors and recipients to ensure that funds donated to charitable organizations are systematically passed on to the recipients. 

    In addition, KPB will offer financial-literacy advice to charitable organizations so that they have stronger financial health and sustainable asset-management systems. 

    Family wealth-planning services will continue to be a vital means by which KPB will foster strong relationships with its customers, while expanding its new-customer base. 

    Jirawat said that in 2021, KBank will continue to reinforce its image as a provider of the most comprehensive personal financial advisory services in Thailand. It is expected to introduce an array of new services, including helping clients to set up family offices and carrying out philanthropic and passion-investment activities, such as art and amulet collection.  

    A Real Estate Advisory Service will offer advice on land-use planning and monitoring. Based on conversations with customers concerned about land and building taxes, it was found that 90 per cent of land in question was still awaiting development, or was not ready for development, which could incur higher tax rates for customers. 

    KBank believes that land loans for investment will be crucial to increasing its assets under management. More than 100 customers have expressed interest in such loans. KBank has already approved a credit limit of around Bt9 billion and is in the process of approving another Bt5 billion for land loans. 

    21 December 2020
  • Paper movie tickets soon to be a thing of the past
    Major Cineplex, KBTG and KBank create contactless e-tickets – a first in Thailand. In a new “first” for Thailand, moviegoers are being invited to buy tickets for Major Cineplex cinemas from an automated kiosk without touching anything.

    Major Cineplex, KBTG and KBank create contactless e-tickets – a first in Thailand  

    In a new “first” for Thailand, moviegoers are being invited to buy tickets for Major Cineplex cinemas from an automated kiosk without touching anything. 

    The innovative “contactless” technology, which will be available from December 26, is the result of cooperation between Major Cineplex Group (MAJOR), KASIKORN Business-technology Group (KBTG), and KASIKORNBANK (KBank).

    The new e-tickets are part of the “new normal” era, allowing customers to enjoy their entertainment experience without the need to touch possibly contaminated surfaces. Customers will use a QR code in their smartphones, in lieu of a paper movie ticket. 

    According to KBank, the contactless technology adopted by MAJOR provides an enhanced experience and greater convenience for moviegoers while boosting the company’s sustainability.

    The Chief Marketing Officer for the Major Cineplex Group, Narute Jiensnong, pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to require the implementation of stringent controls and preventive measures. Cinemas have been granted approval to open their doors under a “cinema new normal” format, wherein strict social-distancing rules and hygiene and safety measures must be in place.

    To this end, MAJOR and KBTG have jointly developed the contactless technology for movie-ticket sales via automated machines. The e-ticket system responds well to the needs of moviegoers, giving them more confidence in going to the cinema. Paper tickets will become a thing of the past as film buffs go contactless and touchless.

    They will get a QR code in their smartphones, easier and faster than being issued with paper tickets. The technology also allows them to “go green” by using less paper, thus helping to save energy and conserve the environment.

    The contactless technology is also expected to help to cut MAJOR’s ticket issuance and printing costs by up to 50 per cent.

    The innovation is in line with MAJOR’s “Green Cinema” program. The contactless technology will debut at Paragon Cineplex and Major Cineplex Ratchayothin on December 26, 2020, and will continue to operate thereafter. Major Cineplex says its development efforts will also continue, with many projects that have been developed in collaboration with strategic partners expected to be introduced throughout 2021. 

    KBTG Chairman Ruangroj Poonpol said his company and MAJOR had cooperated in the use of contactless technology to develop e-tickets, with the aim of offering a “touch-free” and safe cinema experience that met the current lifestyles of moviegoers.

    The contactless technology was developed by KBank and KBTG, allowing patrons to select movies and seats, then make payment and scan the QR code shown at the self-service ticket kiosk to get a paperless movie ticket.

    Ruangroj said the contactless technology offers moviegoers a safe cinema experience while enhancing the sustainability of MAJOR’s businesses, as it perfectly matches the “new normal” lifestyle of Thai consumers. It can also substantially reduce the use of paper and help to cut service costs. He said the contactless technology would also be suitable for other businesses wishing to offer similar contactless services, and suggested that interested parties should visit www.kbtg.tech/contact, then select Business/Partner Proposals.

    KBank’s First Senior Vice President Supreecha Limpikanjanakowit said that the cooperation between KBank, KBTG and MAJOR, to use innovative contactless technology in the entertainment business, was the first effort of its kind in Thailand.

    ReKeep technology is used to provide the digital movie-ticket service. This technology helps to reduce the use of paper and, thus, to mitigate climate change. It upholds personal safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic and is consistent with KBank’s strategies to promote a cashless society.

    21 December 2020