Thailand – A Crypto-friendly nation undergoing a digital transformation as SEA’s 2nd Largest Economy

children playing football in a rice field

Thailand – A Crypto-friendly nation undergoing a digital transformation as SEA’s 2nd Largest Economy

Introduction

Thailand – a place familiar to many for its tropical climes, exotic islands, beaches, rainforests and mountains, world-renowned cuisine, Muay Thai, and the famous Thai smile. Now, there is something else. Lesser widely shared, is that Thailand has rapidly evolved in recent years across technology and innovation, with a startup eco-system. At the same time, in Thailand cryptocurrency has been no stranger to this process. A number of factors lead Thailand to begin emerging lately as a popular location for tech, including Thailand cryptocurrency and blockchain innovations. In this article, we are going to provide a roundup of factors that make Thailand today a forward thinking and progressive environment for business and technology innovations.

Why do companies set up shop in Thailand?

Before we set out to look more into the progress in the Thailand cryptocurrency market, let’s begin for anyone less familiar with what makes it an appealing location for so many. Thailand has a fortuitous geographic position, at the heart of Southeast Asia. With full access to the rest of Asia, through the years Thailand has built a reputation for low costs of living, relative ease of setting up business, accessibility to international airports, malls, international schools and hospitals, food & entertainment options,  alongside the friendly people. Combine small islands for a weekend getaway – at a time when costs in comparable world-famous cities have skyrocketed, it’s no surprise many choose Thailand as a place to stay longer term.

The infrastructure and western comforts are already in place, (even visitors from 15 years ago would be surprised at the pace of development). Far from the off-the-beaten track, deserted beaches, and military R&R a-gogo hotspots of the original ‘Southeast Asia on a Shoestring’, Bangkok especially has moved on; into a bustling modern city with tall steel and glass condos, mega-malls and offices, 2 international airports, elevated highways, underground and sky train lines.

It is very easy to see why Bangkok began attracting startup companies since the past few years. Who then can resist the possibility, of low-cost office and living spaces, high-speed internet, public transport to bustling street food markets and nightlife, together with the sheer atmosphere and diversity of a modern city fused by its exotic far-east old world charm. Bangkok has huge appeal to anyone needing a base in Southeast Asia. ‘Startup on a Shoestring’ would be a great modern appropriation on The Lonely Planet httpss://www.lonelyplanet.com/ original.

Koh Chang, Thailand Cryptocurrency Haven - 2017

Koh Chang, 2017

Enthusiastic, smart and App/gadget/gaming/crypto ready audience – just add localization

In Thailand ver 90% of Internet users are on smartphones. An amazing 43% of the entire population owns a smartphone. Fibre or broadband Internet, 3G/LTE mobile networks extensively cover Thailand. If you are looking for a market to test or launch mobile Apps, Thailand is also an ideal sandbox.

Furthermore, being that culturally in the past decade or so, Korean and Japanese cultures have been very influential in Thailand. This has led to a propagation of technology and gadgets, gaming, PC rigs, crypto-mining, smartphones and all kinds of ‘home brew’ technology in Thailand. Local IT geeks understand and grasp the product or technical concepts, your biggest challenge being language barrier. When starting a business in the Thai local marketplace, you must accept English is not the mother tongue by a wide margin. By ensuring you cover localization of your products and apps, by engaging professional locals to perform full translations of content, along with marketing and support in the native tongue. Instant messenger apps are a big help however.

Or just a great base?

Of course, many other companies are here to use Thailand as a ‘base’ only, or perhaps an offshore office. There are many big overseas and offshore companies with offices in Thailand. You can save money compared to Singapore or London. Many foreigners choose to live or work remotely in Thailand, with a business or website making revenue in another geography. A grey area of the tech economy, pointed out here as relevant since it is an open secret that Thailand is a popular destination for the ‘digital nomad’. It is straightforward to set up a company in Thailand, and remains a great opportunity for a low-cost startup base.

More than just a nice lifestyle

Beyond the niceties of a location, running a business takes careful and due diligence when selecting a country for setting up shop. Thailand being no exception, also seems to look positive in this regard. There are straightforward processes to setup companies, which can easily be done efficiently with a little help from a reputable local accountant. Most promising of all, the government has recently implemented a number of new initiatives under the “Thailand 4.0” strategy. This initiative is for transformation of the economy to include more services and technology based GDP in the coming years.

As Thailand developed and caught up with modern infrastructure in the past decade, the government have identified a need to raise their level of overall competitiveness in the region, which includes Technology and IT knowledge and innovation. You can read a statement on this policy here https://thailand.prd.go.th/mobile_detail.php?cid=4&nid=3784

The Thailand 4.0 economic model will change the country’s traditional farming to smart farming, traditional SMEs to smart enterprises, and traditional services to high-value services.” Deputy Commerce Minister Suvit Maesincee

It seems that having a government in place that embraces and recognizes technological innovation is important is a good thing. The eco-system and community for THailand cryptocurrency innovations has a bright future for now. We will look forwards like many nations to see what are the government guidelines appearing in 2018.

A growing community and ecosystem

There are plenty of examples of a growing e-commerce, marketplace and fintech companies based in Thailand. Consequently a trend so far in 2017 is seeing more EduTech, AgriTech and Blockchain technologies appearing in the marketplace, and this is expected to continue through 2018.

If you Google startups in Thailand, you will also find that corporations and government agencies are making a big push to drive and support the startup eco-system. Furthermore, in Southeast Asia, venture capital investments have reportedly doubled to over $1.6 billion in the past year. In fact, MORE than US$8 billion in venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) investments was recorded in South-east Asia in between Q1 and Q3 this year. (https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/)

Notable events and fintech accelerators

Further adding traction to the tech startup eco-system of Thailand cryptocurrency investments, here is a list of some notable events in 2016 and 2017:

  • Kasikorn bank setup a tech fund worth 1 Billion Baht, launched as Beacon Venture Capital (BVC) and will invest both domestically and internationally.
  • Bangkok Bank (BBL) “InnoHub” in partnership with Nest (Hong Kong based accelerator)
  • Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) Digital Ventures
  • Krungsri Bank RISE (2016)
  • K2 Venture capital (collaboration between Loxley Group and a Singapore private equity group)
  • The bank of Thailand last year announced a Fintech Sandbox framework (similar to HK, UK, SG, MY, and others)

From the website of the esteemed consulting firm, KPMG –

Christopher Saunders, Partner in the Financial Services Practice at KPMG in Thailand added, “A notable feature .. is the significant emergence of Fintech disruptors, with 9 of the top 10 companies occupying this space. This seems an indication of a rapidly evolving, dynamic global financial technology sector, which is seeking to re-align business models with customer needs. This is very much part of Thailand’s financial sector agenda, suggesting a significant opportunity for growth in Fintech here. We are also seeing greater diversity in offerings, with Regtech, Blockchain and Insurtech now very much a feature.”

httpss://home.kpmg.com/th/en/home/media/press-releases/2016/11/th-11nov2016-fintech100announcing.html

Looking to the future

As a nation that has seen rapid growth and modernization, the government has realized the need to ensure ongoing competitiveness. Thereby they now take a progressive stance on technology. Looking at the initiatives underway, the outlook would seem very positive for technology companies. As a result, Thailand cryptocurrency market could grow exponentially in 2018 and the coming years.

The ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Ministry announced 3 digital initiatives in the past year. These include building an environment and regulations related to driving business and the economy toward ‘Digital Thailand’ scheme. They include building digital communities, establishing digital parks for SMEs, and creating start-up networks.

In Thailand Cryptocurrency and Blockchain are taking off

It would seem the country is embracing the blockchain and Thailand cryptocurrency opportunities. Several banks and large companies now involved, as following.

Some of the interesting blockchain initiatives announced in the Thailand Cryptocurrency market–

  • Thailand Post, the nation’s state-owned postal service announced blockchain technology to track parcel deliveries. The service will initially be applied to expensive high value or luxury goods deliveries.
  • Thailand’s Electronic Transactions Development Agency looking for ways to allow blockchain-powered smart contracts.
  • Kasikorn Bank announced plans to use an IBM HyperLedger blockchain for a secure document storage, retrieval and authorization service. Consequently the new platform is said to significantly reduce paperwork and time to approve items such as secured business loans.
  • OmiseOMG, a strongly backed in Thailand cryptocurrency is in the top 20 on coinmarketcap.com
  • New law coming up, to sanction new e-payment methods. This amendment to a 2001 Electronic Transaction act should certainly open the doors to blockchain and cryptocurrency payment models.
  • ‘The Nation’ media recently reported on a new law coming into place around fintech. The headline reads “Embracing digital banking and other online transactions is the key to unlocking Thailand 4.0”. The article mentions in addition that 60% of all startups in 2016-2017 were fintechs. The new law will aid both entrepreneurs and consumers, making it even more attractive for VC and startups to invest.

Some more articles we found around the web regarding Thailand’s digital evolution:

 

Thailand’s Transformation towards Digital Economy

Being the regions 2nd largest economy after Indonesia

https://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/Economy/30325327

Prime Minister opening the Thailand 4.0 Digital Showcase by MOF, September 26 2017

https://www2.mof.go.th/picture_news_detail.php?id=11182