By AUKRIT UNAHALEKHAKA
SPECIAL TO THE NATION
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While these services are amazing and much needed in Thailand, there is a different approach to start-ups that goes beyond smartphone apps or Websites and Web services.
Having worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley and studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), two of the world's most important centres of innovation and disruptive technology, I was exposed to myriad start-ups that were driven by innovation and research, rather than just being "Uber for X".
Many start-ups in the United States are tapping into cutting-edge technology in such fields as agritech, biotech, artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality, to address a slew of pressing issues. With their problem-driven focus and flexible, pragmatic approach, these start-ups are able to find innovative applications for new technologies.
Think about how self-driving cars and AI are poised to transform the way we move around. Much of the innovation around self-driving cars has been powered by start-ups, developing new algorithms and bringing fresh new ways of thinking about transportation problems.
In Thailand, there are several companies that also fit this category. Ricult is an agritech start-up that uses machine learning and satellite imagery to create an alternative credit score for Thai farmers to access cheaper loans and to increase their farming productivity.
By leveraging technological innovations and a nuanced understanding of local markets and farmer needs, Ricult has been able to improve some farmers' profitability by more than 50 per cent. Imagine the impact of such increases in income on a farmer's life - better schooling for his or her children, access to healthcare, and more nutritious diets.
JuiceInnov8 is another noteworthy Thai biotech start-up, which is developing a sugar-reducing technology with microbes that helps create a healthier, natural juice with less sugar and fewer calories. The global market for health drinks is tremendous, and this shows how a university research spin-off has the potential to disrupt the global juice market.
These two examples show how start-ups in Thailand are reshaping existing market structures to unlock new, productive sources of value.
Technological innovation is a great source of productivity and economic growth. Start-ups take cutting-edge technology to market in flexible and innovative ways that are sometimes beyond what larger companies can risk doing.
Start-ups are capable of having an immense impact on a variety of social issues, and I am excited to see more and more Thai start-ups growing together, bringing the dynamism needed to further the country's development.
Aukrit Unahalekhaka is the chief executive of Ricult Thailand and is a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University Innovation Hub.