By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation Weekend
Kasikorn Business-Technology Group aims to be the best technology organisation in Southeast Asia by 2021. And to achieve it, KBTG has set a goal that goes beyond merely surviving the digital disruption, but leveraging its financial services to the regional level, says Rungroj “Krating” Poonpol, the company’s chairman.
“My mission is to drive KBTG to be the best technology organisation and to change the core technology throughout Southeast Asia, from Indonesia and Vietnam to Thailand,” said Krating.
Already arguably Thailand’s digital-banking leader, KBTG is set to be a technology talent magnet. The bank has designed and developed a platform to allow talent from across Southeast Asia to optimise their ideas and turn them into real products and services.
“KBTG will help KBank to have the best-in-class technology,” said Krating.
Since 2012, he has been working to develop the country’s startup ecosystem, now believes KBTG has a platform that will draw technologists to the Kingdom.
“At the end of 2021, I will have had 1,080 days to complete my mission to draw investment, talent, and the spotlight to Thailand. I have built the startup ecosystem in Thailand since 2012, and now I will do the same with KBTG, building the technology ecosystem of the country by utilising financial services as the platform,” he said.
KBTG’s technology capability will be benchmarked with technology organisations in Southeast Asia, while the main focus will be on financial services.
“My passion is to use KBTG as the platform to pull the world’s core technology focus to Thailand,” said Krating.
Technology is about talent. Talented people might not be interested in working for a bank, but they absolutely desire to work for the best technology organisations. The mission of KBTG is to help drive Thailand to become the destination for both local and global tech talents to land.
Technology talent loves to work where it can have an impact, he notes, and KBTG is a big, high-impact startup. It now boasts over 10 million users and many operations throughout the region. With the power of technology able to democratise financial services to everyone, KBTG can help KBank to offer financial inclusion for everybody throughout the region.
KBTG currently hosts many people of talent, but needs even more to join. With around 3,000 people so far, it seeks another 300 tech talents to join in helping build “One KBTG” as the emerging Silicon Valley of Thailand, said Krating.
KBTG will be the talent acceleration platform, while KBank itself will be the product/service platform. Being an open (technology) platform is to open up the application programming interface (API) to allow the talent and partners to plug in and join in the acceleration.
To build the technology ecosystem, Krating says, it must first draw talent, and then must increase innovations in work processes as well as build a talent playground. To be in a genuine partnership is about having open collaboration along with knowledge sharing and transfers.
Thailand’s location itself is an advantage for attracting talent to work with KBTG. “We are now at the first step in becoming the regional talent hub,” he said.
That journey started with a business vision, then a technology vision and on to which direction to go with technologies from building it themselves, partnering, or investing in other startups and companies. The role of technology organisations under Kbank, including the role of Beacon Venture Capital, is to oversee the local market, while KVision, as an investment holding company, has a role to oversee the international market and large-sized tech.
Financial industry is the big opportunity, is about US$4 trillion, while media industry, where giant Facebook and Google are, is only US$1 trillion, there are lot of works to do to capture the financial market. KBTG will become the best technology organisation in area of financial services.
Local corporates are now very actively work with startups, and Thailand has the largest number of corporate venture capitals (CVC) in Southeast Asia. Large corporates here are aware of and concerned about digital disruption, which helps both the startup ecosystem and corporates themselves to not only survive, but also to move forward through new ventures.
It is the right time to build the homegrown technology for Thailand, he says. And KBTG is committed to the mission. Startups and big corporates have to go forward together, and must recycle talent and ensure talent mobility.
“The startup ecosystem is a subset of the technology and innovation ecosystem,” he explained.
KBTG will move forward on two tracks – through open technology (partnerships) and by building its own technology.
KBTG is not only benchmarked in terms of talent, technology and innovation, but is also benchmarked in terms of being a bank, with its implied security, stability and scalability. KBank is set to be the digital life platform of choice, accessible wherever people needing financial services are, and KBTG is set to support KBank in this positioning.
Giant tech players aim to become the “super app”, multiple apps within an app, and accessible every day to meet the needs of people’s lifestyles.
The Southeast Asia region is similar to where China was in 2008, which is why giant Chinese tech firms have invested heavily in the region.
But it is not going to take another 10 years to drive Southeast Asia to catch up with China.
Southeast Asia has the potential for landing the super app, the super platform, since people in Southeast Asia, including those in Thailand, love convenience and have an extremely short attention span, he says. And those attributes make the region very suitable for “super app” services.