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Engineering a success story

Dec 04. 2016
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PHAIBOON UNGKANAKORNKUL, 49, is an electrical engineer who has spent almost two decades stitching together from scratch his own switchboard business that is now a “billion-baht” firm.

He is the founder and managing director of Asefa Plc, a market leader in switchboards and related services for buildings and infrastructure projects, with a 10-per-cent share of the annual Bt25 billion to Bt35-billion market.

After going public in August last year, Asefa has stabilised its financial status, focusing on customer-based expansion as well as improving back-office work like human resources and computerised system in preparation for the economic recovery. 

“Our strength is product variety and manpower,” said Asefa’s managing director. Paiboon, who now holds a 35-per-cent stake in Asefa worth around Bt1.4 billion based on market price as of last Friday, said he had never thought he could come to this point, as he grew up in an ordinary family – not a business family – in Chachoengsao, in the easttern region. He said he had never dreamt or planned to become rich, but he just happened to go for it. 

Phaiboon was a quota student thanks to his outstanding academic performance. He chose to study electrical engineering in college before earning a bachelor’s degree from King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok. 

Thereafter, he worked as a sales marketing person for circuit-breakers for an importer of Schneider products related to electricity systems, before being persuaded by his friends to join a start-up that produced switchboards. 

Incorporated in 1997 a few months before the “Tom Yum Kung” financial crisis in July, Asefa began with a seed capital of only Bt2 million and two staff. The start-up struggled to survive in the initial years because of the credit crunch.

However, Phaiboon’s perseverance enabled Asefa to clear the obstacles though there were more crises ahead like the political unrest since 2005 and the 2008 global economic crisis. 

He sharpened his management skills by obtaining an MBA in 2009 in order to manage Asefa, which was expanding and becoming challenging after a decade of operations. 

Asefa is now a leading manufacturer and provider of electrical power distribution, switchboards, automation and integrated engineering services for factories, residential and commercial buildings, and infrastructure.

In the first nine months, Asefa posted a 42-per-cent surge in net profit to Bt200.8 million on Bt2.02 billion in revenue, up 7 per cent from the same period last year.

“Our reputation is a hidden asset,” said Phaiboon, adding that a key driver of its success was the human resource, coupled with management procedure.

He said 70 per cent of Asefa’s revenue came from contractors’ projects while the rest came from trading business and other related services. Siam Paragon shopping complex is one of its clients where it has installed an electrical power distribution system. Asefa now has a backlog worth Bt1.8 billion, with an increase of 15 per cent from last year, owing to positive factors driven by better economic outlook and more investments of state and private projects, said Phaiboon.

Asefa has also taken on new work such as the project for transferring overhead electricity cables underground in Sukhothai for the Provincial Electricity Authority and improving switchboards at Suvarnabhumi Airport, he said.

Phaiboon said the company’s revenues were expected to grow by more than 10 per cent from this year because of an expansion of investments by both government and private sectors in such areas as metro railways, power plants, IT and telecommunications, data centre, factories and property projects.

Regarding Asefa’s upcoming projects next year, he said they would be doing the Icon Siam shopping mall, expected to open next year, and underground electricity cable works for the Metro Electricity Authority and Provincial Electricity Authority worth Bt100 billion, between 2017-21. 

“From now on, we will focus on our core business, but we will seek new markets and service expansion,” said Phaiboon.


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