By KWANCHAI RUNGFAPAISARN
Assoc Prof Soranit Siltharm, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said it was the ministry’s mission to encourage Thais to make more use of science and technology as part of a greater awareness of the need for innovation. They should apply this mindset to any activities undertaken in both public and private organisations.
“Any allocation of science and technological supports provided to OTOP operators will flow down to the grassroots level, which is the major population base of the country as this will add value to their products,” Soranit said.
He said the main problem holding back the producers of OTOP products is that they often fail to see opportunities to add value. The OTOP scheme was hatched as a local entrepreneurship stimulus programme with the aim of boosting livelihoods in communities.
“Rice, for example, should not be sold only as the traditional commodity without any further processing, but offered with a value-added dimension, such as crackers,” said Soranit, adding that the application of science, technology and innovation could help deliver such outcomes.
The Ministry of Science and Technology - with King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, the National Innovation Agency and Siam Piwat Co Ltd - recently launched the OTOP Ignite project with the aim of selecting outstanding OTOP producers who represent their home provinces.
Producers participating in the project will receive professional training on how to add value to their production processes and business patterns.
Assoc Prof Ittipol Jangchud, executive vice president for research and innovations at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, shares the view that OTOP producers – most of whom are small entrepreneurs – lack knowledge on science and technology and how that can spur innovations.
This results in products that have no selling point or outstanding characteristics for marketing. A greater awareness of the benefits of technology could lead to improvements such as better packaging that gives a product a longer shelf life, Ittipol said.
“King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang is one of the leading Thai universities and we would like to be a master of innovation. What we as an educational institute like to do is to take part in any problem-solving activities and aid in the development of the country,” said Ittipol.
“For the OTOP Ignite project, we will help producers to upgrade their capabilities through the use of |innovation and enable them to compete at a regional, and even, global level.” Ittipol said that his university would coach participants in the project in a course that is match to their requirements. The course would cover an innovation development plan, design, production processes, service and business patterns.
Pun-Arj Chairatana, director of the National Innovation Agency, said that giving support to OTOP producers would help the country to bridge the economic and social divide.
“Similar to other social enterprises, any OTOP initiatives will help develop rural communities, and this will boost social development,” Pun-Arj said.
Parisa Chatnilbandhu, senior director for the retail business group at Siam Piwat Co Ltd, said that the company would provide marketing know-how and packaging ideas that would add value to OTOP products.
“We will also provide retail space in our properties for the hosting of exhibitions and marketing events to create awareness of OTOP products as well as sales and marketing experiences for individual manufacturers and traders,” said Parisa, adding that the company would also give cash prizes to winners in the MOST’s Innovation OTOP Awards.
“The strength of local OTOPs is their good ingredients. However, these producers need to improve their products to be more contemporary and cater even to foreigners and the new generation consumers nowadays,” she said.
Parisa said OTOP producers often lacked modern marketing and manufacturing techniques as well as attractive product designs and packaging.
“OTOP producers still lack knowledge about the trends in retail sales and consumer lifestyles as well as awareness of what kind of products and designs consumers prefer,” Parisa said.