By The Nation
Growing in vibrancy throughout the first year, the mini-city is attracting more than 60,000 visitors per day on average and is now entering its second year with plans to launch a learning centre called “Muang Sook Siam Academy” to boost the marketing strength of its small community businesses. An award scheme gives the stores incentives to maintain a high standard. Muang Sook Siam has also shown an impressive ability to keep cultural heritage alive with international standard quality and distribute Thai community products across the globe via its many foreign visitors.
Visitors today can browse at more than 30 shops of Thai community products, while more than 1,000 displays have rotated through in the last 12 monthsThe lifestyle destination was developed in line with the Thai government’s policy to boost income levels in local communities while also maintaining folk wisdom and traditional Thai lifestyle in a sustainable way.
Luckana Naviroj, chairman of the project, says Muang Sook Siam proves that bringing together local heroes, artists, craftsmen, business entrepreneurs, and community enterprises under the roof is a winning formula.
The mini-city is designed to support and promote small producers of community products in all regions of the Kingdom by handing them greater knowledge in sales and marketing, and tools to conduct their business in a new format. The aim is to tap demand from shoppers, especially foreigners, at source and to help Thai community products effectively penetrate the market both in Thailand and abroad. In the future, small producers can build on their business by conducting e-commerce to support Thailand’s digital economy, and further cultivate Thai wisdom heritage, artworks and traditional crafts in a sustainable way.
“Thanks to strong marketing support and all-round knowledge, entrepreneurs who come from 77 provinces across Thailand have been very successful in doing business over the past year,” says Luckana. “We found that the entrepreneurs who trade their community products at Muang Sook Siam have enjoyed higher incomes, resulting in higher investment budgets for their business which enables them to further develop products. Meanwhile, their children, who are the next generation of community entrepreneurs, will see there is a way to continue the business, making their family crafts a sustainable and growing venture.”
“Muang Sook Siam” showcases the culture and traditions of all four major regions of the country in food, artwork, handicraft, herbal remedies, folk plays, and local wisdom, through cooperation between business partners, artists, rural enterprises and Thai living communities. The lifestyle destination is divided into four major zones covering North, Northeast, South and Central regions. Of the more than 1,000 shops rotated over the past year, 600 have offered regional food specialities, while 400 have showcased other products.
Today, “Muang Sook Siam” is attracting no less than 50,000 to 70,000 visitors a day. The growth in numbers is driven by several different and identifiable groups of foreign visitors, with the highest number coming from China, followed by Taiwan, Asean countries, as well as Russia, India, South Korea, Japan, Europe and the Middle East.
What’s remarkable about “Muang Sook Siam” is that it has opened a space for rural entrepreneurs to present their community 365 days a year. But it also encourages them to grow in many ways, such as developing their products to match modern advances; by blending innovation and technology to increase product value for farmers and villagers; as well as helping them learn about retail mechanisms, wholesale in overseas markets and a new modern marketing platform called the Omni Channel. The Omni Channel runs under an eco-trading system for sustainable management of products in line with the government’s “Thailand 4.0” policy to inject innovation into the development of rural wisdom products.
Luckana says that “Muang Sook Siam” also answers the requirements of urban consumers, who demand the convenience of being able to select valuable products from many communities in one place. Visitors can browse foods, kitchenware and other utensils crafted with painstaking care and reflecting the beauty of the art and traditional wisdom of age-old rural communities.
They get also to tuch and feel the unique qualities imbued by the “seven pillars of Thai happiness”. These are “Sook Saab”, offering a diversity of delicious foods from different locales; “Sook Sanei”, presenting the inimitable charm of Thai lifestyles in the beauty of architecture; “Sook Srang Sran”, creating new and innovative expressions of Thainess; “Sook Sueb San” or the changing relationships and cultural stories within communities; and “Sook Sanook” which showcases the Thai spirit of fun and joy. “Sook Siam” embodies the combination of these seven pillars of happiness, inspiring genuine and original products that evoke a pride that can be recognised both here in Thailand and throughout the rest of the world.
Muang Sook Siam recently boosted the capabilities of entrepreneurs from various communities by selecting remarkable and unique shops from different regions for training to increase their skills and knowledge. Of these shops, 10 were then selected to receive “Sook Siam Local Heroes 2019” awards.
In the past year, many entrepreneurs have opened shops at Muang Sook Siam and received strong interest from foreign customers. Among those who have built on this success by expanding their business overseas are Loong Ngern Clay-Pot Coffee from Chiang Mai, who has expanded to Indonesia; Kuay Tiew Rua (Boat Noodles) Muang Pathum, which has sold its franchise to China; and “Joob General”, whose hand-made woollen products from Phasi Charoen in Bangkok are being made available in Taiwan. Others who have won similar success include Kanom Nga Baan Charnmuang (Dek Doi) from Mae Hong Son Province; Pha Toomthong crafts from Buriram Province; Tai Muang Phia enterprise group from Khon Kaen Province; and Kanom Jeeb Pha Ping from Trang Province.
As part of its plans for business development and expansion in the future, “Muang Sook Siam” at Iconsiam will launch a project called “Muang Sook Siam Academy” in 2020 as a springboard for rural entrepreneurs in Thailand to go international. The long-term plan, though, is to remain committed to supporting and pushing Thai entrepreneurs and their community products, both foods and crafts, onto the global stage.
“We want ‘Muang Sook Siam’ to be a source of pride for the Thai people, and be mentioned at the national level. This aim is driven by a strong focus on promotion and support from the private sector, which wants to distribute knowledge and income among local entrepreneurs producing community products. The project is in line with the government’s policy, which focuses on the development of knowledge, capability and income generation in rural communities, which will lead to overall growth of the economy in a sustainable way,” says Luckana.