By The Nation
Thailand has attracted growing international interest as a regional hub for digital
businesses due to its advantageous geographical location at the centre of mainland Southeast Asia, its large domestic and mobile-smart population, and its improved
political stability. In addition, the country has quickly laid down a competitive infrastructure for the digital economy and society,
especially in terms of an efficient 4G mobile network and ongoing plans to install Internet access points in all rural villages to avoid a digital divide.
All of these factors have encouraged e-commerce, social media and other digital-business giants around the world to explore opportunities here in connection with potential leverages which could be extended to cover the neighbouring CLMV market – Cambodia, Laos Myanmar and Vietnam.
Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, is a case in point. It plans to open a regional centre in Malaysia that’s positioned to cover Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei, while Thailand is being eyed as the hub for the CLMV market. In this context, Thailand has a competitive logistical infrastructure for the transportation of goods that need to be delivered across borders in a relatively short time in this
Besides Alibaba, JD.com, another Chinese e-commerce juggernaut, is poised to take on the Thai market in partnership with the Central Department Store group, which is moving into the online marketplace quickly to meet consumer expectations in the Internet era.
JD.com intends to turn Thailand into its regional e-commerce hub in Southeast Asia, with plans to set
up big data and cloud-computing facilities here while using commercial drones as part of its logistic operations.
Both Jack Ma, the Alibaba founder, and Richard Liu, the JD.com founder, are due to visit Thailand next month to advance their business and investment plans here. The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which covers Rayong, Chon Buri and Chachoengsao provinces, is their shared target area. In addition to these two Asian giants, Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder and its major shareholder, was supposed to be coming for a visit on October 30. Though the social network has since denied this report, a visit makes sense, since Facebook is hugely popular in Thailand, one of its biggest markets in the world.
As Facebook gears up to expand in social media and related businesses, Thailand figures prominently on its strategy map due to the huge population of Facebook users who are moving into the era of social commerce. Facebook is also expanding into the virtual reality (VR) market, with one of its first VR devices about to debut in many countries around the world, including Thailand. Hence, Zuckerberg sees a strong market potential in Thailand as a hub for further expansion into other regional markets. While the Thai government may be serious about national security issues with regard to the use of its social media platform, the US digital business giant is probably more optimistic on the business front.
At this stage it remains unclear whether Zuckerberg’s October 30 visit has been cancelled or put off to another date, but in the end, the social-media mogul is likely to come here to further his platform’s business interests in a vibrant, mobile-smart market like Thailand.