by Thomas Richard PrakasamMy trip to Bangkok in December to get feedback from the industry about the challenges and opportunities in Thailand, can be best summed up with the popular Thai expression, “Mai Pen Rai” (pronounced My Pin Rye). “Mai Pen Rai” can be interpreted to mean many things but generally the meaning is along the lines of “there’s no use crying over spilled milk” or “life goes on”.
Having faced natural disasters, financial crisis, political mayhem and coups over the past few years, the AV industry it seems, has adjusted itself accordingly as each scenario came along. There is still much uncertainty in the market, especially with planned elections to be held in 2017, but the industry players are taking matters in their stride, keeping their chins up and adapting to the situation.
Outlook for 2016
The impression from my interviews is that growth overall for the AV business is expected to be flat or show small growth in 2016.
Having said that, it seems that it also depends on which sector the AV company is involved in. The silver lining is, that all the interviewees have expressed confidence going forward albeit with some caution.
Sutat Kohkiat and Siri Wongkamolchun from Fuzion Far East Limited highlighted that their business has actually been growing every year within the installation and conferencing sectors. Having said that, they acknowledge that there are challenges and they will need to adapt accordingly.
Pradit Sirijindaphan, CTS, Managing Director of Green Technology Engineering Co., Limited, commented, “We are fortunate that we represent Kramer because they develop products fast which has in turn enabled us to grow. However for 2016, we see a narrow bandwidth – business will not go way up or down.”
Pradit adds, “In my opinion, Healthcare, Hospitality, Events & Venue as well as Education will grow with displays and control systems being the main solutions involved.”
On behalf of Vichai Trading 1983, Thitikorn Sopchokchai, Assistant Managing Director agreed with the general sentiments that growth will probably be flat for 2016.
“We do, however see some growth in the Education segment, as well as in the Events & Venue segments. In the Corporate segment, the Huddle Room concept is being influenced in Thailand, so we are expecting to see some growth in this aspect too.”
When asked what are the type of solutions that would be implemented most, Thitikorn feels that collaboration tools will lead the way.
“Huddle rooms and education spaces require such tools to be more effective,” added Thitikorn.
Reaffirming the opinions of Green Technology and Vichai, Praphan Piamjinda, Sales Manager at Ten Integrated System (Thailand) Co., Ltd, also feels that the Education segment offers good opportunities.
Having said that, Praphan also highlights that the Control Room business has been good for them, specifically for Government projects. “We are involved in a number of Government Control Room projects and Display and conferencing solutions have been at the core of what we have been involved with,” added Praphan.
Pongsakorn Kanchanachayphoom of Mahajak Development Co., Ltd, sitting in with Alan Archer, reiterated the general sentiments that flat growth is expected. However the company has seen substantial growth in the Cinema business. Once again the Education segment was brought up as one of the bright sparks for the country.
Electro Acoustic Design Group Co., Ltd (EAD) was established 19 years ago and prides itself as a design first company.
“ID, technology and budget design is what we are known for,” said Sugan Intrasut, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. “Thus, we are normally involved in the higher end projects. With the current economic situation, it has affected our high-end projects.”
Nevertheless, their work quality has also seen them involved in government projects revolving around the Education segment, which has kept them busy.
“We were recently brought in by the Architectural Department of the Chulalongkorn University to help them resolve issues related to submissions of plans and drawings by their students. These were done via paper and we helped them get into the digital realm, where they are seeing instant benefits,” said Sugan.
As part of their strategy to create businesses in niche markets, Fuzion recently took up distribution of Rode Microphones. This gives them the opportunity to target not only the Broadcast sector, but also those involved in production and studios.
“In addition the Rode solutions gives us the ability to target the Prosumer market as well,” added Siri. Just like Fuzion who are looking to create niche markets for themselves, Pradit believes that there is a need to be creative.
“We need to provide clients with a solution and not just sell. This will help us sell more and maintain our business.”
In this aspect, Green Technology recently upgraded the Digital Signage media players for King Power’s outlet in Phuket and Bangkok Airport. This enabled King Power to better manage their signages as the players installed previously comprised of mix brands that could not “talk” to each other. Having built the confidence with the King Power team, Green Technology is now discussing the possibility of implementing videowall solutions.
“We did not want to sell them a product but we saw opportunities for them to implement videowalls and thus we offered them a solution which has caught their attention for their marketing and branding strategy for their outlets,” said Pradit.
Pongsakorn Kanchanachayphoom on the other hand, highlights that Mahajak’s strategy as a group is actually more inward looking.
“Taking the cue from Harman’s strategic changes, we too are implementing changes internally. We will have specialists responsible for each vertical market. We are also in the midst of improving internal processes such as how we are communicating within the company – considering that we are a large company – this, we believe will help us streamline how we work in a more efficient manner. We are confident that the measures will help our productivity.”
To offer more to their clients, Mahajak has set up an internal production team to create Youtube training channel for their customers.
“We believe that this will be helpful to our customers and enable them to use our solutions more effectively. It is also in a way a marketing tool for us and may bring us more jobs,” said Pongsakorn. EAD, on the other hand is taking the route of expanding their solutions portfolio to including lighting and control solutions.
“Further to that, we are looking to offer more value to our clients by offering AV as a service, as an example, to manage their Digital Signage and Video conferencing facilities,” said Sugan.
Fuzion’s Sutat and Siri Wongkamolchun felt that the greatest challenge here is in educating the market.
“The market needs to understand the different solutions, how they can benefit their organisation or even as simple as why they are paying higher for some solutions and services,” said Sutat.
Obviously, it is not as easy as said. This is something that is actually faced across all countries in the region. Thitikorn of Vichai Trading 1983, added, “Economic conditions for sure is a challenge. However, looking long term, the lack of skilled manpower will be also be a challenge too. Not many young people are coming into the industry and this will be a problem in the future.”
Interestingly Thitikorn is one of the few young people to come into the industry. A similar sentiment on the lack of young people coming into the industry and lack of skilled manpower was highlighted by Praphan of Ten Integrated.
Additionally, Praphan of Ten Integrated also highlighted that the integration of AV into IT is another challenge.
“We need to understand the IT realm to better integrate our AV solutions, and with the world being connected through IT infrastructure, it is important for us as an industry to better understand IT.” Pongsakorn of Mahajak added, “The challenge for the industry is to also keep their people and to continuously upgrade their knowledge so that they are better informed and able to provide higher value to clients.”
It is true that Thailand has had a tough few years. It is remarkable that the AV industry has continued to evolve itself. There also seems to be little doubt that most feel that there will be flat growth this year.
The bright segment seems to be the Education sector. Digital signage too seems to have some momentum.
It is indeed a challenging time for Thailand but the ability to adapt to the situation should augur well for the industry.