Helping Small Thai Businesses Make the Most of the Internet for e-Commerce

Small and medium-sized (SME) businesses in Thailand are facing challenges in the effective use of the Internet for marketing their goods and services. Many companies have brochure-type Web pages that are not adequate in providing the information needed to promote their businesses and expand their lists of customers. Making the most of the Internet for e-Commerce involves entirely news ways of marketing and selling.

To address this challenge, a seminar on “e-Commerce solutions for Thai SMEs” was convened in Bangkok, Thailand, from June 4th to June 9, 2004. The objective of the seminar was to impart practical skills and to share lessons learned from successful companies that faced challenges similar to those faced by Thai SMEs. The seminar was funded by USAID/ANE Bureau and implemented by the dot-GOV program.

Seminar Participants Participation in the Seminar
Participants in the seminar included 23 individuals from 17 companies, selected on the basis of a pre-seminar survey. The participants represented a wide range of firms, from small start-up to larger IT providers with several hundred employees, as well as two customer firms, a business-to- business organization, and a small business-to-consumer company. The USAID/Thailand Mission provided lists of Thai companies that would potentially have an interest in participating in the seminar. The Kenan Institute-Asia was subcontracted to administer the surveys as well as organize and provide logistics for the seminar.

Seminar Delivery & Content
The seminar was delivered by consultants from the Scarsdale Group, an experienced US e-commerce firm, two volunteers from the Australian Information Industry Association (a member of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance), and Ms. Judith Payne, e-commerce/e-business Advisor, USAID/EGAT Bureau.

The seminar consisted in presentations by the consultants, group exercises, followed by short one- on-one meetings with the consultants. Topics included challenges to growing a business, the evolution of how technology is used in business, identifying the competition, and understanding the customer.

Typical of small IT firms anywhere, many of the participants did not really know much about their target customers, nor the key value they offered these customers. Several of the participant companies had impressive marketing approaches, which were used as illustrative examples and provided local context.

The importance of business alliances was emphasized throughout the workshop and participants shared their own experiences with alliances, good and bad. The last session of the seminar took the form of peer assistance, with individual participants being asked to review a fellow participant’s critical marketing challenge and to suggest recommendations for address it.

Results & Lessons Learned
The participants rated the seminar as useful and especially appreciated the concrete case studies and the one-on-one sessions offered by the consultants to critique each firm’s website or marketing approach. These sessions were rated as particularly useful because the consultants were able to use the Internet to illustrate key points.

Future seminars of this nature should be co-sponsored by local IT Associations, so there can be follow-on workshops for members, as well as helping to build the services offered by the IT Associations.

Internews was awarded the Using ICT for Development Across the ASEAN Region on August 27, 2003. The project lasts for 24 months (Associate Cooperative Agreement No. RAN-A-00-03-000050-00 under the dot-GOV Leader Award No. GDG-A-00-01-00009-00).

For More Information, Contact:
Alejandro Bermudez-Del-Villar
Program Associate, dot-GOV
Internews Network
Tel: 202 883 5740 x 205

Judith Payne
eBusiness, eGov, eCommerce Applications, EGAT/I&E/ICT
United States Agency for International Development
Tel: 202 712 0168

Jonathan Metzger
Director, Information Technology and Applications Center
Academy for Educational Development

Related Resource Partners
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Asia and Near East - Using ICT for Development Across the ASEAN Region (e-ASEAN Support)
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