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Grief sweeps across crowd at Siriraj Hospital

Posted by pakin On October - 14 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

The grief of thousands reverberated throughout the grounds of Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok yesterday evening following the news that His Majesty the King had died – a scene echoed nationwide.

After the official announcement of the King’s death from the Bureau of the Royal Household at around 7pm, the outpouring of grief at the hospital began, with many learning of his passing on social media. They shouted: “Long live the King”.

All day yesterday at the hospital, people sat on the ground around a monument of His Majesty the King’s father and wept. Some passed out. Nurses performed first aid.

“Please don’t leave us,” screamed a tearful Pornprapa Srisang, a 43- year-old businesswoman, who arrived at the hospital late yesterday afternoon. “Please wake up and stay with your people. You just sleep, I know. You are so tired and you just fall asleep. Please stay with us.”

Waraporn Sertsurin, a 28-year-old corporate employee from Bangkok, had refused to believe the rumour that the King was dead, which spread until about 7pm.
After composing themselves, people sang royal songs expressing their best wishes for the King before shouting relentlessly: “May the King go to heaven”.

The singing continued for almost half-an-hour before fading as the crowds descended into a quiet period of mourning.

Some tried to edge closer to the hospital, while others thought they saw a curtain close in a hospital room. It could not be confirmed it was the room where the King had been treated.

At 9pm, some people began to leave the hospital grounds, while others stayed and continued to sing the royal songs and shout: “Long live the King”.

Nationwide, millions of people simultaneously were grief stricken. Several residents in the far Western Tak province, who were praying with monks in temples, burst into tears after learning the news.

In Chiang Mai, people had followed reports on the King’s health in major venues including the busy markets via TV, before falling into silence upon learning of his death. The old city went quieter than usual.

Ubon Ratchathani resident Supit Phongsri was shocked by the news, and struggled to accept it.

“I feel today is the saddest day in my life, but I do wish he rests in peace and goes to heaven,” Supit said.

A retired Royal Irrigation Department chief who worked for His Majesty, Pramote Maiklad, said he felt very lucky to have had the chance to serve him closely.

Pramote said that in the King he saw genius, which he wholeheartedly embraced as a guide for his own life.

“His Majesty the King was very knowledgeable and masterful,” he said. “He was also extremely patient, not giving things up easily. And more importantly, he worked well with others for the best outcomes.”

Rattana Vejjanchai, a civil official, wished that the news of the King’s death was not true but she would continue to follow in his footsteps – working for the people without thinking of herself.

State agencies including the Secretariate of the House of Representatives, praised His Majesty the King as a champion of democracy.

The Office of the Prime Minister issued an instruction to government officials nationwide to wear black to mourn the King for one year and fly flags at half mast for 30 days.

KPN Motor has listing in sights

Posted by pakin On August - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

KPN Motor Car Co says its ambitious plan to list on the Stock Exchange of Thailand is still on track despite unfavourable conditions including a slow economic recovery.

Founder Keattisak Keeratiyakornsakul said the company’s two main businesses, assembly and distribution of taxis, and tyre distribution, have performed strongly with about 1 billion baht in combined revenue.

Mr Keattisak, who is also managing director, said KPN Motor is conducting a feasibility study to offer hire-purchase loans to taxi drivers who want to buy their own vehicles.

He said at least four financial companies have offered to serve as financial advisers and offer loans for the company to manage hire purchase, an activity that will strengthen the financial status of KPN Motor.

At present, the business of taxi-assembly and selling taxicabs has a small margin of only 3-5%, but financial services are likely to create higher profit, according to Mr Keattisak.

He said before listing the company on the bourse, KPN should operate a hire-purchase business, together with taxi assembly and tyre distribution.

The company has no connection with KPN Group Corporation, a conglomerate owned by the Narongdej family.

KPN Motor Car was formed in 2000 by Mr Keattisak as a small auto-parts trader before expanding into the wholesale trade for auto parts for Toyota.

The company later expanded into selling several tyre brands. Its distribution channels includes two outlets and an online platform.

In 2008, it started to assemble and distribute taxicabs. Since then, the company has distributed more than 5,000 units, said Mr Keattisak.

The competition in the taxi-assembly business is intense with a number of assemblers.

However, the potential remains strong thanks to the growing demand for replacement taxis in Bangkok and Greater Bangkok.

The number of taxis in the metropolitan area totalled 97,766 with 72,439 drivers as of April, according to the Land Transport Department. In 2015, new registered taxis rose by 23.1% to 9,409 units in Bangkok and Greater Bangkok.

About 10,000 taxicabs need to be replaced every year as the average lifetime of a taxicab is only nine years.

KPN’s taxicabs are sold via 25 outlets in Bangkok and vicinities, 20 of which are partnerships with Toyota dealers and gas installers. The rest are run by KPN.

Toyota’s Altis is a popular model for taxi assembly and the model sells at 800,000 to 900,000 baht a unit.

Other models from Toyota such as the Innova, Camry and Fortuner are also available.

Mr Keattisak expects to sell 1,000 taxicabs this year.

After listing on the stock market, Mr Keattisak said the company will expand into property development with its first project, a low-rise condominium on Pradit Manutham Road, scheduled to start construction in 2019.

“Urbanisation and new mass-transit routes in Greater Bangkok are positive factors for the property sector to develop both residential and commercial projects,” he said.

Nissan’s new models aim to drive growth

Posted by pakin On August - 3 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Nissan Motor (Thailand) aims to raise its market share to double digits by 2018 from 5.6% now.

President Kazutaka Nambu, who yesterday outlined the Japanese carmaker’s mid-term plan ending in 2018, said Nissan plans to launch five new models by 2018 to help boost market share.

He said the company is also confident in the strong fundamentals of Thailand’s car market and expects it to recover to hit annual sales of 1 million vehicles again in 2020.

“Although the current market has been hit hard by massive car sales driven by the first-time car buyer scheme that expired in 2012, the market remains full of potential for Nissan to grow its sales and market share,” Mr Nambu said.

Under its three-year plan, Nissan will also focus more on upgrading its dealership network and after-sales service.

According to marketing consultant J.D. Power’s survey of the customer service index for Thailand’s automotive market in the mass segment, Nissan was ranked sixth with 858 points.

Honda and Toyota were ranked top with 882 points each, with Isuzu third on 875 points.

Mr Nambu said Nissan would develop its 200 outlets and service centres nationwide to move up to the top three in the near future.

For the fiscal year that started in April, Nissan is also upbeat about achieving sales growth of 2% to 50,000 vehicles, with market share up by 0.5% to 7%.

However, Nissan reported its sales dropped by 5.2% from April to June to 10,392 vehicles.

“The overall market is expected to shrink by 7-8% this year to only 740,000 units,” Mr Nambu said. “The market is expected to recover from next year.”

Nissan reported its highest sales during fiscal 2012 with 138,000 vehicles, propelled by the first-time car buyer scheme, before dropping to 74,000 in 2013.

Nissan sold 56,600 vehicles in its 2014 fiscal year, down 23.5%.

Nissan reported last month that its eco-car production had passed 500,000 vehicles, comprised of the March and Almera models. Its plant in Samut Prakan started to make eco-cars in March 2010.

Some 50% of the output was for export to 13 countries including Japan.

Although the parent firm has yet to disclose plans for Nissan’s eco-car expansion, it remains committed to production.

Inefficiency and resistance to change in the state enterprise sector have long been notorious. The latest case in point is the mandated restructuring of TOT and CAT Telecom.

Both units have been hit hard by rapid changes in the telecom sector over the past few decades, making it necessary for them to embrace drastic changes. But some 15,000 employees at TOT and another 6,000 workers at CAT Telecom are reluctant to fall in line.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha threatened to take strong action against those opposed to the changes as ordered by the State Enterprise Policy Committee or Superboard, after union leaders and some executives did not cooperate with the Superboard mandate.

Basically, TOT and CAT Telecom have to merge their network operations to stay competitive within the next year, meaning transmission and fibre-optic sub-units will be combined as a new unit, the National Broadband Network Co, while their Internet gateway and submarine cable networks will be merged as Neutral Gateway Network Co.

Last but not least, the separate data centre operations will be merged as IDC Co.

However, TOT’s and CAT Telecom’s service units will remain separate operations as holding companies.

Employee unions and some senior executives have voiced their strong opposition to the drastic restructuring mandate.

Unless the two agencies are quickly reorganised, they will be heading for bankruptcy. TOT is especially vulnerable, as its revenues have dropped sharply as lucrative earnings from previous telecom concessions are coming to an end. The company has 15,000 workers.

Both agencies enjoyed an easy time for decades as the recipients of billions of baht in concession fees and shared revenues from privately-owned telecom companies which introduced mobile phone services to Thailand.

Now, their future depends on the competencies of management and workers in the highly-competitive technology-driven marketplace.

The combined assets of transmission and fibre optics are highly valuable as they are the core of the country’s national broadband network, which has the potential to take advantage of the fast-growing demand for telecom and digital services.

They are also highly prized by Internet gateway and data centre operations and could be leveraged to gain from the country’s rapidly-evolving digital economy.

Most TOT and CAT employees have little reason to fear for their future under the restructuring.

Gone, however, are the days of the easygoing work culture of state-owned agencies as these transformed units and their leadership need to adopt a more private-sector-like management style and mentality to stay relevant in the digital era.

Thailand Post is a good example of such a successful transformation. Previously, it was part of the Communications Authority of Thailand or CAT. Now, it is a competitive and a highly-profitable operator in the fast-growing e-commerce sector.

In the first half of 2015, Thailand Post reported profits of Bt1.3 billion on revenues of about Bt11 billion, with parcel delivery services accounting for nearly half of total revenues.

The company seems destined to enjoy high growth along the path of a sustained e-commerce boom in coming years.

TOT and CAT Telecom also have similar potential and they need to look at Thailand Post as an inspiration for change and renewed prosperity.

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