Firms rejig to survive in lean times

Firms rejig to survive in lean times

From second left are Mr Jarun, Mrs Sumalee and Mr Chaiwat at a panel discussion at the Forbes Thailand forum on Monday. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Businesses adopted cost reduction, increased productivity, and emphasised environmental standards to cope with the pandemic and global challenges stemming from the Russia-Ukraine war, panellists told the Forbes Thailand 2022 Forum on Monday.

Executives shared their insight at the event hosted by Forbes Thailand magazine as they prepare for the second half of the year.


Pawat Vitoorapakorn, chief executive of Eastern Polymer Group Plc (EPG), Thailand’s leading plastic moulder, said the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is expected to drastically affect global oil prices for the whole year.

This will have a knock-on effect for the global prices of fertiliser and commodities, as well as keeping people’s living and production costs relatively high, said Mr Pawat.

“Given such challenges in combination with the persistent pandemic, businesses are likely to encounter great volatility, uncertainties, complexity and ambiguity, causing a quagmire,” he said.

“But we have to live with such changes.”

EPG has factories scattered in every region throughout the world, requiring close and efficient collaboration with all offices to overcome the crisis, said Mr Pawat.

He said during the Covid-19 outbreaks, the company adopted the “USE” policy: utilise resources; save on expenses; and adopt performance efficiency. This policy helped to minimise costs and increase productivity once it was applied for the entire business, said Mr Pawat.

EPG also works to make the most of current technologies and adapt to new lifestyle products, while still supporting society and being environmentally friendly, he said.

The company adopted measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among employees and attempted to reduce the severity of the impact on business operations, said Mr Pawat.

EPG also worked to develop innovative products to help reduce the spread of Covid-19, he said.


Sumalee Kristarnin, country president of Novartis (Thailand) and oncology general manager of Novartis, the Switzerland-based pharmaceutical firm, said the company sees a future trend in the increasing interest in health by an ageing population.

She said the pharmaceutical industry is primed to answer to such demand.

“Disruption from the pandemic created a change in the healthcare business. Both government and the private sector need to provide information to the general public as fast as possible to help them keep up with new diseases,” said Mrs Sumalee.

She said a new innovation is targeted therapy, which targets cell levels, helping cancer patients to improve their health with low risks.

“Sustainability in the pharmaceutical business includes innovations that can improve guidelines on healthcare services, including diagnosis and treatment, as well as building human resources. Novartis consistently promotes local talents to improve their skills overseas and incubates Thai scientists,” said Mrs Sumalee.


Wandee Khunchornyakong Juljarern, chief executive of SPCG Plc, is upbeat about the company’s business during the oil price surge because it can save on costs as SPCG pushes ahead with clean energy projects.

A shift to renewable energy sources such as sun and wind will help businesses depend less on fossil fuels and avoid their price fluctuations, she said.

SPCG is a pioneer in solar farm development in Thailand.

Mrs Wandee said her company is benefiting from a weaker yen, caused by the Russia-Ukraine war. The currency depreciation helps SPCG save on capital expenditure for development of two on-ground solar farms in Japan. The company plans to allocate 3 billion baht for the projects.

“We can save almost 200 million baht on the two projects,” Mrs Wandee told participants in a panel discussion titled “The Next Challenge”.

The two projects are the 44-megawatt South Miyako and the 480MW Ukujima Mega solar projects. They are expected to begin operations in February 2023 and July 2024, respectively.

SPCG continues to develop more Thai solar farms, even as the adder tariff granted to its 36 solar farms gradually expire.

The adder tariff of 8 baht per kilowatt-hour (unit) given to these solar farms, with a combined capacity of 260MW, is scheduled to expire between 2020 and 2024.

The adder tariff is an incentive allowing companies to sell electricity produced by clean fuels to the state grid at higher prices — a rate of 12 baht per unit. Once the adder tariff expires, the power tariff rate decreases to 4 baht per unit.

She encouraged firms to consider installing rooftop solar panels to help save on electricity bills in the long term. The power cost for rooftop solar panels is expected to be less than two baht per unit during 25 years of operation, compared with four baht per unit from the state grid.

The power tariff, which determines the price of electricity bills, is also expected to increase following the prolonged Russia-Ukraine dispute, said Mrs Wandee.


Chaiwat Nantiruj, group chief executive of Eka Global, a longevity packaging manufacturer, said he believes a shift to environmentally friendly products in other industries will ensure sustainable growth for businesses in the long term.

Eka Global develops post-consumer recycled resin, also known as PCR resin.

The material is made from recycled plastic such as water bottles and some other packaging materials. Mr Chaiwat said PCR resin and other biodegradable materials will reduce use of single-use plastic.

Manufacturers need to think more about environmental issues, especially climate change, because they are important to consumers, he said.

“The company aims to be a leader specialising in eco-friendly package manufacturing,” Mr Chaiwat told a panel discussion.

“We are confident our innovations and high technology will support and enable us to reach the goal.”

The impact of the pandemic caused people to change the way they work, while the Russia-Ukraine war is driving up oil prices and causing trouble for global supply chains, he said.

Mr Chaiwat said longevity packaging is becoming more popular as people want products that are convenient and safe.

He said longevity packaging fits new work lifestyles when people are in quarantine or need to work from home to avoid infection from Covid-19.

“The company is in the process of developing new packaging products to serve the demand,” said Mr Chaiwat.


Jarun Wiwatjesadawut, chief executive of J.R.W. Utility Plc, a service provider for electrical power, telecoms and IT systems, said cybersecurity and electric vehicle (EV) industries are driving changes for utilities.

The government should adjust its energy plan to gain from optimum utilisation under the BCG (bio-, circular and green) economic model, as well as create a fundamental base to foster new opportunities in the country, he said.

The utilities sector has been affected by unpredictable factors such as the pandemic, said Mr Jarun.

ICT infrastructure is challenged by increasingly complicated cyberthreats including ransomware, malware and fraud, he said. For electric infrastructure, it is affected by EV development.

The pandemic caused supply chain disruptions, while the cost of raw materials has surged, Mr Jarun said.

People spend more time using ICT and electricity infrastructure in the new lifestyle trends, he said.

J.R.W. Utility has been working with Energy Absolute to study ways to ease the limitation of 300 kilowatts per electric charge, aiming to expand the utilisation of EVs in mass transport in the country, said Mr Jarun.

The BCG model is presented as a compulsory rule for businesses and services, he said. The Thai government believes the BCG model could lead to the country meeting its UN Sustainable Development Goals through the promotion of sustainable agriculture, clean energy and responsible consumption and production, ensuring the conservation and sustainable utilisation of biodiversity, as well as protecting the environment and ecosystem.

Although Thailand has promoted biodiesel, it has been criticised for forest invasion and forced to adapt to greener diesel, said Mr Jarun.

“If we ignore the international standards in line with BCG, we will definitely be forced by regulations involving carbon credits and climate change,” he said.