Khun Chananyarak Phetcharat of DHL Express Thailand makes some fascinating points in her Bangkok Post article on Thailand's 4.0 prosperity and SME trade:
As she points out Thailand’s SME are an inexhaustible Thai goldmine for innovation and creativity – and from the DHL Spice Trade report double the growth from cross-border trade than the existing 80% of domestic trade.
UK exports and economic forecasts understandably but perhaps foolishly focuses on FTSE100 companies, themselves largely international in nature compared to more UK-based FTSE250. While ignoring both SME companies that constitute 99% of UK jobs - and startup companies that disproportionately drive both jobs and profits.
Thailand will no doubt have similar SME opportunities - particularly the 80% of the economy centred on agriculture. TDRI research highlights 68% of Thai farms under 20 rai yet already 90% are mechanised. With an agricultural version of Internet of Things Rangsit University has already shown yields can already be increased by a third in rice.
The internet - and DHL - are surely though the ideal vehicle to unleash a perfect storm of creativity and exports for Thailand. Perhaps structured across a quadrant of BKK, beyond BKK and intra-ASEAN or intra-EU. Thailand's excellent Kitchen of the World cuisine culture programmes for example could be retooled and enhanced through digital tech.
Knitting together the nation after the Charter Referendum would be beyond DHL alone but certainly galvanising regional trade from the North East to the North to the Deep South is very viable.
The Michelin guide has only just begun to rate Thai cuisine whether hi-so restaurants or street food - a massive opportunity for Thailand's cuisine culture perhaps similar to Italy's in its breadth and range.
In my East Kent politics role as Mayor and MP candidate (Stop the Pollution. Stop the Corruption. Stop the Construction) it would be remiss of me not to mention East Kent's burgeoning Cuisine Culture with the Sportsman gastropub in Whitstable and Stark in Broadstairs along with, of course, Suirn Thai restaurant (try the sea bass!) in The Good Food Guide.
UK's 15,000 Thai restaurants have slipped back to c.12,000 - an opportunity to redress the flow of talented labour and foodstuffs for companies such as DHL and BOI?
Why shouldn't for example Thailand's regional rice brands be a trading force to be reckoned with? The crop is 50% of all Thailand’s agricultural land. Isaan's red rice and black rice are still relatively unknown here in UK - and completely unknown in EU just a stepping stone away from East Kent, even with Kent's Dover as Europe's largest port, and nearby Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, as Europe's other largest ports.
Certainly Thailand's SME farms and foods have the capacity to support DHL's activity.
While STEM activity with say TRF and True Tech park would be the perfect blend of local origination and traceability that UK supermarkets such as Walmart-Asda and Waitrose and Tesco Lotus are crying out for, as are their customers.
How absurd for example to have Waitrose Thai chillies sourced from India(!) and neither Kent nor Thai orchids. While say Isaan red rice harvested from Nok's Farm on the edge of Sisaket and tracked through its DHL delivery to Birmingham airport and Manchester restaurants would be a sparkling innovation in traceablity.
## Digital Farms A Real World Thing? ###
While if agritech is the leading promise of the Internet of Things - you could just ask Siri if extra food yield of more use than a text from your fridge to buy milk - in sustainably managing Climate Change. And food yield with soil and pesticide management for the forecasted surge to 11BN hungry mouths to feed in the world, and Mars by 2030.
Thailand's SME farmers could be Digital Farmers at the forefront of maximising exports. While Khun Chananyarak at the wheel of the DHL fleet would be the key driver of not just autonomous and electric vehicles but also boosting Thailand's crucial auto parts industry - and UK companies such as Unipart and Nissan Sunderland - for said vehicles.
Khun Chananyarak would no doubt be welcomed with open arms by DHL UK CEO Ian Wilson in boosting activity and jobs at DHL's UK hub at Heathrow. And the existing Kasetsart and Newcastle Universities' expanding engineering departments under Chi Onwurah MP's Shadow Cabinet Industrial Strategy.
While the ongoing debate around Heathrow expansion, marshalled through Parliament by dynamic Transport Chair Louise Ellman - the world's busiest airport getting busier - throws into perspective other UK feeder airports.
Gatwick and Stansted and Birmingham and Liverpool's John Lennon airport - and Mersey port - are vital now and more so in the future for carriers such as DHL and Thai Air. Stansted in particular with 120,000 empty freight slots is part of the more focused UK transport debate needed for the 21st century.
Too many underperforming small airports and Heathrow as a giant is unsustainable? Gatwick apart from the frenzied blip of Summer charter flights is so empty it could restage the iconic Ronaldo Nike ads in the airport for real. There’s certainly more space than the Turkish Airlines Man Utd version on a plane, if not a full cricket match along the concourse.
Certainly progressive companies such as DHL and Thai Air would be hungry for the first crop of new landing slots at UK airports while concerned for their staff and customers from the Manston-Infratil scandal (along with Stagecoach and KLM) at Wellington airport. NZ lamb and wine perhaps an easy option to replace with Siam Winery, and Folkestone or Australian lamb for better food standards and better food miles.
The currently disused/closing US Air Force real estate in Sussex, a mere airdrop away from Stansted, could be a potential welcome windfall for the US tax payer with a UK strategic overview of passenger and freight aviation beyond Brexit.
While Amazon's new warehouse sites at Bristol Severn Beach with 1,000 new jobs, as well as Daventry and Doncaster and Warrington and Tilbury (one to watch) plus Amazon's 13 existing UK sites and 24,000 jobs (and Bezos buyout plans for USA grocer Whole Foods) would be pleased to hear of Khun Chananyarak’s expanded logistics plans.
As would the UK High Street now delivering on the promise of Argos-style clicks and mortar gradually being revived via Amazon parcel collection points.
No doubt so would dynamic Tilbury (again) MP/Lords Margaret Hodge - always keen to roll up her sleeves to help the docks in her constituency - formerly of Parliament's audit committee and Garden Bridge review/cancellation would no doubt be keen to support both Bristol's MP Jack Lopresti and Sajid Javid's Midlands Engine of the car industry.
In my advertising experience of Audi etc, auto parts are already a key, neglected, SME supply chain for both UK and Thailand with dynamic companies such as the afore-mentioned Unipart capitalising on a consistent flow of products whether just in time or scheduled well in advance. Nissan Sunderland now slating the new Qashqai for delivery along with Oxford's new Mini amongst a buoyant UK and German car industry.
### TG Tips Isn't Tea ###
Parliament's Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle isn't the only supporter of Chorley market, perhaps second only to Ramsgate market, for fresh foodstuffs and a refreshing day out. Apt that Blackrod is just down the road.
While Lancashire's mills or the silkmakers of nearby Macclesfield are the first beneficiaries of cottage industry piecework that fabricated the modern world in the Industrial Revolution (UK 1.0?) so why shouldn't DHL Thailand be the 21st century enabler of Thai design and clothing as well as pineapples?
And the end of the Rolls Royce corruption is case reassuring for a former Rolls Royce supply chain teaboy like myself schooled in my father's workshop making Concorde parts. He did the precision engineering care of Derby and I did the tea care of Typhoo or PG.
While DHL need take no lessons from Fedex or others on their perishable cold chain warehouses and supply chain already in place - and ideal for the surge in vaccines needed for AMR, Flu and Bird Flu pandemics, and UNSDG goals for Dengue, Malaria and HIV and TB of course.
### Drinking In Rice? ###
TB is the scourge of Thailand, and London as the TB capital of Europe. And, beyond logistics, as with Cancer(s) and Dementia, there’s a monstrous failure of government policy in not ensuring pharma STEM research in every one of UK's 130 universities.
While the current Bird Flu outbreak in the Philippines has been rapidly alerted by the authorities in contrast to the current Netherland's egg scare or previous turkey bird flu - a concerning lack of effort from UK and EU Disaster Response Emergencies. And lack of speed in warehousing and airfreighting vaccines.
DHL can't deliver vaccines if the pharma industry isn't making them, nor the universities researching them.
While the UK contaminated blood scandal of 3,000 deaths from USA skid row donors, bravely highlighted by Ramsgate and Broadstairs sufferers amongst others, is an accident waiting to happen again in Vietnam with its new paid donors scheme.
Blood and organs are surely long overdue DHL input to Resilience and SAR disaster efforts - UK expats in Thailand and Thai expats and visitors in UK must surely want to know that the relevant stocks are in place from Bumrungrad to Birmingham General hospitals?
And with my Surin Schools Charity hat on wouldn't DHL be the perfect real-world link with schools across Isaan and UK? It seems a crying shame for UK schoolbooks to be pulped rather than shipped abroad to deliver on English as ASEAN's second language?
No doubt keener Thai - or Myanmar - pupils would make do with old copies of the Argos catalogue as reading material, when their smartphone battery gives out, in the absence of anything else?
But why shouldn't the new season's rice be as exciting for DHL Aviation as the Beaujolais Run to rush the new season's French wine to UK tables? While the lime growers of Can Tho in Vietnam and Veracruz, Mexico (and their avocado compadres of the UK food fad) would no doubt be reassured in DHL efforts on foodstuffs. Both fighting for space on the DHL fleet along with the pineapple growers of Hua Hin and Chantaburi.
The seeds of such SME growth are already blooming in Thailand through the diligent efforts of Thai Farmers Bank and BOI - the former embarrassing the UK agricultural industry struggling with just NFU Mutual batting for them against rural crime, ageing famers and tech investment.
Beyond DHL Heathrow, Cardiff airport is already the 24-7 hub for Thai food exports, while Tilbury (again) port in Essex is a constituent part of OBOR - as is Kent's Channel Tunnel and HS1 hispeed rail.
### Smooth As Silk Rail ###
Certainly OBOR, China's One Belt One Road, is a logistical innovation just 10 days now to London and Madrid from all points east of Chengdu and south of HongKong, and China's IT industry. Surely the latter also relevant for Thailand's electric vehicle and as well as IT industry and brand extensions for both Unipart and DHL?
Spain's climate-controlled trains are already fast tracking their way through Europe and Asia, enhancing their exports of Iberian ham and wine.
Surely the absurdities of Brexit and Gibraltar will be put aside for Sevilla connections through a Gibraltar rail bridge/tunnel to connect with Morocco's hispeed rail (the first in Africa) across to Cairo and down to Senegal.
The Sarkozy Mediterranean Partnership (a Peartnership?) would be more fully in place for EU accession along with Cape2Cairo links to South Africa, unleashing the East African seaboard and markets (also oriented eastwards) and quashing the spectre of famine and malnutrition.
The OBOR East African ports reducing the logjam of the Suez Canal, and shortening sail time to India and ASEAN. And the current Port Sudan and Jeddah hispeed rail links a further capacity option to Indi and Bangladesh and ASEAN.
DHL Rail could be a spur to coherent expansion of ASEAN hispeed rail - tons of rice may be uneconomic by air, and slow and perishable by sea, but lightning fast when running on rail.
### Beyond Organic Growth ###
Cambodian SME farms are already growing fast on organic food. UK's dynamic ambassador Bill Longhurst launching the Khmer Organic Farming Cooperative just last week. And Kampot pepper an EU GI status designation sourced by UK's top chefs such as Jamie Oliver.
Those SME pineapple growers must be licking their lips at the potential in their backyard - if only DHL could get them to market. I'd dig out my pineappley Hawaiian shirt for that. Wouldn't we all especially the Caribbean Commonwealth?
Usain Bolt has already got off to a flying start with his Tracks and Records restaurants expanding, with Franjam and SME Group, into UK with 15 restaurants planned to serve up a taste of Jamaica. Jamaican cuisine perhaps as neglected as Thai cuisine in UK. Rice and peas are clearly solid and in-demand staples from Kingston to Kanchanaburi.
Thailand's rubber growers would no doubt also be happier at the potential for UK car tyres and bumpers than pouring the precious liquid into the roads.
A view no doubt supported by the new UK Business Council under the dynamic guidance of foodie entrepreneur Luke Johnson of Pizza Express and Patisserie Valerie, and curing Colon and Liver cancers in his spare time with his Institute of Cancer Research, and Paul Polman of Unilever and Lifebuoy soap and other FMCG goods.
All those DHL-boosted restaurants would need extra ingredients, as well as soap and washing up liquid and washing powder?
Thailand's silk industry though should surely also be jostling for space in DHL's SME programmes whether for the fast fashion of Europe's High Streets, or the couture capitals of London, Paris and Milan.
And DHL Thailand could be feted for gearing up the SME designers of Chatuchak market for Camden market. A massive opportunity in unleashing the street fashion and designers that London and Bangkok are renowned for.
A DHL Silk Bus touring Isaan and its silk banks and OTOP tambons, and sharing tips and techniques, must be as viable as the Thailand Post or Royal Mail Postbus? Standing room only probably with weaving films on the top deck?
And how wonderful if DHL and Thailand Post cooperated on expanding the smart yellow digital postboxes of Phitsanulok for AR (multilingual) tourism and collection points?
And a dedicated DHL Silk Train (the Marco Polo DHLexpress?) would be all too apt for the new Silk Road that first cemented Eurasian prosperity.
Khun Chananyarak would no doubt be reluctant to have 10 days out of the office riding the silk rails to Europe, via the UK and Thai embassies, but wouldn't a tweet commentary through Central Asia and Europe and onto London, or even Leicester's King Power stadium be interesting to kick off the DHL SME activity?
Certainly the football stadium hasn't yet been built that could hold the hundreds of thousands of SME businesses in UK and Thailand that could benefit from DHL and Khun Chananyarak's efforts.