Published on August 14, 2007
When he was young, Wiwat Wongwarawipat liked to study science and was in the habit of inventing things so he could explore new experiences for himself. These attributes led him to become a developer of computer hardware and software, eventually setting up a company to undertake work outsourced by international operators, particularly those from Japan.
Wiwat is now president of the InStep Group, a local developer of innovative products for mobile devices, wireless communications and the communications-convergence markets.
"When I was in high school, I created an FM radio transistor and won an award," he says.
Oddly, the young electronics whizz began his academic learning in Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine. It took him a year of studies to realise he didn't want to be a doctor. His heart really lay in studying science and engineering.
That's why, when the Japanese government offered scholarships for students wishing to study in Japan, Wiwat decided to apply, but not as a medical student. He opted to study electrical engineering at Japan's University of Electro-Communications. He soon began a lengthy period of studies in Japan.
Wiwat proved to be not the kind of student who spends hours hunched over books. He sought out a part-time job in a field related to his studies.
"When I was a senior, I took a part-time job as a researcher and developer of integrated-circuit design for Ezel, a computer-graphics firm," Wiwat says. "I worked there for eight years, from my senior year until I graduated with a doctorate from the University of Tokyo."
Working for the Japanese firm taught him to understand the Japanese business culture and how to negotiate with Japanese businessmen.
"Japanese people work very hard," he says. "They spend all their energy and efficiency on their work and their business. Most of them also want to work behind the scenes, to support other people and perform teamwork. It was a good opportunity for me to gain experience there, so I could apply it to my business in Thailand."
Wiwat spent a total of 12 years in Japan, during which his studies took him to the leading edge of integrated-circuit technology. His attachment to Japan and its culture is such that when he has a problem and wishes to "refresh his life", he returns there to seek out solutions.
When he returned to Thailand after his studies, he joined a group of executives to set up a business providing e-education. But it foundered during the 1997 financial crisis, so he tried again, this time forming a company and hiring three staff members to develop a software programme related to image recognition, for Japanese businesses. He has since gone from strength to strength.
Wiwat has now established four companies employing a total of 250 and providing services to both local and international clients at a ratio of about 50:50. The four companies are Innova, Jowit, Design Gateway and Digicraft, providing software design, hardware design, embedded systems and animation and games, respectively.
To maintain the quality of its work and hold onto human resources, the InStep Group has created a career path for its staff so that they are confident and efficient in their work and have the capacity to develop products and services to support customers.
"We also offer inside and outside training to staff, so they can leverage their skills to cover technology trends and increase the productivity of the business," Wiwat says.
Moreover, the firm encourages complaints and suggestions from staff, in order to solve problems and create unity among its companies.