Published on December 4, 2007
Jumrud Sawangsamud is one of those rare individuals who more than 20 years ago foresaw the important role information technology (IT) would play in Thai business and society.
He entered the information- and communications-technology (ICT) industry in 1986 while still a student at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lat Krabang. He is now regarded as one of Thailand's IT gurus. These days, he is CEO of International Research Corp (IRC), the company he formed as a raw graduate, and president of the Association of Thai ICT Industry (ATCI).
"I became interested in computer technology when I was studying at university," he says. "I also thought, then, that computer technology was set to be a technology trend in Thailand."
While still studying, he was hired to take care of the university's computer mainframe. As a result, he was able to study mainframe systems. Before graduating with a bachelor's degree from the university's Faculty of Computer Engineering, Jumrud's senior project was the development of a Thai display card - an electronic device that, when connected to a computer, enabled it to read and understand Thai.
"I was interested in Thai display-card development so that Thais would be able to make general and expanding use of computers in Thai," he says.
After graduating, Jumrud commercially developed his Thai display card. He set up International Research as a local hardware-development company. The first Thai display cards allowed computers to display Thai only on monochrome monitors.
Later, the firm researched and developed a Thai display card that supported MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows. The company was also appointed by Microsoft Thailand as distributor of Microsoft software licences to the Thai market.
"When I was young, I wanted to generate products of any kind that could be put to general use, so that Thais could use products made in Thailand, such as the Thai display card. I was also successful in distributing products to the ICT industry," Jumrud says.
He explains that the ICT industry in Thailand has undergone dynamic changes in following the lead of countries like the US, and because Thailand had no technology of its own, the life cycle of Thai products has been brief.
Therefore, the local ICT industry has been changed by outside factors, and businesses in that industry have had constantly to change and adjust, in order to support global developments.
Moreover, Jumrud says, local ICT businesses have needed the skills to make forecasts as far as three years into the future.
"In order to survive, local ICT businesses have needed the ability to change their business plans at any time to follow dynamic changes in the industry. They've also needed to change product development, as well as services, to support technical changes in the industry," he says.
Jumrud says the dynamic development of the industry has forced his company constantly to evaluate the ICT environment, business and industry. It is also ready to adjust its operations, in order to remain competitive.
IRC is now able to generate revenue of about Bt1.4 billion a year. In its first year 22 years ago, it made only Bt1 million. The firm's mission is to promote itself as a leader in Thailand's ICT industry.
"I'm always keen to learn and study anything new, or change the company's management so that it will be better able to compete, or evaluate our performance to make the firm more efficient," Jumrud says. "We adjust IRC's organisation every three years. At present, the corporation comprises eight business units, including two affiliates and a joint venture."
Jumrud is also president of the ATCI, Thailand's first professional IT trade association. Its corporate members collectively control 80 per cent of the overall Thai ICT market.
Jumrud sees his role as contributing information to the industry and enhancing ICT business throughout Thailand.
He says the ICT industry is expected to grow 10-15 per cent this year, three times faster than the market growth of 10 or 20 years ago. As many as 1.2 million personal computers are sold in Thailand each year, and there are now more than 7 million operating in the Kingdom - enough for one in every 10 Thais. The ICT market this year is valued at Bt350 billion.
He says the Thai ICT industry now has an opportunity to enter international markets, because local innovators are developing new products, such as animation, software and services.