Interview: Google discusses focus on Thailand, possible Bangkok office

More observant readers will have noticed that Google is making a big push in Thailand this month having launched a series of television commercials and increased its local visibility with TV and print media interviews, event appearances and a press event (which I disappointed to be unable to attend...this time).
Written by Dwight Turner, Contributor

More observant readers will have noticed that Google is making a big push in Thailand this month having launched a series of television commercials and increased its local visibility with TV and print media interviews, event appearances and a press event (which I disappointed to be unable to attend...this time).

The media interviews and TVCs are part of the company's "Better Web, Better World" campaign which centres around their Web browser Chrome, but is aimed at promoting a broader topic of how the Internet can enchance, help and improve everyday life--I'll post more on the campaign itself at a later date.

Given the recent activities and her hectic schedule, I'm grateful that Pornthip Kongchun, Thailand head of marketing for Google Southeast Asia (SEA), took some time out to answer a number of questions which I posed to her over e-mail.

If you're wondering whether the company increased activity in Thailand will see them open an office and new job openings, or if your curious as to why the company is focusing on Thailand, read on for Khun Pornthip's responses on these topics and more.

--- Q: Google dominates the local search market and is one of the most known Web companies in Thailand. With that backdrop of success, what are your current initiatives in the country Our focus in Thailand in 2011 can be summed in four key areas:

  • Helping Thai users access useful and relevant information;
  • Developing innovative products for Thailand that meet the needs of Thai consumers
  • Supporting the creation of Thai content; and
  • Helping Thai businesses become more competitive and leveling the playing field for SMEs with the power of the Web.
  • Our most recent initiative was the launch of "The Web Is What You Make It" campaign for Google Chrome, celebrating every day people in Thailand and around the world, pairing their passion and creativity with the power of the Web to do amazing things.

    How do you believe Google can help businesses in Thailand? In line with our four focus areas, we want to help Thai businesses become more competitive and level the playing field for SMBs (small and midsize businesses).

    Thousands of Thai businesses already use Google products--Search, AdWords, Google Maps, Google Apps and Google Mobile Apps--as a core part of their business.

    For example, businesses with or without a Web site can get a free Google Place page on Google Maps and post pertinent information about their stores which then shows up in relevant search results, making their businesses more discoverable. With over 2.9 million SMBs in Thailand, the ecosystem is substantial, yet less than 10 percent are online. We see significant opportunities to work with Thai business to help them go online and grow.

    We currently work with local partners to sustain the online advertising ecosystem in Thailand including our local resellers of Google AdWords, ReadyPlanet and Webanatics, as well as a local call center, CAT, which guides first time AdWords users on creating online ad campaigns.

    Given the country's pronounced digital divide, how will your approach to communicate with your target audience in Bangkok differ from those in less urban areas? At Google, we leverage a variety of channels to communicate with people. We're not limited to just one approach and we frequently tailor our communications for the best possible reach.

    Our latest campaign, "The Web Is What You Make It" from Google Chrome is a good example of how we are communicating to Thai people through a combination of online and offline channels, including traditional print, TV and radio.

    Google is well-known for its initiatives promoting greater accessibility to the Web, for example the Google DNS. Do you have any programs in place to tackle the digital divide in Thailand? We're always exploring partnership opportunities in this area but we don't have anything to announce at this time in Thailand.

    On the mobile side of things, Android has so much potential for developing markets but it comes up against stiff, more established competition in the shape of the iPhone and BlackBerry. How are things developing in Thailand? We've been pleased with progress so far. We're seeing really interesting devices from manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, and Sony Ericsson. Globally, there's a lot of momentum behind Android, which shows the value of an open platform--90 compatible devices, 200,000 new users every day, and 4-times growth in mobile search over the past year alone.

    Many multinationals often place priority in markets other than Thailand when tackling SEA, with language and lack of infrastructure likely motivators. How does Thailand fit with Google's regional plan? Google is committed to Thailand--whether through our products, services or our investment in people and infrastructure.

    Thailand represents a significant opportunity for Google within the emerging markets of SEA and we're investing here in a big way.

    To date, Google has introduced 24 tailored products for Thai users and an additional 45 localized products that give users an opportunity to experience global products in their own language. The Thai language is also part of our top 40 languages initiative, which strives to ensure all products are localized into languages that cover 99 percent of the world's Internet population.

    The team covering Thailand is currently based out of Google's Singapore office but, as the scale of work in Thailand increases, can we expect a Google office in Bangkok anytime soon? Yes, we can confirm Google will be opening an office in Thailand within this year, however, we have nothing further to announce at this time.

    Do you anticipate that there will be vacancies for Thai nationals, and if so what kind? Yes, Google is hiring over 500 people in APAC including 100-plus positions in SEA as we expand our local operations. 2011 will be Google's biggest hiring year ever and our current vacancies can be found here.

    Our SEA team already represents more than 20 different nationalities and we are always exploring opportunities to attract the best and the brightest people. Of course, we have a high bar for hiring at Google, but Asia has many of the best universities in the world.

    How did you end up working for Google and what tips do you have for aspiring Thais (and Asians in general) who dream of working for a top technology company? I joined Google in 2005 and it has been an incredible experience. For anyone who aspires to work at Google, I'd encourage them to visit our Google site for posted opportunities and apply. As we continue to expand, we're always looking for talented people to help us grow and Google really values the diversity of local insights and expertise, especially in emerging Asia/ SEA.

    What kind of blogs and new sources do you read to stay up to speed with technology in Thailand and Asia in general? Because our industry is constantly evolving and consumer behaviour is also changing, staying up to speed with trends requires a view across a variety of different sources. I read technology and consumer behavior blogs, publications and research papers as well as local and regional newspapers and magazines. I also make time to talk with consumers, trend setters and influencers in Thailand.

    For me, the priority is to be able to listen to the user--our consumers and customers--and make sure we hear their feedback and we're incorporating it into our activities and the enhancements we make to our products and services so they remain first and foremost.

    And finally, what is the best thing about working for Google in Thailand? Well, apart from being one of the best employers in the world, for me, what's best about working for Google is more personal. I'm proud to be part of an organization that is bringing new and innovative products to Thailand and helping Thai users get access to information and services that are useful to them and that can even make their lives better. ---

    Thank yo Khun Pornthip and Google Thailand for these interesting responses.

    With the Internet, technology and online services growing rapidly in Thailand, these are certainly exciting times for the country. The addition of a dedicated Google Thailand office would be a very welcomed addition.

    I hope to have more on Google Thailand and its ongoing efforts in due course. Keep an eye on this blog and my column at Asian Correspondent for more.

    You can find more from Google Thailand on Twitter, where you can also find Khun Pornthip.

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