Directing the future of Thailand's telecom and IT businesses

Pirachai Bencharongkul introduces innovative smart city initiatives

It has taken Pirachai Bencharongkul several years of hard work and dedication to earn his position as assistant managing director of family-owned digital engineering service provider BB Technology (a subsidiary of Benchachinda). He also serves as investment director of BCH Ventures, one of the investors of Creative Ventures, the first US-based venture firm founded by a Thai. Looking ahead, Pirachai is working towards effective and innovative smart city initiatives. He does not only work for telecom and IT business but he is also the general manager of Thailand’s biggest agricultural community platform service and solution provider, Rakbankerd and has a passion for improving the kitchen of Thailand by reducing the gaps between farmers and people in urban areas. 

Today we get more insight from the businessman:

Could you tell us a little bit about your background and education?

I studied in the UK since the age of 11; I went to Cheam School, a prep school, and then to Stowe School in Buckinghamshire for five years. After that, I went straight to University College London where I finished my master’s in the major of Information Management for Businesses. So basically, how to manage IT businesses which is directly related to what I’m doing as my family background is a telecom and IT business.

Could you tell me about your business and what was your goal when you first started? 

Back in Thailand, I started from going into different companies under the Benchachinda Group to learn about each business and to understand the whole picture for seven years. Afterwards I concentrated on the engineering side, under the company called BB Technology, a digital engineering service provider. We provide comprehensive services in telecommunication infrastructure, digital infrastructure, and we also provide services in consulting, operations, and maintenance. My role right now is the assistant managing director of BB Technology and deputy managing director of United Technology Enterprise (UTE), a subsidiary company of BBTEC that provides telecom network infrastructure rental service to operators. In recent years, the traditional model of an operator having single ownership of the physical elements has begun to be challenged due to a number of factors especially the rapid growth of technology, and constant increase of capital expenditure. So, I’ve been pushing the Infrastructure sharing model to be a critical lever contributing to the growth of Thailand telecom business, and to pave the way for things like 5G and IoT, and more importantly to result in benefits for both citizens and consumers. So, we are happy to support operators to share our infrastructure.

Were you always expected to carry on the family business and what was the hardest challenge stepping into this business?

Yes, we just reached our 60th year mark. It’s been my grandpa, my dad, and my uncles. There are 14 of us in my generation. 

People usually think that I was born with a golden spoon in my mouth, so the hardest challenge is I faced, and continue to face, is making people believe and accept me, and making them understand the professionalism of how I work, along with accepting the role I came into at such a young age.

Having received the 2019 Asia-Pacific Telecoms Digital Services Platform Growth Excellence Leadership Award, what does that mean for you and the future of your company?

In the last couple of years, we have turned ourselves into kind of a software house as well. This is one of the first services that we worked on and it was an incredibly proud moment for us. To be honest, not many people believed us at the beginning, they did not think we could become a software house, even the people inside. It was very time-consuming for them and no one really believed in the way that we work. For this reason, it certainly meant a lot in terms of acceptance and vision, the direction we want to head towards, and it made everyone believe us a little more. We all flew to Singapore to accept the award and had a good night out, so everyone was happy.

As the General Manager of Rakbankerd (Thailand’s biggest agricultural community platform service and solution provider), why is this platform important for you and for Thailand, and what are your plans for the future?

This business started as a CSR business, so last year we tried to change it into a social enterprise in terms of reducing the gaps between farmers and people in urban areas. 35% of the working people in Thailand are actually farmers and no one really appreciates them because no one actually sees how much effort is needed to produce their goods. Also, they don’t really understand the pace of the people in urban areas. Therefore, my goal is to elevate their capabilities, help them with marketing and with the knowledge of how people in the cities are thinking. However, at the same time, I’m trying to educate people in the cities on how to eat properly, understand organic, seasonal eating and seasonal growth. People always say Thailand is the kitchen of the world, but we never appreciate food like Japanese people do. Why do we never ever see rice being appreciated like rice in Japan? I am trying to improve those kinds of things as well as helping the farmers understand that, with a higher quality, you can also sell it at a higher price. I believe in localisation of produce, eating, and storytelling. I help and advise the farmers to create stories of their own, so they can sell it at a higher price and to help them export.

Although, I'm not a farmer, but live in an agricultural country and greatly appreciate all farmers. It would be a really cool story if you go to a Michelin restaurant in Europe and on the menu, you will see chili that's organically grown from the North of Thailand. This is what I really want it to be, I am eager to push Thailand to become the real kitchen of the world.

What are the innovative smart city initiatives you envision for the future?

Smart city for me is basically not just people using technology; it's not really about seeing a robot walking down the street. To put it in simple terms, it’s leaning more towards how I can improve the quality of life of the people. We improve that through digitalization of innovations. But different cities have different usage, needs, and distinctive stories behind. So for me, coming from an infrastructure background, I'm trying to improve the city with 3-tier architectures, with the “digital platform” acting as a bridge between the digital infrastructure and digital services, to make cities fast becoming “smart”, and to help better people’s quality of life. 

What are your overall upcoming plans and goals?

Well, I was quite fortunate as I was able to find my own goal early on. It’s always been the legacy of the family that the company needs to last for a hundred years, at least. This means I still have 40 years to push how we run and we’re quite lucky in the way that we work within the technology side of business as it’s always a growing market. Overall, I just want people to work together more, and I don’t really support the idea of being monopolized by one company. For sustainability of the country to grow, everyone needs to have a win-win solution and most importantly, to work together.