Google is introducing free websites to help 50,000 small Thai businesses get online over the next 12 months, says Julian Persaud, managing director of Google Southeast Asia.
The Thai Business, Go Online programme has been developed in partnership with the Office of SME Promotion (Osmep), the Thai eCommerce Association, Dot Arai and Web Biz.
“For Thais, having a website is as important as having a phone because Thais are turning to the internet as the first stop for information for products and services,” Mr Persaud said yesterday.
Eight out of 10 Thai consumers now search online for information about products, services and local businesses before they buy, according to a recent survey conducted together by the National Statistical Office and the Osmep.
However, only one in 10 Thai businesses has a website.
Many businesses think their products are not suitable to sell online, their customers aren’t ready to buy online, or going online is too costly or complicated.
Mr Persaud said that over the last 12 months, the top keywords searched by Thais included school, hotel, doctor, restaurant, and handymen. “And they’re doing it on their mobile phones too. This shows potential customers looking for local businesses,” he said.
The website, which takes 15 minutes to set up, is free to maintain for 12 months with web hosting at in.th or co.th. After that, businesses can pay 428 baht and 799 baht per year respectively. Although a payment system is not yet in place, the capacity of the website is unlimited.
Thailand as the first country in Southeast Asia to have the Google programme, with previous initiatives in the United Kingdom, Australia and Brazil.
Pornthip Kongchun, head of marketing for Thailand, said local businesses set up about 20,000 websites a year, and Google aimed to double the amount.
Pensri Arunwatanamongkol, managing director of DotArai Co, said that the .th domain currently had 47,000 domains.
Osmep director Yuthasak Suppasorn said the plan was the most efficient way to help Thailand’s 2.89 million SMEs connect with the global economy.
Duangrit Bunnag, managing director of Duangrit Bunnag Architect, said that within five years, all businesses would need to bring their products online. “In the past, a business on the internet would see itself as cool, but it didn’t look into the commercial aspect,” he said.
Mr Persaud said the Thai market was growing very quickly, as Thais adopt new technology more quickly than their peers in other Southeast Asian countries.
“Google sees Thailand as a strategic market. We’ve tailored 24 products to the Thai market and that will continue to be something we focus on,” he said.
Most of Google’s revenue comes from advertisements, but it is seeing display advertising growing in many emerging markets, with banners first.
Thai businesses interested in participating in the program can sign up at www.goonline.in.th.
Source: The Nation