PwC Thailand homes in on small businesses



AEC opportunities give sector a boost

Professional services giant PwC Thailand will increase its focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as competition for Thai companies is set to rise with the creation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC).

Sira Intarakumthornchai, appointed earlier this month as chief executive officer of PwC Thailand, said the firm saw SMEs as a key segment for future growth.

Multinational companies, large listed companies and state enterprises account for some 85% of PwC's existing audit, consultancy and tax clients, with small and medium-sized businesses representing the rest.

"But [Thai SMEs] is where the growth lies. This is where we can leverage our network, our understanding of the markets, to help these companies improve their competitiveness," said Mr Sira. From a regional perspective, the quality of products and services produced by local firms is already competitive.

"Where we do see room for improvement is in areas such as back office operations, reporting or internal controls," he said.

The launch of the AEC in 2015 will have a significant impact on local companies, as barriers on trade, investment, skilled labour and capital flows drop to create a single market across the region.

Mr Sira said while Singaporean and Malaysian companies are quite progressive in looking beyond their borders, Thai and Indonesian firms are still quite provincial in their focus.

"Thai and Indonesian companies are similar. If they can grow locally, then that's where their focus is," he said.

He added that general awareness about the AEC and its implications remained relatively low.

Mr Sira, a 25-year veteran of PwC, said his goal is to enable the organisation and its 1,300 local staff to "work faster and better" to support its efforts to reach out to smaller Thai firms.

PwC's strength remains its ability to offer tailored solutions that others can't, he said, whether in areas such as tax planning, strategy or cross-border expansion. By streamlining processes internally and improving productivity, PwC hopes to be able to offer competitive pricing for its services to smaller firms while maintaining quality.

Mr Sira said for many companies, the biggest challenge is the competition for human capital.

"IT and infrastructure, by and large, is an issue of capital. And processes can be brought in. But people and talent is probably the biggest issue, where companies grow faster than their ability to recruit. Still, it's a nice problem to have," he said.