Thursday, 26 Jan 2012
The Thais that bind make great global business
Simon Northrop of UK company M&C Energy Group, shares his secrets and insights for business success in Asia.
M&C Energy Group has helped businesses improve energy efficiency and save money for more than 35 years. Headquartered in Dunfermline and employing more than 500 people worldwide, we currently manage a client energy spend of £8 billion annually.
We started exploring Asian markets when several of our European clients moved their operational facilities to South-East Asia. But while their move East was driven by the search for lower labour costs, many faced higher energy costs compared to Europe.
Recognising the high-growth potential of the manufacturing, commercial and industrial sectors markets in Asia – and having established no other companies were offering a similar service – we soon secured opportunities in Malaysia. This not only gave us a presence there, but also demonstrated our ability to offer clients a truly global service, including those in the UK. It also meant we were able to offer a complete service to other companies which had a global presence themselves.
There were no real bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, and in my view Malaysia is the least complicated country in Asia for an English-speaking company to operate in.
Shortly after opening an office in Kuala Lumpur in 2000, we began discussions with a large multinational company in Thailand. Instrumental to securing the lucrative contract was a presence in Thailand, so calculating that our data processing, market analysis and accounting functions could be operated more efficiently there we set up in Bangkok in 2001.
M&C Energy Group: Fast facts
M & C Energy Group serves more than 3,500 clients, with a combined energy spend of over £8bn
M & C Energy Group employs more than 500 people across Europe, Asia-Pacific and the United States of America
M & C Energy Group opened its Malaysian and Thai offices in 2000 and 2001 respectively
M & C Energy Group regularly features in the media, and in 2011 provided industry commentary to BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 live, Sky News, The Times and the Financial Times
Establishing ourselves in Thailand has had its challenges. We had to satisfy the requirements of the Thailand Board of Investment by demonstrating a social and financial commitment to the country, including employing Thai workers. We also had to learn some very important cultural lessons: Thais are proud people whose principles are built around respect. They’re also very family orientated and expect employers to take an active interest in their family life. Taking these factors on board has fostered huge loyalty and undoubtedly benefited us commercially.
Our employees’ positive attitude and desire to succeed impressed us from day one. During last year’s floods in Thailand, staff endured four-hour commutes and worked overnight to protect the company’s productivity. It’s no surprise Thailand has become our biggest base outside of the UK.
I would whole-heartedly encourage other businesses to follow our example. Our colleagues in Malaysia and Thailand are extremely receptive to new skills, products and services from the West. UKTI’s campaign is an ideal platform for other UK companies to understand and grasp these opportunities and realise their ambitions for growth.
For more information on M&C Energy Group : www.mcenergygroup.co.uk
Simon’s top five tips for success in Thailand and Malaysia:
1. Don’t challenge authority and always be polite.
2. Ensure that you’re clear with explanations to avoid information being misinterpreted.
3. Always verify language skills. Spoken English is not well tested up to university level in Thailand.
4. Learn and be respectful of Thai culture. It generates huge loyalty.
5. Research opportunities in Malaysia. It is the least complicated country to work in for an English-speaking company in Asia.