Hans O. Karlsson was elected President of Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce at the Annual General Meeting of the members in April this year. The 47 year old Managing Director of Ericsson (Thailand) Co., Ltd. has been serving as a Board Member for the past two years and knows the issues at hand.
“I will mainly concentrate on the business promotion activities of the chamber,” Hans Karlsson says.
“The economy of the TSCC has been improving over the past two years so this will not need much attention from me. We will, however, need to work on expanding our membership base,” adds.
The TSCC has today around 120 members which, compared to other chambers, is a bit on the low side.
“Our membership base reflects that although there is a very visible Swedish presence here in Thailand, it is concentrated on a few rather big companies. Compared to Denmark, they have a higher number of small, entrepreneurial companies in Thailand and that reflects in their higher number of corporate members,” Hans Karlsson explains.
When it comes to the overall issues of the climate for doing business in Thailand, Hans Karlsson will leave this to the larger organizations working on this.
“Issues like the proposed changes to the Foreign Business Act and other overall issues, we will monitor via our membership of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce and the Board of Trade,” he says.
“On the internal front, I will try to engage more female members in the work of the chamber and hopefully some of them will then be able to join the board next year,” Hans Karlsson adds.
When Hans Karlsson took up the job as president and country manager of Ericsson in Thailand in 2004, it was almost like a man returning home. Hans has previously lived in Thailand working with Ericsson and Thailand is the home country of his wife Sirinuch.
Sirinuch was working with Ericsson in Thailand when Hans was traveling here from India where he was posted at the time. That’s how their romance began. They were married in 1992, and she then left Ericsson to join him in India and later back in Sweden.
What set Hans apart from any of his predecessors in the important to job at Ericson in Thailand was his hobby as a musician. He had hardly set foot on Thailand, before he had formed a band and soon this band was playing at internal events in Ericsson as well as at Scandinavian Society Siam parties.
“Recently, we have started playing down town,” he reveals. If you want a have a chance of seeing him on stage, he suggests trying the “Wine Bibber” pub in Soi Thonglor, Sukhumvit Soi 55.
Many previous postings
When Hans O Karlsson was transferred to his current job in Thailand in August 2004, he held a similar position in the Philippines. Coming to Thailand, he took over after Lars Bjorkenor, who was Ericsson’s president and country manager at the time.
Prior to his previous position in the Philippines, he was president and country manager of Ericsson in Oman. While he was there, he also concurrently occupied the vice president for customer solutions and services position for all Ericsson market units in the Middle East.
Before Oman, he was based in Indonesia for over four years. Besides being based at Ericsson’s headquarters in Sweden, Hans also spent five years with the company in India.
Long history in Thailand
Ericsson has a long and established history in Thailand’s telecommunications industry. The company delivered its first telecom equipment to Thailand in 1908, when it installed the country’s first telephone exchange. It is now the largest supplier in Thailand, with its role split among several major telecommunications businesses, including: mobile telephones (through Sony Ericsson), cellular networks, fixed networks and defense systems.
And Thailand is one of the focal points for the company in the region.
“Headquarters in Stockholm views this as an extremely important market for us. We have a long history in Thailand and are pushing very hard to adapt and grow in this constantly changing market. It is important because there is a lot of growth and growth potential here,” Hans explains.
Among the advantages of Thailand, Hans O Karlsson says is the entrepreneurial talent of the Thais.
“I’m really amazed by the Thai entrepreneurial spirit, which seems much stronger than in the other countries I’ve worked in.” He suggests that the Thai entrepreneurial spirit is something that can turn almost any situation into an avenue for prosperity.
One of his tasks in Thailand has been to implement Ericsson’s global repositioning, which includes a shift towards telecommunications services to adjust to a rapidly changing market as well as its push to position itself to complement the strengths of the handset provider Sony Ericsson.
Part of this repositioning and adopting of new strategies involves a shift of focus from Thailand’s urban areas to upcountry. This is partly due to what Hans in a previous interview with Thai Sweden Review described as the “leap frog” effect
“In areas where the infrastructure is behind the curve, like many areas outside of Bangkok, there is a lot of potential to go from the current infrastructure setup and jump ahead, leap-frog, to the latest technology, without going through the normal evolution process that happened in developed areas.
Roughly 40 percent of the world’s mobile calls are made through Ericsson equipment. Ericsson is also the world’s largest telecom services company with over 20,000 service professionals worldwide. The company employs over 65,000 people in 140 countries, over half of that number outside of Sweden.
The company continually puts out new technology that drives the market by creating new services for users. Ericsson has recently come into the forefront is the mobile phone chipset business – the “brains” that make mobile phones work.
“During our merger with Sony, we decided to keep our mobile phone chipset business separate. And it is actually where we’re now putting a lot of focus. We produce chipsets for most of the major brands, with around 40 percent of the top 3G handsets on the market operating on our hardware.”
The quest for speed is the driving force behind the evolution of the mobile and fixed technology. Bandwidth in the Telecom market is analogous to the drive for more bandwidth on the internet.
Bandwidth means more data at faster speeds, and while quite convenient in itself – getting the same information in front of you quicker – it is also important for driving the growth of the market. With more speed available for users, developers have more opportunity to develop content-rich applications, like downloadable video games and eventually IPTV that are more useful for the consumer.
The mobile society
Companies like Ericsson are laying the groundwork for what will become the next necessary part of many people’s lives – data-enabled, content-driven mobile and fixed networks. These networks are already present in most markets, at varying stages of development, but have yet to build up the momentum of services and users that the internet has.
The trend today is the truly fixed mobile convergence providing same end-user service regardless of what newtwork is used. Ericsson’s most recent aqcuistions of Marconi, Redback and Tandberg represent the new way forward; a Full Service Broadband vision.
On the speed side of things, major infrastructure suppliers are pushing for the adoption of more bandwidth, hence the progression from generation to generation. In terms of the user, however, there is no difference in user experience whether the system being used is GSM, GPRS, EDGE or 3G with HSPA o(High Speed Packet Access). On the fixed side technologies like ADSL, VDSL and FTTH (Fiber To The Home) are driving the market where Thailand is only behind Singapore in maturity in South East Asia
The only difference to the person using the mobile phone is how fast content reaches the phone.