Michael Andersen is looking forward to start his new job as Secretary-General for the Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce (DTCC).
That day was the first workday for Michael Andersen. Even though it’s only six days before Christmas he does not find the date unusual to start in a new job.
-I need to start as early as possible and that date was as early as my current job allowed me to stop. Besides this, the day is a normal workday in Thailand, the now former General Manager at the cement company, LV Technology PCL says.
Michael Andersen applied for the job because he wants to promote and develop trade between Danish and Thai companies. With work experience in Thailand and the region since 1979 and with 12 years in the Danish Foreign Ministry, the members can look forward to a new senior leader with a lot of experience – and he speaks, writes and reads fluent Thai.
A sailor and a boy
Michael Andersen fell in love with Thailand when he was only three years old. His uncle was a sailor. Every Christmas he sat with the young boy and told exciting stories about all the exotic countries, especially the ones from the Far East.
-I remember stories about elephants and the strange people that lived out there. It was almost as aliens to me to hear about it back in cold Denmark. Later I started to read books and do research. Northern Thailand got my special interest because of the diversity of the people and the nature. I liked that Thailand is the centre of the origin for many commercial plants such as the Banana and the Citrus fruit species, Michael Andersen remembers.
Just 21 years old he combined his passion for the region with his studies in Biology and Southeast Asian politics, cultures and languages. He went to Phuket to study marine biology and he started to speak the language. That gave him a job in the Danish Ministry of Environment working in Copenhagen Airport where he looked out for illegally smuggled animals from all over the world, also Thailand. That job later gave him jobs for wild life organisations that sent him to Thailand, as often as five times per year.
Unexpectedly the Thai Government paid him a grant to study in Thailand. After that his language skills were fluent enough to work for the Danish Police and Courts in Denmark.
– I mainly translated for Thais who came into problems in Denmark such as persons going to jail for drugs or prostitution, but also in more tragic stories where Danish men mistreated Thai women.
-One man even wanted to shoot his Thai wife! I still remember my first case where I needed to translate for a Thai woman who was raped by a taxi driver in Amager. It was a brutal experience to translate these cases, Michael Andersen remembers.
Research and teaching
Michael Andersen did not stop here. He was granted a PhD fellowship grant from Danida where he studied marine science three years in Southeast Asia based in Thailand. Back in Denmark he got a job in the Forrest Department where his focus was Thailand, Greenland and Eastern Europe. Quite different countries, you may note. By that time his Thai was even more fluent so he also started to teach staff at private companies the five tone language, but also Thai children in Denmark, that only spoke their mother language at home and needed to learn to read and write.
More Thai members
Let us get back to the new job. Michael Andersen has a goal. He wants more members but also keep the existing ones.
– It does not mean anything to get new members if old members are leaving for reasons not addressed by the chamber. Hopefully there will be more Thai companies which is missing in the chamber today, he says and continues:
-I just want the two cultures to mix. I hope to help both companies and individuals who can benefit from the many years of experience in Thailand.
His first task is nonetheless very down to earth. He wants to improve the administration and make the chamber office more responsive.
– I find that we are too invisible right now. That needs to change. The members should be able to expect to get an answer when they call or send an email to the chamber.
Next step will be to make the Member Directory; A tool to be used especially for the ones on the go about who is who, but which also provides information on member benefits.
If everything goes as he dreams, there will be 180-190 members in the chamber already next year. Right now there are 144 members.
– How I will get more members? I will go out and work for providing more benefits for the members. A lot of obvious companies are not members yet. We have a challenging coordination task in front of us to reach them, he says.
Michael’s nine new visions
- I want to strengthen the Chamber Office and make the chamber more responsive in 2017. If you contact the office you should expect to get an answer within reasonable time.
- The Website should be renovated in 2017 and deliver even more relevant information.
- I want to brand the Chamber more efficiently than earlier. Branding also means exposure in Denmark. I also want to coordinate with the Trade Council, Federation of Danish Industries, and the Danish Federation of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.
- I want to strengthen our advocacy role together with like-minded chambers for our members.
- I want to strengthen the dialogue with the relevant Thai Government agencies so that they know that the chamber is present in Thailand. I also want to work for a closer cooperation between the Nordic chambers so that we speak with one voice.
- My hope is to get a more mixed chamber with both Thai and Danish members and companies.
- An idea is also to look on the Myanmar emerging markets as there is no chamber there. My former company L.V. Technology has been active there for many years already.
- More visible benefits to the members and more focus on Business to Business role for the Chamber. I want to facilitate company visits and trade missions for the region (Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos which are similar in business culture).
- I hope to teach both Thai and Danish business oriented language and culture courses to our members. An idea could be to give courses, for instance to Thai businessmen, who want to work with Denmark and vice versa.