On 9 May an unusual Nordic networking took place in Bangkok. Not that Nordic business networking events as such are very common either in Bangkok but what was really unusual was the location for the event: Chinatown!
The Nordic Chambers of Commerce in Thailand hosted this Axis Communications-sponsored event, where attendants got to know a bit, a teaser, about an area most people rarely visit and cannot easily penetrate without having an insider’s knowledge and network. But one should; not least for its culture and the many clusters of equipment and retail goods that lacks a parallel anywhere in the country!
Swedish-managed Hotel Royal Bangkok Chinatown stood host to the event, which was the destination of a guided walk tour that preceded the actual event as such.
A good crowd of around 30 people had gathered before sunset at the exit of Hua Lamphong MRT station – to be guided just as tourists normally are. And indeed the guide did not seem to have a clue that we were residents of Bangkok – some of whom have been here more than 30 years – and saw the group as tourists. It felt awkward to get general tourist advice, the likes of dos and don’ts. In hindsight though it was somewhat interesting to get to hear what these tour guides actually do tell visitors, and reflecting on the truthfulness in it based on one’s own experiences.
And along the walk those not ‘in the know’ did get some interesting insights about sightseeing spots of significance.
Samphanthawong is the Bangkok district regarded as Bangkok’s Chinatown. It is the smallest district in area but has the highest population density of Bangkok’s districts. The area has been a Chinese community since the early days of Bangkok.
The first stop was the gilded temple Wat Traimit Wararam Worawiharn (Wat Sam Chin) with its legendary golden Buddha Maha Suwan Sculpture (Luang Pho Dang).
This is a massive golden statue of Buddha with a thrilling history, told in a permanent exhibition. It is officially titled Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakona and is a gold statue, with a weight of 5.5 tons (5,500 kilograms).
In February 2010 a large new building was inaugurated to house the Gold Buddha. The building also contains the Bangkok Chinatown Heritage Centre.
The origins of this statue are uncertain. It is made in the Sukhothai Dynasty style of the 13th-14th centuries, though it could have been made after that time.
At some point, the statue was completely plastered over to prevent it from being stolen. The statue was covered with a thick layer of stucco, which was painted and inlaid with bits of coloured glass. And only in 1955, by accident, gold surface underneath was discovered.
Next stop was the Chinatown Gate in the middle of the Odeon traffic circle, which marks the ceremonial entrance to one end of Chinatown.
The gate, we learned, was built relatively recently in 1999 to commemorate the King’s 72nd birthday, and it celebrates the cultural diversity of the modern city. The gate was just one of the most notable projects that marked the transition of Chinatown from a rather seedy district into a tourist destination in its own right. Offerings and prayers are made at the gate, especially during the annual Chinese New Year celebrations.
Hotel Royal Bangkok Chinatown on Yaowarat road (a street constructed in 1892 during the reign of King Chulalongkorn) is an old hotel that was recently renamed and completely refurbished. It features a rooftop pool and sky venue, with panorama views over Chinatown towards Chao Phraya river. Its Swedish General Manager Nicklas Moberg introduced the hotel as he welcomed all the Nordic guests to the networking event.
Talking of ‘Nordic’ it must be said the representation of several of the Nordic countries was week, despite this being the only joint networking this spring. It seemed like this being a result of that all the four chambers had not equally promoted this networking event – which puts into question the very idea of having these Nordic gatherings in Bangkok. The venue was stunning so those who did not know about it or opted not to show up can only have regrets!
After Nicklas the Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce’s President Mr Eric Hallin briefly took over the microphone to also welcome all guests, followed by Sweden’s Ambassador to Thailand, H.E. Staffan Herrström.
Since the event took place on the same date as the EU’s European Day, the ambassador wished everyone: “Happy Europe day!” He reminded everyone present that peace and democracy cannot be taken for granted.
He held a brief speech in connection to the evening’s sponsor and presentation of the Swedish company that has turned global and is highly successful, and very much based on constant innovation and R&D.
The ambassador related this company to Sweden’s strong tradition of being innovative.
“This is Nordic event so excuse me for being biased towards Sweden but that’s my job!” said Staffan Herrström as he continued by listing examples of his home country’s innovations – from the pacemaker and the seatbelt to Spotify’s music streaming.
“Stockholm is today Europe’s hottest unicorn city and the world’s second tech city and Sweden is a country fostering innovation,” he informed. “And that is about questioning.”
“I’m a strong believer of free trade as major driver of innovation and economic development,” he continued.
“Here in Thailand our profile fits Thailand well, with the smart cities solutions from Sweden and there is a lot to learn from the solutions of safety that you at Axis Communications and others promote.”
This was the perfect introduction for Mr Magnus Zederfeldt, Regional Director South Asia Pacific for this Swedish IT, and IoT company – a pioneer on the networking surveillance market and now a global market leader in network video solutions. Axis reinvests heavily in R&D (17 per cent in 2016) to stay at the forefront, and these days has Canon as majority owner.
Magnus began his presentation ‘When Safety Meet Productivity’ by that saying that it is important for Axis Communications to be part of Sweden and the Nordic community where they operate.
“We send every employee to Sweden for a week,” he said as the explanation to how important the connection to the Swedish/Scandinavian culture is for this company.
As for their strong market presence he said: “You are using our products whether you know it or not.”
Axis Communications concentrates on solving companies’ and governments’ problems, which covers most end-user segments, ranging from large multinational corporations to small-to-midsize enterprises.
“Putting up a camera is yesterday!” said Magus and explained how today it is all about being proactive and using live intelligence, for example to monitor the consumer traffic and behaviour in retail stores.
“The new thing is that today cameras have brains.”
Axis also offers specific smart cities solutions, including those that make cities safer.
After this it was time not for a history lesson but for some humour, as a talk about Chinatown’s history had been replaced by three stand-up comedians from Bangkok Hilarous and Chris Raufeisen.
With all the good intentions, this did not work out well, mainly due to that the comedians had not done their homework. So the audience once again found itself being seen as tourists (!) by these guys who did not seem to “get” what audience they were talking to. And if you are to make fun of Viking you had better make sure you know at least the minimum about Danes, Finns, Norwegians and Swedes and their respective cultures!
The stand-up guys, who were themselves stand-ins for a lesson in history, therefore failed to break the ice and it turned more and more embarrassing the longer they went on, with their sleazy jokes that were doomed to fail in this setting. Sorry to say, it felt like they guys were on the brink of getting rotten tomatoes thrown at them – had there been any at hand (but this was not the kind of audience who would resort to that anyhow)!
This element was easily forgotten in an otherwise splendid evening and as the Lucky Draw followed the proceedings could end on a high note with some happy winners of hotel packages from Hotel Royal Bangkok Chinatown.