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Interview with Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Chairperson, Toshiba Thailand Company Limited

Q: There have been diverse interpretations of the ‘Sufficiency Economy’. But what are the key principles?

A: To me Sufficiency Economy is way of living, philosophy in leading a sustainable life that can be applied to personal individual life, families as well as all kinds of businesses. The main principles are to have consciousness in what we have to do, know what is right, what is wrong to create sustainability, know yourself and your limit and most of all have a balanced life that can be shared by all, the moderation in what we have to do, the “middle path” for the sustainable future.

Q:  The philosophy calls for moral integrity, honesty, intelligence, and so on, as it is a ‘balanced approach’. How could it be applicable to different religions and cultures?

A: The “balanced approach” of moral integrity, honesty, intelligence is very similar to other religious and cultures that also teach people to have harmony with nature and unity in the world. Once we have “balanced life” that create fair treatment to all parts of stakeholders, everyone can live with peace and harmony. Growth can be created with sustainability.

Q: Thailand has chosen the so called liberal market-oriented policies to develop its economy. Is economic development possible without those policies, or how could the sufficiency economy support long-term development?

A: We have learnt from the past that with globalization economic development without “consciousness” and “ balance of life” would create a sudden growth but would collapse at the end. MBA and many intelligent marketing men also failed because they had overlooked the principle of life, foundation of human being. So therefore in order to achieve long term “sustainable growth”, we need to apply Sufficiency Economy Philosophy to our everyday living - how we manage our own life, our family, our businesses - in order to have growth with manageable risk, in order to be developed but with the light of equal sharing, in order to live a better life in harmony with other fellow human beings.

Q: How could the sufficiency economy guarantee economic growth and a reasonable quality of life?

A: Sufficiency Economy teaches us to work hard, work smart and always develop. It teaches us not to be blinded with many “illusion” but to understand what the true important things are that matter to our living and business life. Sufficiency Economy encourages study and innovation, how to apply knowledge to benefit the others. Sufficiency Economy will prepare us to face all kinds of obstacles in life and business. There is no path that is covered only with beautiful red roses. We are bound to face bumps and pits all along. But with consciousness and well preparation according to Sufficiency Economy, we will be ready to tackle all. Obstacles can become opportunity when the others slow down and we can still go forward.

Q: How does the sufficiency economy apply to the non-agriculture sector?

A: Sufficiency Economy can be applied to all not only to agriculture sector as many have misunderstood. For example in my business, Electrical Appliances & Computers, in 1997 when the economic bubble had burst in Thailand, we were not affected. Even though our sales dropped by 70 percent, but we were not NPL and we could maintain our people and our business until today. At that time in order to expand our business we were asked to borrow from off shore for small interest loan similar to most other business. But we did not do so, for considering that our investment to expand should be within the limit we normally had done and it seemed “too beautiful” to be able to enjoy such kind of gain. So we decided not to take such offer and stick to the limit of which some people called “too conservative”. After the burst we were among the very few to survive and to expand at the end.

Another example after the crisis in 1997, the growth of hire purchase business was very high. We were tempted again to promote our sales with hire purchase and credit card schemes. But we had decided not to do so. We did limit ourselves to the minimal promotion with all these credit campaigns and tried to have balance of sales from normal channel and cash sales. It was difficult to do but we had foreseen that it should be impossible to encourage people to keep on using advanced money. These credits would not last. So when the hire purchase business collapsed, our sales were not affected again.


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