How companies of the future will look
By Eakasart Sappachang
As I once worked at a startup in Thailand, I can tell you that it is super-duper challenging. The biggest obstacle is not one's abilities, but rather a cultural environment in Thailand that does not support big thinking. I believe this is the reason most well-known startups originate in countries where English is the native language. In my opinion, the Thai cultural environment will continue to move more towards the Western way. We have to accept that this is the path we are on and we must continue to walk it. In the same way that speaking in a language that is foreign to us makes it more difficult get things done, it is more difficult to develop a business in Thailand and grow it into an international company. I think one important concept for Thailand's sustainable business future is the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) business model. The SME concept helps to build entrepreneurial spirit in the country as it supports the big dreams of small business owners. It's something we need because Thailand still lacks its own Silicon Valley.
Successful business concepts of the future should aggregate the resources that will be abundant, whether they be material resources or innovations that take advantage of social trends. One material resource that is piling up day after day is garbage. Garbage comes in many forms, such as used paper, industrial scrap, waste from 5-star hotels and restaurants spoils, just to name a few. If you could find a way to reuse or recycle all this, you would get rich quick because the worldwide garbage supply is growing constantly. In the next decade, the world will need to take this issue even more seriously. Let’s take a look at some companies with innovative ideas that are revolutionizing the use of the world's resources.
Let's start with this company, Nine Dragons Paper,(http://www.ndpaper.com/eng/global/home.htm) a transformational Chinese paper company established by Yan Cheung in 1995. It began with the simple premise that the paper usage rate in China was increasing dramatically, as every product the country produced needed to have paper labels on paper boxes with paper packaging and paper manuals inside. Also, there were no more old-growth trees left in China to make new paper from. And so she started her business by buying a discarded paper from countries that didn't want to recycle its own paper, such as USA. The discarded paper price in the USA was very cheap a decade ago, with 40% of waste material consisting of discarded paper. Nine Dragons Paper recycles the paper and sells it to countries with high demand for the paper. Now this company has branches in China, the USA and Vietnam. It recently became the largest paper company in the world and made Yan Cheung the richest businesswoman in China. Nine Dragons Paper now earns more than 88 trillion baht per year and it all grew out of "garbage".
The next company that I really like is DIRTT Environmental Solutions (www.dirtt.net), which was born out of an innovative idea back in 2003. DIRTT is a unique interior design company famous for its modular interiors that are built in less time, with less labor, less noise, and less waste. Generally, 36% of the material used in interior design becomes waste, but DIRTT identified this shortcoming of traditional methods and developed modules that can be assembled and changed in any way the customer desires, without limitations or wasted material. Customers choose the door size, the cabinet shape, and the bookshelf depth according to their unique needs. The build is then completed in a third of the time traditional methods usually take. The modular furniture is strong and is easy to clean.
Furthermore, DIRTT designs products and processes that allow for easy disassembly into individual building blocks, which can then be reassembled into something new. It's similar to playing with Lego blocks that can be assembled into any shape that we want. This is why the DIRTT system creates no waste during the building process and is also highly flexible. DIRTT has become a very popular interior design choice for hospitals, banks, and office buildings because its floor plans can be easily adjusted to changing needs while maintaining pleasing aesthetics, and it can do it all at a lower cost than competing systems.
Sweden will soon be the cleanest country in Europe, even though it imports large quantities of garbage from other countries, such as England, Norway, and Italy. This is because they have developed innovative trash sorting technology that allows much of the waste to be used as fuel to generate electricity. Now, Sweden is ranked number one in Europe for reducing greenhouse pollution by transforming garbage into energy. This great achievement is made possible through an efficient garbage sorting process and the filtration of pollutants before they are released into the atmosphere. Currently, there are 32 incineration facilities around Sweden, which turn garbage into power and eliminates about three million tons of garbage per year. This is a very impressive achievement!
For even more interesting and innovative business ideas, you should check out a new book called, Resource Revolution written by three former business consultants, Stefan Heck, Matt Rogers, and Paul Carrol. They write about how we can take something that is viewed as a worldwide crisis and turn it into the biggest business opportunity of the century. The book contains many ideas that people can implement in their own business to rock the world!
One idea for a business that I would like to start is an e-waste mining company. For example, it is possible to use microfluidic technology (a new system to control and separate gas or fluids) to collect mercury from wastewater or to separate gold from computer circuits. This technology has already been implemented in the medical and semiconductor industries. But if it could be used to sort out other types of garbage, then it would truly be another giant leap for mankind.
Another idea that we should consider is the management of tourism. In the future, AI will develop to a state where it can do more than just sell tickets and book hotel rooms. By using extensive databases and cloud computing, AI will be able to plan the whole trip. For example, it could book museum tickets and show the most convenient plan for each day of a trip, and whether it's better to travel by car, train or plane. AI could plan complicated trips for groups of people from businesses, schools, parties or weddings. By efficiently using data, AI can reduce the unnecessary use of resources and improve the efficiency of travel. I think this is one idea that will be arriving soon.
Perhaps the most interesting idea for a future company is one that provides a service platform to the government to help manage citizen's needs. This might be in the areas of document control, driver's license, passport issuance and other services. A private company that can help facilitate services for the government based on data from the entire population will help reduce labor cost, corruption, and government waste because everyone will be able to contact the government directly through these types of service platforms.
As I have said, the most important thing for success is that future business owners work with spirit and imagination.
Here's wishing your future business all the best!