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Issue 73, March 15, 2010
[email protected]
Two Young Social Entrepreneurs from Thailand -Could You Think of any HK Examples?
Young people born after the 80s have become the talk of the town in Hong Kong. Please take a look
at these two young social entrepreneurs and ask yourself: do you know of any young persons in
Hong Kong doing equally amazing things? If you do, please let us know, we would like to feature
them in these pages.
Media Censorship & Thoth Media
Internet cafes and computer gaming centers line every major street
in Bangkok. Thailand’s new generation of innovators is no strangers
to Information & Communication Technology (ICT). What’s more,
they are not satisfied in using these skills for just pursuing monetary
Social enterprises like Thoth Media and Chivalry Silk are examples
of innovative social enterprises that are leveraging new online media in support of sustainable development.
Media in Thailand has always been under strict censorship by the government as a preemptive attempt to
controversial dialogue among citizens. As a result, the lack of outlets for free speech within Thailand has
made it extremely difficult for the people to have open discussions on issues that directly affect them.
Yet, to foster an open, educated and democratic society, access to such information is crucial as well as a
strong creative problem solving mindset.
With over 1,500 Thais graduating into the ICT profession every year, how can these valuable skills be put to
use for Thailand? One answer lies with the young social entrepreneurs behind innovative social enterprise,
Thoth Media.
Thoth Media was created in 2006 by three friends with backgrounds in IT, who were greatly inspired by the
widespread usage of social media in the developing world to engage people in entertaining, stimulating and
informative discussions.
“The government will censor anyone who is criticizing the monarchy,” explains co-founder, Kla Tangsuwan.
“But criticizing the monarchy is not our position. We are focusing our efforts on encouraging people to spread
knowledge, wisdom and insight through social media on issues such as technology, education, child welfare,
political transparency and social responsibility. We focus on inspiring creative solutions rather than
The first of their many projects was, which has grown to be one of the largest internet shows in
Thailand with over 60,000 views a month on top of being aired by many satellite TV stations.
Today, Thoth Media has succeeded in creating an interactive and engaging social media platform that
provides a variety of media options to service the growing needs of citizen journalists, non-profit
organizations as well as other social enterprises.
For example, Thoth Media provides the technical expertise and support to build a new citizen participation
function to the current Prime Minister’s website. This medium allows the public to ask questions and come up
with creative solutions to problems that they can share and further develop on the website. The public can
“vote up” the questions and the Prime Minister will answer the top voted questions in his weekly address. To
date, this page has had more than 600,000 views, over 10,000 website members, 8,500 questions posted and
15,000 votes collected.
This platform allows citizens to report, discuss, create and engage in valuable discussions through the use of
technology. And by fostering a populous and sprawling online community where citizens have the power to
contribute to important discussions, Thoth Media is, in turn, encouraging an online Internet culture that is
important for a healthy, informed and free society.
Through this form of de-centralized media, the Thais can bypass many censorship obstacles as content is
uploaded directly to the Internet, where it can be accessed from many different sources from throughout the
virtual world. This is much more difficult to censor –- once a campaign goes “virtual”, it is almost impossible
to contain.
The social enterprise aims not only to encourage the open sharing of knowledge, but also to promote free
speech, health, human rights, and the growth of a new industry that can employ Thai people that will allow
them to join the ranks of a novel class of workers.
Cultural Preservation Through E-Commerce: Chivalry Silk
Another social enterprise that makes good use of technology is
Chivalry Silk.
Early 2007, Thepparat “Ongchun” Tantikalayaporn, a young
Thai university student was given a memorable gift from one of
her closest friends. The gift was a piece of traditionally woven
Thai silk artwork made from the cocoons of some of the finest
silkworms in the world. The quality and attention to detail was
only made possible through the tedious and dedicated
craftsmanship of the Thai silk weavers. It took an entire day to
produce about one meter of this type of silk.
Ongchun left for the Northern Thailand village of Chiang Mai where she dedicated herself to learning the silk
making process – from growing the mulberry-like plants that feed the silk worms all the way to the final
stages of hand weaving – with the hopes of better understanding the Thai culture and tradition.
During this time, Ongchun learned that traditional silk manufacturing was disappearing from the rural areas
of Thailand simply because the price of traditional handmade silk could not compete with cheaper,
industrialized silk.
Due to the lack of access to markets, many of the rural artisans are forced to abandon their craft and leave their
villages for the big cities in search of work. This not only contributes to overpopulation in the cities, but is
also a threat to the traditional family unit.
“So many of the villagers are forced to move to the cities after the harvest season because it has been their
only way to earn more money,” said Ongchun, founder of Chivalry silk. “They leave their children with their
grandparents when they leave the villages in search for a better paying city-based job.”
The problem of seasonal work coupled with the lack of access to external markets seriously impedes this
industry from developing. Armed with the understanding of the story behind her cherished gift, Ongchun set
up her own social enterprise, Chivalry Silk, to help solve this problem.
“I really wanted to do something to solve the problems I saw in the Thai silk
industry. I wanted to find a way to bring back the profits that were made through
selling Thai silk back to the community who produced it,” recalled Ongchun. “I
also wanted to do away with the middlemen who were taking advantage of the
people in the villages by taking all of the profits.
“That is where the idea of linking the communities directly with the markets
came from. I thought that if the groups of women I saw in Northern Thailand
could raise their incomes beyond just through agricultural activities, then the
whole economic cycle of the villages would be stronger and more sustainable.”
Chivalry Silk merges fair trade, cultural preservation, and community
empowerment by sourcing their silk material from rural weavers, who are
otherwise unconnected to the global market, then selling the material mainly through an e-commerce portal.
The money earned through the e-commerce portal is channeled back to the weavers themselves, unlike
factory-based weavers who get only a mediocre share of the profits for their labour.
Besides the e-commerce portal, Chivalry Silk employs an online merchandising model that allows it to take
full advantage of the tools the Internet offers for global outreach. With nearly a third of its export &
merchandising model coming from the Internet, it is the glue that binds all of the pieces together.
These online channels – including a B2B and B2C online e-marketplace, third party seller stores such as eBay, and, live customer support services and a comprehensive website – not only provides
access to the product, but also includes a comprehensive explanation of the product heritage, cultural
importance and the evolution of the Thai silk industry.
In addition, Chivalry Silk is actively engaged in raising awareness and business through related forums, blogs,
Google groups, buyers’ guides and discussion groups, which gives a boost to their search engine optimization.
Chivalry Silk appears on the first page of Google search results for a variety of important search terms such as
“quality Thai silk”, “hand woven Thai silk” and “silk product”. This, in turn, translates to consumer
awareness and in turn, strong sales.
On top of reaching consumers, ICT is also used to connect the vast web of players that Chivalry Silk has
weaved into their business models. The ability to use online channels to connect with fashion designers,
overseas importers, online trade shows, interior designers, retail stores and more has facilitated the global
expansion of the business.
At present, Chivalry Silk has helped to improve the standard of living for nearly 30,000 people throughout the
supply chain of the Northern Thailand silk industry by connecting them with socially conscious consumer
markets and marketing the ethnic product.
The source of the above reports is a website known as Social Entrepreneurship Forum in
Singapore, also founded by young people dedicated to supporting the development of social entrepreneurship
in the region.
Book of the Fortnight
Creating a Space in the Market:
Website of the Fortnight
Social Enterprise Stories in
Social Enterprise Coalition, UK
Edited by Marie Lisa M
(Philippine: Asian Institute of
Management, 2004)
13 case studies of Asian social
enterprise to illustrate the power
and promise of social
The book is not on sale in HK. If
you are interested in buying a
copy, please write to the editor at
[email protected]
The Social Enterprise Coalition is the
largest body of social enterprises in the
They define social enterprises as
enterprises trading for social and
environmental purposes.
Read about their new document
No More Business As Usual:
A Social Enterprise Manifesto
Video of the Fortnight
Quote of the Fortnight
“Gross National Product measures neither
the health of our children, the quality of their
education, nor the joy of their play. It
measures neither the beauty of our poetry,
nor the strength of our marriages. It is
indifferent to the decency of our factories
and the safety of the streets alike. It
measures neither our wisdom nor our
learning, neither our wit nor our courage,
neither our compassion nor our devotion to
our country.
It measures everything in short, except that
which makes life worth living, and it can tell
us everything about our country except those
things that make us proud to be part of it.”
Robert Kennedy
Chicken a la carte
By Ferdinard Dimadura
Winner of the Most Popular Short Film
at the 56th Berlin International Film
Festival, 2006.
Again, this is a video that you should
invite your entire family to watch
together. You should also ask your
children to share it among their friends.