Indians in the IT industry are a cliché, but the expansion of the Singapore-based Thakral Group in the Philippines is anything but ordinary, and is a breath of fresh air for our emerging economy
Not all eyes are on China.
While everyone seems to be betting on China as the next economic superpower, Singapore-based Thakral Group chooses to focus on emerging economies like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.
This may be because the Thakrals come from the same background. Although their business network is now based in prosperous Singapore, they're originally from India by way of Bangkok, where they first set up a small retail outlet called the Punjab Store.
On the other hand, it might all just be strategy. After all, Bikram Singh Thakral, director for Global Business and Technology Services and a fourth-generation Thakral, was born in raised in Singapore, a country that is shades apart from the company's markets.
Despite years of experience with emerging economies—Thakral's Technopaq has been an IBM distributor in the Philippines for more than a decade—setting up in Manila gave the National University of Singapore educated Bikram a slight culture shock.
One major challenge, he shares, is how business is done in the country. “The important relationships here are more informal than formal,” he says, and he has found himself relying more on loosely-defined local networks.
He says, though, that this is all part of Thakral Group's strategy of assembling local teams in its markets. While he wants the Thakral Group's Philippine operations to be “as local as possible,” he clarifies that his team observes “local customs and international quality standards.”
The nuances of Philippine business may have caused a bit of eyebrow raising, but Thakral shares that he's impressed by the Filipino work ethic. “People here are very positive, very optimistic. Their attitude is 'it can be done.'”
He isn't just paying lip service either. All of his executives at Thakral Group Phils. are Filipinos save for CEO BS Kumar.
He says that his Filipino engineers and managers have also been sent to Thakral offices in Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and the Middle East, and that he hopes to hire more in the future. “We're looking to hire more people on all levels,” he promises, especially since he plans to make the Philippines “a center for excellence for one or two of our products.”
Thakral adds that it is the Filipino's entrepreneurial spirit that prompted him to bring the group's Raffles Solutions IT consulting firm to complement its existing Technopaq distribution network. “The global economy is steadily getting back on the road to recovery and we see the same for the Philippines, if not at a quicker pace,” he says.
He clarifies that he isn't targeting tech-heavy Business Process Outsourcing firms for his server management and online collaboration solutions. He chooses rather to take on the challenge of providing small and medium-scale industries with professional IT packages that don't eat into profits.
Thakral wants to create a niche among smaller mid-market companies with as few as 100 networked computers. He adds though that the company can handle up 1,000 networked computers or more, with each product package tailor-fit to the needs of the client. “I don't cut and paste solutions,” he says.
Among the solutions offered by the Thakral Group are “enterprise resource planning (ERP) from Microsoft Dynamics, LS Retail for the retail industry and ZAP, a business intelligence (BI) solutions with seamless integration to ERP, as well as IT infrastructure management, including end-to-end IT products and services.” And they come with the closest thing to a personal guarantee: Thakral Group and its subsidiaries use the same technology. In fact, Bikram says “we use them more than we sell them.”
Print ed: 03/10