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Tech & Innovation
APR 7, 2021

Catalyzing Digital Transformation through the Human Element

By Misato Nagakawa
iStock @Paul D Wade
This article was developed as a part of the Young Rising Stars Series, 
promoted to highlight high-performing East Asian entrepreneurs
and businesspeople.

We are living in the world of transformation. The COVID-19 pandemic and rapid development of digitalization brought, or somewhat forced, many transformations of our thoughts, lifestyles, and work. But while this past year did have its unique challenges, the truth is that transformation is never easy. Less than 30% of companies successfully transform, and digital transformation is even harder—less than 20% succeed.

But there is hope.

Research suggests there are five things that make digital transformation successful: strong leadership, capability building, empowered workers, upgraded tools, and solid communication. Four of these five concern people, not technology—in other words, we need human transformation before digital transformation.

One Thai rising star, Thanyathat Angsuphisit, is transforming both people and technology through his business Technimal.

Transforming an Engineer into an Entrepreneur

Angsuphisit is typical for his generation. He’s always had social contribution in mind, even in college, to the point where he rarely turned down requests—even large ones, like leading his music club when his professor asked. The need to do something meaningful crystallized when his father passed away.

“It’s not hard to get a high salary at a big company,” says Angsuphisit, “but it’s better to do something impactful for society.” In particular, he toyed with the idea of making advanced industrial technology more accessible for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), something especially difficult in Thailand.

He didn’t pursue the dream right away. After graduating with a computer engineering degree, Angsuphisit started at a toothpaste factory as an operation team leader and improvement engineer. Predictably, he wasn’t satisfied: “It was too routine. I went back home at 4:30pm every day, and nothing happened in my life.” When talking with a friend from a college robotics competition—one that they’d won together—he realized that making advanced technology more accessible required not only data, but business acumen. He needed to transform himself before transforming his community.

So he went to the UK, studied to become an entrepreneur, and returned to found Technimal.

Transforming Thai Technology

Because Thai industrial products usually look less credible, global companies tend to import foreign technology for their Thai factories. In order to achieve his dream of making technology accessible in Thailand, Angsuphisit needed to first make trusted Thai products.

He began developing a product to help customers upgrade the manufacturing machinery they already had by offering them an affordable industrial internet of things (IoT) solution. Technimal’s solution networks a client’s industrial machinery and collects performance data, effectively creating industrial IoT—the beginnings of a smart factory. By increasing communication and upgrading tools, businesses take the first steps towards digital transformation.

Angsuphisit admits his business has challenges, particularly “competing with the big names.” But he remains optimistic. In fact, the global pandemic positively impacted his business due to the rising demand for cost-reducing automation. SMEs are usually unable to afford big-name products, so his more affordable, domestic options are a great solution.

Transforming Human Skillsets

Another challenge to making technology accessible lies in how tech savvy—or not—the people who use it are. “If people cannot use the technology they buy, it’s a problem,” says Angsuphisit. “If I offer a solution, the owner of the company needs to understand how it works.” Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

So Angsuphisit collaborated with some Thai and Japanese partners to create a school.

In cooperation with private and government sectors, he helped launch a free re-skilling school to teach courses such as “Lean Manufacturing” and “Digital Manufacturing.” So far, they’ve had about 700 students.

Angsuphisit and his team at Technimal want to make the products affordable solutions to real-world problems. To them, this means “making technology alive—Technimal is a combination of “tech” and “animal,” after all—but he knows that technological change without human change is moot. If people can transform to cope with the changes of digitalization, Angsuphisit believes their companies will transform, too. Technology is used by people, so empowering workers is one of the five best practices to make digital transformation successful.

Transforming Yourself

Whether you aim to start your own business or transform from analog to digital, Angsuphisit recommends finding people you can trust. Technimal started with thirteen members, five of whom have been his good friends since he was seven years old. “We have the same vision for the company, and we talk about everything,” he says. This makes managing the company very transparent, especially regarding capital. That trust contributes to business growth.

But Angsuphisit insists it’s not just about working with friends or finding a business opportunity. He insists you should first discover what makes you happy. “If starting a business won’t make you happy, then just don’t do it. But once you know what makes you happy, have patience. You cannot win fast.”

In other words, if you want to transform the world around you, start by transforming yourself.