Inside ASEAN⁺

Issue 67

Bathroom Design reveals how design and innovation has helped it penetrate overseas markets.

“Design and innovation play crucial roles in our business success,” says Eard Charuratana, managing director of Bathroom Design, a leading manufacturer of bathroom products. “We prioritize research and development (R&D) because we want to offer the best products suitable for the different demands of our customers.”

In addition to developing a range of bathtubs to meet each customer’s particular requirements, Bathroom Design adds value by incorporating modern technology and innovation to its design. This includes I-Command that enables the user to fill the bath via a mobile phone, I-Aroma an intelligent vapor mist moisturizer with aroma scent, and I-Color that offers customers a variety of light shades.

“Our R&D team always asks what kind of bathtubs we need and what our customers may prefer because people from each country or region have different body sizes, bathing styles and preferences,” Charuratana explains. “The Japanese like to lay back and relax in the hot tub. They want a small bathtub with minimal functions while Arabs prefer a large tub, where four people can bathe together.”

Founded in 1996 as a bathroom accessories importer, Bathroom Design started to produce its own brand a few years later. Currently, it manufactures bathtubs and other sanitary wares, exporting its products to over 30 countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Data from the Office of Industrial Economics shows that in 2015 the value of Thailand’s ceramic products exports amounted to approximately US$758 million, about US$170 million of which was in sanitary ware. Major export markets include Japan, the US, China, Germany and ASEAN countries.

“We have a sole distributor in each country, which must be able to support our customers when needed. They must guide the customers how to use the tub as well as being responsible for the tub installation, maintenance and after-sales services in that country,” says Charuratana. “On the global market, we have numerous strong competitors, therefore, our R&D must offer the best products for the target market.”

The company has found several trusted and potential partners by attending trade fairs hosted by the DITP in Thailand and abroad. The company has also won many awards domestically and internationally, thanks to its customer-oriented design and innovation. These awards include Thailand’s DEmark, Japan’s G-Mark and Germany’s Red Dot Design.

“The company aims to be the leader in the innovative bathroom accessories market in the ASEAN region and we will expand our businesses in overseas markets such as Indonesia and the Philippines,” Charuratana says.

For more information, visit

Words by Somhatai Mosika


Issue 65

Expertise in coconut has helped a Thai SME win health-conscious consumers’ hearts with its health and beauty products.

Adding value to local agricultural products has become one of Thailand’s major strategies to stay competitive in the present world trade market, and Tropicana Oil has proved it works well.

“Agricultural products are Thailand’s strength. With good research and development (R&D), we can get the utmost benefit out of them and create new value-added products for consumers,” says Suradej Ninek, managing director of Tropicana Oil, who has successfully turned his OTOP (One Tambon One Product) business into one of the most famous Thai brands in overseas markets.

Ninek established the company in 2003, to conduct research and develop 100% cold pressed virgin coconut oil, Tropicana Oil’s first product.

“Combining local wisdom from my hometown in Surat Thani province with advanced technology, we can produce virgin coconut oil with a unique scent that is easy to use and drink for good health,” he explains.

According to the data from the Centre for International Trade Studies, University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the value of Thailand’s coconut and coconut product exports amounted to approximately US$321 million (11.2 million baht) in 2015. Around 60% of this was from coconut milk exports to the US, the UK and Australia, followed by coconut oil exports to Japan and South Korea, fresh coconut to China, the UAE and Hong Kong, and canned coconut water to the US and Australia.

Having started with a single product under the Tropicana Oil brand, Ninek now offers a wide range of products under three different brands based on its category and target consumer, such as Tropicana Oil health and beauty products for mass consumers, Kalapa premium beauty solutions and Rain&Shine cooking oil.

“We continue to improve and develop our products and educate our customers about the benefits of coconut, the company has allocated around 5% of total spending on R&D annually,” he says. “Our products have received standard certifications from established organisations worldwide including the Thailand Trust Mark (T Mark), which is a symbol of excellence and trusted quality. These help us to expand business abroad more easily.”

Currently, the company exports products to 16 markets including Japan, China, Hong Kong Australia, New Zealand, Russia and New Zealand. Ninek has set the goal for Tropicana to become a global brand in 2018. To reach this target, the company has focused on improving its human resources and developing products to meet the demands of global consumers.

“We will introduce our new logo and packaging later this year,” he says. “We are going to expand our business in Europe and the Middle East where we have seen the potential but not yet sold our products.”

For more information, visit

Words by Somhatai Mosika


Issue 59

Thai franchise is expanding regionally to take part in ASEAN’s promising business scene.

Strong economic growth and rising incomes are driving car sales in Thailand’s neighbours, and this has lead to a boom in automotive-related businesses.

According to the Cambodia Automotive Industry Federation, imports of new and used vehicles grew over 10% to 55,000 vehicles last year, and it is expected to increase around 10% this year while data from Myanmar’s Road Transport Administration Bureau showed that in 2015 total new vehicles sales were up 70.6% on the previous year to 6,362. In Laos, the Department of Public Works and Transport reported the total number of vehicles increased by 8.17% to around 1.71 million in 2015, compared with the previous year.

“Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos are new markets with high potential growth since we have observed the rapid increase in cars in the recent years,” says Sirijit Karnchanabatr, general manager of Thai-German company Car-Lack, the parent company of car care service provider Moly Care. “Rich people in these countries own very expensive cars and they need special services for their cars. Moly Care is the pioneer in these markets, we educate them about how to take care of their cars.”

German car care product importer and distributor Car-Lack decided to launch Moly Care in 2006 to offer premium car care services, including car washing, polishing, car interior cleaning, engine cleaning, paint removal and glass coating.

In 2010, the company expanded its business into neighbouring countries, launching a franchise branch in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where it currently has two branches. Subsequently it has opened four branches in Vientiane and one in Yangon. Now, Moly Care has over 50 branches in Thailand, most of which are franchises, and seven overseas.

Karnchanabatr says that the Ministry of Commerce has played a significant role in the company’s overseas’ expansion. “We attended the tradeshow and business matching activity hosted by the Ministry of Commerce and we received some contacts from the event,” she says.

However, she cautions potential companies looking to tap into the regional market that it is not easy to select the right business partner, often taking over a year to ink the deal.

“The right partner is very important for expanding your business abroad. We always spend time selecting the good ones, who are keen on our business and able to operate it under our franchise conditions,” she explains. “Each Moly Care business partner must complete our questionnaire which requires them to conduct a market survey to prove their determination. This process also helps them to have clearer picture of the business.”

In addition to finding a capable partner, Karnchanabart said that high quality products and services, car care knowhow, and a sound marketing strategy are key factors behind the company’s success.

Moly Care plans to expand its business through franchises in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. “Franchising is the best business model for Moly Care because we believe that local [partners] know best about the most effective marketing strategy and local laws and regulations that are all crucial for operating a successful business in other countries,” says Karnchanabart.

For more information, visit or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Words by Somhatai Mosika


Issue 64

The leading Thai cosmetics brand explains why international customers love its products as well as its plans for the future.

In recent years, Thailand’s cosmetics industry has achieved significant global acclaim for its high quality, with several Thai brands becoming world-renowned. The industry makes a significant contribution to the country’s economy with the Thai Cosmetic Manufacturers Association estimating that Thailand’s cosmetics’ exports amounted to some US$3 billion (106 billion baht) in 2016, mainly to ASEAN countries (40%), Japan and Australia.

Currently, Thailand’s cosmetics industry is the biggest in ASEAN and ranks third in Asia after Japan and South Korea. Among ASEAN countries, Thailand is the top OEM cosmetics manufacturer for international brands.

Established in 1988, Better Way (Thailand) – the owner of the Mistine brand – initially focused on quality cosmetics products for the domestic market, especially body care, personal care, makeup, fragrances and skin care. Now, the company also exports to international markets especially countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Three years ago, it set up Better Way Shenzhen, a joint-venture company, which is the distributor of Mistine products in mainland China.

“China is a huge potential market. Online market is our major distribution channel in this country. We have at least 20,000 retailers on China’s online market platforms,” says Ongart Wongdacharoj, Mistine’s assistant marketing director.

In addition to China, Mistine has been a popular brand in Thailand’s neighbouring countries for many years, thanks to the large migrant workforce and Thai media.

“People in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar love our products because many of them use our products when they work in Thailand and buy our products for their loved ones when they return to their countries,” Wongdacharoj says. “TV commercials … help us to reach our customers in these countries as they watch Thai TV channels.”

According to Wongdacharoj, Mistine’s success is due to its product quality, research and successful marketing strategy. “We provide high quality products at a reasonable price,” he says. “Our products are produced by quality manufacturers who are certified to international standards. Before launching any new products, we devote a lot of time to research and development to ensure our products meet customer requirements.”

Mistine uses Thailand’s superstars to promote its different products. “They are not only the presenters, as they also have to use our products. They all test the product before the launch,” he says.

In 2016, Mistine generated total sales worth around US$400 million (14 billion baht), 10% of which came from international markets. The company plans to further expand its business in overseas markets, including China and Indonesia.

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Words by Somhatai Mosika


Issue 58


Tharaphu Décor has exploited its 20-year expertise in the teak industry to diversify its business portfolio into other fast growing sectors.

“My father imported teak wood from Myanmar and later the company was granted the concession for the teak business in Myanmar,” says Tharaphu Décor’s director, Apiwitt Phongsphetrarat.

Tharaphu Décor opened a factory in Yangon 13 years ago to process wood for export. Around 75% of its processed teak is exported to Europe and the US while 20% is sent to Thailand, with the rest shared around other countries.

“Our expertise in teak processing and marketing is the company’s strength as we can create the highest value and benefit from the limited supply of the raw material. Our consumers represent a niche market because teak is considered a specialty. Tharaphu Décor truly understands what our consumers are looking for and we have good and strong relationships with them,” says Phongsphetrarat.

However, as Myanmar has opened up to foreign investment in recent years, the company has expanded its business into other sectors including construction, media, telecommunications, logistics and healthcare.

“These industries are interesting and have high growth potential. Now, we provide comprehensive services for construction, logistics and distribution. Telecommunications is a vital business,” he says. “There is also a strong demand for healthcare because Myanmar still lacks the proper facilities and skilled healthcare human resources.” Tharaphu Décor has a franchise to operate leading Thai aesthetic beauty centre, Nitipon Clinic in Myanmar.

Phongsphetrarat believes that all these sectors will grow continually over the next 10 to 20 years. Although Myanmar’s laws, regulations and bureaucracy can present a challenge for foreign businesses, Myanmar’s government has attempted to create a more investor-friendly environment.

Data from Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration shows that foreign direct investment (FDI) during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, totalled US$9.4 billion, spread over 217 projects. The oil and gas sector attracted the biggest investment, followed by transport, communications and manufacturing.

“You must go to the field, observe and assess the market size and its growth potential,” Phongsphetrarat advises potential investors to Myanmar. “The initial investment cost is quite high but I ensure you that the budget for creating your brand awareness in Myanmar now is cheaper than what you will have to spend in the next three to five years.”

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Words by Somhatai Mosika