Thailand is considered one of the global leaders in entrepreneurship. Not only is there a lot of entrepreneurial activity, with 46 per cent of the population engaged in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but of those entrepreneurs half are women.
One person closely studying the characteristics and trends of entrepreneurship in Thailand is Ulrike Guelich, lecturer and research fellow at the School of Entrepreneurship and Management at Bangkok University, as she annually conducts a survey as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) project. Last month Ms Guelich presented recent GEM survey findings – and shared her thoughts on the experience of women entrepreneurs in Thailand and ASEAN at a meeting held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.
Entrepreneurial business owners and managers have been identified as a crucial factor in our path to a successful, vibrant and sustainable economy. Their ability to navigate opportunities can have a positive impact on the broader population and regional markets. The GEM study on global entrepreneurship began in the US, with 70 countries participating. Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand were included in the study in 2012, with Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam following last year.
Thailand has increasingly thrived on micro, small, medium and larger businesses, and with the onset of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in late 2015 has great potential to grow domestically and regionally. The Kingdom has relatively high entrepreneurship rates, with 18.9 per cent of the population between 18 and 64 involved in early stage entrepreneurship and 29.7 per cent with established businesses. Almost half of the SMEs in Thailand are owned and operated by women. According to a 2012 survey, Thailand has the highest rate of women's entrepreneurship in Asia and the second highest in the world, with 28 per cent having successfully established businesses.
What contributes to such a business-friendly climate in Thailand? According to the survey, gender is not an issue for starting a business in Thailand, which ranks 66 out of 148 countries in terms of gender equality. This allows women to receive an equal education and increases their business opportunities.