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Srithai Superware banks on promising Vietnam future

(VEN) - Srithai (Vietnam) Co., Ltd, which became a wholly foreign-owned company in 2003 after starting out as a joint venture in 1996, sees favorable conditions for business expansion in the country.

Jessadakorn Phongmaha, General Director of Srithai (Vietnam) Co., Ltd, says the business and investment environment in Vietnam has improved in recent years. He believes that foreign direct investment (FDI) will continue to flow into Vietnam, especially in the processing and manufacturing sectors. His company is also expanding its operations in Vietnam, he says.

Your company has three core product categories - Beverage BU, Industrial Plastic BU and Melamine BU. Which category has done well here? What will be the development focus for Srithai Vietnam in the years to come?

Beverage BU has the strongest foundation with the best technology, cost effectiveness and good partners. So this will be a key growth and expansion category for us.

However, we also see strong potential growth for Melamine BU. There is a large market for melamine tableware which is now dominated by unsafe plastic materials. Many tableware brands claim to be melamine even when they are not made of the material 100 percent. Worse, some of them are not melamine at all, and such products are being sold cheap.

In Thailand, these materials are restricted and controlled by the Thai Industrial Standard Institute as it is a question of safety. Vietnamese consumers now demand safe and hygienic products and are rejecting fake products made with unsafe materials. Our brand, Superware, is a most reliable brand that is 100 percent melamine. Superware has been using 100 percent melamine in food-related tableware for more than 50 years. We will also support communities by promoting safe use of plastic products.

What trend do you see in Vietnam with regard to plastic manufacturing, in the near future? What is the most difficult factor that impedes success in this industry?

The key to success in plastic manufacturing is quality, reliability and cost effectiveness. In order to achieve these three goals, the manufacturing process needs to incorporate advanced technology. I foresee further development of technology and automation in this history. The difficult part is to select the right technology to effect improvements. This requires long experience and analytical capacity, and this is what places Srithai in a better position.


So what are the key factors that have kept Srithai competitive for a long time, growing sustainably through challenging times?

We are a professional plastic processing company. Srithai was found in 1963 in Thailand. We have been through many generations of technologies. So we are always adopting new technologies and staying updated. Srithai also has gone through several economic crises. So, we have learned from this experience and know how to run a business in a time of crisis, know how to recover and know how to grab opportunities.

Most importantly, we have an ownership culture, which gives us a strong team that will do its best to push Srithai forward.

How many factories does Srithai operate in Vietnam now? Sanan Angubolkul, Chairman of Srithai Superware Public Company Limited, announced recently that the company will invest 450 million baht this year. Could you share some details about this investment?

We have three factories in Vietnam - two in Binh Duong and one in Hanoi. We will continue to invest as Sanan Angubolkul announced earlier. Most of the investment this year will be in Beverage BU and Melamine BU.

Beverage BU will keep expanding capacity to keep up with the market demand. And investment in Melamine BU will happen in a new factory in VSIP II, Binh Duong. The new melamine factory is not just a capacity expansion but a quality enhancement that aims to take product quality to the next level. Currently, Superware Tableware is already ranked top quality in the Vietnamese market. With the new plant, our quality will even be better at competitive prices.

How important is Vietnam in the development strategy of the Srithai network in Asia as a whole?

Thai investors are always keeping their eyes on the development of the Vietnamese market. Vietnam is experiencing rapid economic growth, retail sale of goods and services is rising, and the real estate sector is growing as is the middle class. These factors align with our experience and capability and offer us a lot of opportunities. We are confident that we can be a good part of this market development and that Srithai Vietnam will contribute to our network’s growth as a whole.

What do you predict for the domestic market in the second half of this year, especially in the light of Vietnam controlling the pandemic well? How did Srithai Vietnam respond to the pandemic?

We are quite positive about a second half recovery. The Vietnamese government did a great job in battling the Covid-19 crisis.

At Srithai Vietnam, we had worked out a recovery plan that enabled us to recover in May and expect the recovery to continue for the rest of the year.

In our response to the pandemic, Srithai Vietnam’s priority was employee safety and business continuity as a commitment to our customers. We need to ensure that we are always able to support customers’ business. So, we minimized the risk for stakeholders. We formed a Covid-19 committee as a command center to centralize external and internal information, data recording and tracking, and most important, set direction and policies.

Then we continued with control over access to the company area. We identified people that needed to contact us, fixed permission levels and schedules and maintained a contact record. Our aim is to minimize direct contact and eliminate unnecessary direct contact with outside parties. At this stage, we are confident that the threat from outside is under control.

So, the big challenge was internal control. We started by launching a work from home policy, creating a recording system to trace employee location in order to minimize the presence of staff inside the company and allow us to practice social distancing during the tough time. We also divided factory areas and set up work routes so that in case someone got infected, we could lockdown that particular area and immediately separate the safe group from the risk group. This meant that the other areas could continue business to support our customers. It was not easy, but with everyone in the company cooperating, we got through the crisis.