The Comarch office in Thailand is dynamically developing and gaining new customers. We asked Krzysztof Maurer, the director and one of the founders of the branch, about the team's daily work – and more.
How did your journey with Comarch begin?
I have been working at Comarch since university. After the fourth year, I got a summer internship. I liked it, so I accepted the job offer after that. I started as a junior developer. Then I worked as a project manager. After a few years, I moved to the department responsible for business development. I was selling software for banks and financial institutions, and was responsible for cooperation with the Polish company's largest clients in finance, banking and insurance.
After working at the company's headquarters for several years, I wished to try something different and go abroad. In 2017, I took the opportunity to lead a team in Thailand. I am currently responsible for Comarch's operations in the south-east Asian market.
Why did you decide to relocate to Thailand?
I had previously travelled to Thailand on business trips many times when we were gaining our first clients. The opening of the branch was related to the development of business and the signing significant contracts in this region. I had already thought about continuing my career abroad. The opportunity to take up the position of Country Manager fits well into these plans.
Could you describe what the move was like?
In my case, the relocation was quite challenging. I was the first person from Comarch to work permanently in Thailand. Therefore, I had to lead the way. In addition, I moved with my wife and school-aged child. Admission to the school was not easy for my son, because he had to pass an exam conducted remotely at his school in Poland and talk online with the headmaster of the new school. The company covered the costs of relocation, relevant visas and work permits. Now formal matters, visas, and work permits are running more smoothly.
Thailand is a distant country from Poland - both geographically and culturally. How did you find being in South-East Asia?
Thailand is a comfortable place to live in. People are polite, smiling and willing to help. The Thai language can be a challenge. It is definitely worth learning, although knowledge of English is enough for everyday communication. Thailand also has delicious food, fruit, beautiful nature and climate. Bangkok itself is a large, multicultural city where there is always something going on. It is a city with amazing opportunities, full of people from all over the world.
There are people from many countries in your team. How is the cooperation going? Are there any challenges related to, cultural differences, for example?
Currently, Comarch in Thailand consists of almost 20 people, both local and relocated from Poland and Indonesia - where we are now opening a representative office of our company. Thanks to the help of local colleagues, all people from Poland quickly got used to working in an international team.
Of course, there are some cultural differences. Knowing them helps avoid misunderstandings and awkward situations in the team and client contacts. In Thailand, people smile a lot. They use a smile to ease an awkward situation. In face-to-face conversation, they are always polite and avoid raising their voices. If we want to get something (including in business negotiations), we must behave similarly.
What projects are you currently implementing?
We service the entire ASEAN region. We have customers not only in Thailand but also in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
We carry out projects in various industries, such as banking, supermarket chains, airlines and car parts manufacturers. Recently, in a competition organised by The Asian Banker, we received an award together with our client TTB Bank for the best digital transformation project in Thailand.
Now, our largest clients are financial institutions, to which we provide (among other things) solutions supporting online service for small and medium-sized enterprises and corporations. We also provide tools for investment advisors. We have a lot of projects in the region regarding loyalty management in various industries. Recently, we started cooperation in this area with BIG-C, one of the largest supermarket chains in Thailand. We are also a certified operator of electronic invoices. Our clients' e-invoices will soon be sent to the Thai tax office through us.
The ASEAN region has great potential. It is developing rapidly and investing heavily in technology. In some areas, technological advancement is impressive. For example, in Thailand, you can pay with your phone practically everywhere, even at a roadside greengrocer. Our solutions, proven in other markets, automate business processes. The challenge is the volume of data. The ASEAN region has a population of over 670 million people, which affects system performance needs.
What are the biggest challenges of running a large business in Thailand?
The biggest challenge is the time difference and the inability to contact people from Poland in the morning.
There are many cultural differences, some of which are of great importance in relations with business clients. For example, a client should not be told "no". If needed, we must first listen to the client's expectations, consider the possible options, and propose a solution that best meets the expectations or offer an alternative solution. A direct denial can be taken as disrespect.
There is also a big difference in communication and, in particular, the speed of response. In Asia, the primary contact method (including in business) is online communicators. An answer is expected immediately; at least to confirm that we have received the message, are dealing with the solution, and will reply within the specified time. Failure to do so may be interpreted as disregarding the person or the seriousness of the subject.
What is the most exciting adventure you've had in Thailand?
I wonder if adventure is the right word here. However, life in Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic was extraordinary and unique. Apart from a short period, there were no extensive restrictions inside the country. Nevertheless, Thailand was cut off from the rest of the world for many months, especially from foreign tourists. Before the pandemic, the annual number of visitors to the region was almost 40 million. To compensate for the losses, Thailand promoted internal tourism at that time. The best hotels offered great promotions. You could visit the most beautiful corners of the country without crowds and move around Bangkok without traffic jams.
What positions are you currently recruiting for?
We recruit locally, but it is also possible to relocate from Poland, especially for specialists with extensive product sales and consulting knowledge. We try to implement projects remotely, but due to the time difference, clients expect local resources, especially analysts, project managers and people providing post-implementation support.
How do you see moving to Thailand in retrospect? Do you notice more positives or negatives?
Living in Thailand is very comfortable. Especially for expats, of which there are a lot in Bangkok. Easily accessible services, provided at a high level, delicious food, sunny weather all year round and attractive tourist destinations within a few hours' travel. it is hard to complain.
Relocation is a great professional and personal experience. Moving to another country, especially as culturally different from Poland as Thailand, opens your mind and allows you to look at the world differently. It lets you develop the ability to work in other cultures.