Bangkok: Innovation or Imitation?

The second stop on my Sloan Southeast Asia Study Tour was Bangkok, Thailand. Read my first post on Singapore here.

Singapore vs. Bangkok

Going from Singapore, the digital and sustainable urban center of ASEAN, to Bangkok was nothing short of an eye-opening experience.  Both cities are extremely densely populated, but the futuristic looking skyscrapers were now replaced by older mismatched housing units with less emphasis on architectural design. Instead of well-organized and manicured streets, there were narrow, winding, and polluted pathways shared by pedestrians, vehicles, and street vendors. Lot less greenery and lot more traffic.

Despite these stark differences between the two cities in terms of economic development and infrastructure, there was beauty in Bangkok’s cultural authenticity that I began to appreciate.  The city had lot more character, life, and identity than Singapore. The people seemed nicer and happier. Almost every street, filled with bustling traffic of locals, was a never-ending market selling everything from food to clothes. Will this authenticity and character stay as the country continues to develop?

Entrepreneurship & Innovation

One of the many perks of visiting these cities as part of an MIT Sloan initiative was our access to the local organizations. I hadn’t full grasped how much the local startup landscape had developed until our visit to the offices of Ookbee, one of the biggest digital magazine and eCommerce platform in Southeast Asia, and Carabao, the biggest energy drink company in Thailand. Although there were many government organizations, incubators, accelerators, VCs, and Angel Investors to help build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country, it was apparent that the types of startups that seem to launch and succeed in the region are the ones that replicate western models and modify to fit the cultural, economic, and political constraints of the country. In that sense, is there true innovation in Thailand (and the other ASEAN countries)?

Khatantuul Filer

Khatantuul Zorig Filer (Khat) is a 2nd year MBA student at MIT Sloan School of Management where she spends most of her time working on the initial phase of her mobile app startup, learning about entrepreneurship and innovation, and finding ways to improve our lives, to advance our minds and bodies, and to make an impact in the world through emerging technologies (AI, Machine Learning, AR, VR, and IoT). Before coming to Sloan, she was a Technology Consultant at Accenture where she had variety of experiences in product development, business development, strategy, marketing, sales, finance, operations, analytics and project management for the defense sector. She studied Math and Statistics at University of Virginia. She was born and raised in Mongolia and hopes to help develop the country in the long term.


1 Comment

  1. What an amazing trip and learning opportunity. Great pictures too. 🙂 It’s interesting to hear how many local startups and VC/Angel activity there is over there.

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