December 9, 2023

In praise of small and medium enterprises…

Linus A.E. Knobel is managing director at Bangkok Air Catering. Here he explains how he is evolving his business and urges support for SMEs as key drivers in the rebuilding of the travel sector…

We have faced unprecedented challenges over the past few months and our top priorities have been the health and safety – not only of our employees, but also of our whole community.

The impact on our working lives has been powerful, and it continues. Directly or indirectly, almost all of our business depends on tourism or the travel industry. So we could easily have wallowed in gloom. Instead, to quote the well-worn adage, we are seeking opportunity in the crisis.

We’€™re not exactly tearing up the rule book. Our commitment to delivering the ultimate in quality and service will never change. But we have torn several pages out of the book and written new rules.

Over 20% of the Thai economy depends on tourism, and the figure is much higher for our businesses’“ over 90% in the case of Bangkok Air Catering.

We have state-of-the-art kitchens, among the very best in the region, with superbly trained people who are experienced in serving an international clientele. We are expert in Arabic, Asian and European cuisines. We have long maintained HACCP/GMP standards, being certified as fully Halal & Kosher compliant.

So we are making the most of these attributes with a new venture in value-added products for export. We’€™ll continue to attract business from overseas’“ but according to a new model. Our initial focus will be Middle Eastern countries, China, and eventually Hong Kong, starting with the halal-accredited production of Thai meals and snacks for export. This is just the opening salvo in plans that are well advanced, so please expect further announcements soon.

Meanwhile, our food production concern, Gourmet Primo, and our Gourmet House group of restaurants have refocused their operations toward food delivery and take-out. We’€™ve enjoyed the challenge of providing fine cuisine at affordable prices to people who are self-isolating or working from home. We’€™ve also expanded our online platforms massively.

And it’€™s been a golden – if unexpected! – opportunity to accelerate our professional development program. We have radically reviewed our SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), too. This has also involved our fourth unit, Gourmet House Culinary Care, which serves leading hospitals. I remind my colleagues on a daily basis that we’€™re staying fit and getting ready for a great start as soon as COVID-19 recedes.

Bangkok is beginning to recover its familiar personality. The malls are coming alive again, and the streets are losing their recent resemblance to a ghost town. It’€™s tempting to imagine that the former reality of a vibrant, prosperous city will soon be fully restored. Sadly, such a positive outcome isn’€™t guaranteed. Businesses supported by large corporations remain viable, for the most part, but the story is different for SMEs. Some of the smallest concerns have already gone under, and even medium-sized enterprises are threatened. Yet they provide vital energy to the economy – and the character – of Bangkok, not to mention the country at large.

I feel strongly that all of us, individuals and companies, need to come together at this time in support of independent businesses. The contribution of SMEs to recovery is vital and it cannot be over-estimated.