Message from the Board of Directors
In the 2018 Annual Report, the message from the Chairman of the Board commenced with “At the end of 2018, when I took the position of the Chairman of the Board of Directors, I had to admit that the entire book industry of this country was a sunset business and the morale and spirit of the people in the industry were found to have been steadily declining. This was an immense challenge that I had set forth since the day that I agreed to take the position of Chairman that I should endeavour to make SE-ED bookstores remain with Thai society in the rapidly changing world …”
My essential strategies were “raising morale and empowering SE-ED team with needed skills for the new era, adjusting and differentiating SE-ED bookstores, improving services to address the needs of customers, increasing effectiveness of business units, especially SE-ED Publishing House and Distribution, investing in digital businesses to support the growth of e-commerce and e-book, and collaborating with other companies and organisations in the book industry to strengthen the industry, encourage reading, and help maintain small businesses in the industry.”
From that day until now, SE-ED has still been adhering to those aforementioned principles.
Unfortunately, since the end of 2019, Thailand and the world has been facing one of the greatest outbreaks in human history-the COVID-19 pandemic. While writing this message, I believe that no one is able to predict exactly how and when this appalling epidemic will come to an end.
The governments around the world have held different views of this pandemic and implemented many different measures to deal with it, medically, socially, politically and economically. Certainly, different measures yield varied results. In case of Thailand, though the mortality rate of infected patients has been much lower than other countries since the initial outbreak and the national attempts to mitigate the situation rather successful, it is clear that Thailand, like other countries in the world, has also been suffering from the repercussion of this novel COVID-19 outbreak, which is economic recession.
In 2020, only 6,884 persons were infected, but the Thai economy declined drastically by 6.1%, which was higher than other countries where the cumulative number of infection cases soared to millions. In the following year, 2021, while some countries started to recover economically, our economy grew only 1.6%, despite the fact that there had been only 2.2 million infection cases.
The fact that our economy had been affected more severely than other countries was not only the result of ineffective government measures to deal with COVID-19, but also of Thailand’s flawed economic structure resulting in relatively low competitiveness. To correct such a structure, increase resilience and enhance competitiveness to allow Thailand to compete successfully in international level, Thailand primarily needs to increase the competency and cognitive ability of our own human resource. And this has always been the purpose of SE-ED’s existence.
In a critical time like this, improving competency of Thai people seems to be the absolute answer for the brighter future of Thailand. Even though SE-ED, like other companies, has also been a victim of this pandemic, we must try in our different ways, as much as nature allows, to survive so as to fulfil the goal of improving the quality of Thai people.
With COVID-19 affecting all countries around the world, together with the technological advancement in Artificial Intelligence, big data, and robotics, the goals of the companies must be revisited and revised-whether they should focus solely on maximising the benefits of shareholders or the interests of stakeholders, which include employees, communities, society, and the country, as a whole. Several studies suggested that the companies that embrace the focus on the latter are more sustainable economically and socially.
Up to this point, you SE-ED shareholders might be surprised that the Chairman of the Board of Directors is now writing a letter to you by citing the notion that seems not to entertain the benefits of shareholders. However, I would like to explain that the idea of prioritizing stakeholders over shareholders is very sound. For example, if a company aims to maximise financial gain and deliver dividend as much as possible to shareholders, its business operations will be designed in such a way that exploits the welfare of the employees in order to save costs and increase productivity without any concerns about community, society, and the nation. Its principal focus is only on profit-making activities to reward the shareholders. The result is short-term financial benefits. However, in the long run, such management jeopardises the morale of the employees, the well-being of the communities, and the quality of the society, which in the end will insidiously corrupt both the company and the nation. If this happens, shareholders tend to be the party that suffers from the consequence the most.
On the contrary, if a company involves stakeholders into every step of its business operations by paying attention to the well-being and happiness of employees, empowering the communities in which the business operates and promoting health of its society through its sound business decision and CSR work, both the company itself and its stakeholders will enjoy the benefits in one way or another-financially, politically, socially, economically and perhaps diplomatically. Not only will the company find its income statement healthier with desirable growth rate but also its dividend will increase proportionally, which makes its shareholders very happy. In the macro scale, our country will grow sustainably.
SE-ED is not a general company. It is the company that conducts business related to books, knowledge, and skills of Thai people, Thai businesses, and Thailand. I believe that the implementation of business practices that encompass stakeholders can make SE-ED employees, communities, society, and Thailand to be better, stronger, and more adaptive in the post-COVID-19 era. This will in turn translates into more rewards to all stockholders, who are reading this letter, in the long run. Having said thus far, this approach is therefore worth being brought to your attention before applying it to SE-ED’s policies in the future.
In 2022, there will still remain numerous challenges that both SE-ED and Thai society are to overcome. It will be another year that SE-ED continues to adapt itself in every aspect, with a greater level of agility, in keeping with increasingly competitive environments. It is therefore incumbent upon SE-ED to set the new direction and revise some of the policies to fully utilise its core competencies and correct its flaws so that it is firm enough to stand side by side with Thai people and make our nation more flourishing.
During these three years of having been the Chairman of the Board of Directors, there are still some areas that I have not achieved so as to make SE-ED become the kind of company in line with my goals. This might be because I have not been trying hard enough and more dedicated enough to drive the entire SE-ED company towards the directions announce earlier to shareholders. Please do accept my deepest apologies.
This year I will strive harder and with greater effort.
(Mr. Kasemsant Weerakun)
Chairman of the Board of Directors