Producing new products is more challenging but it’s also more fun.” In a Silom restaurant, Natwut Amornvivat, the 43-year-old co-founder of Thai fintech company T2P, is talking about why he left his old company to found his own. It is, in essence, a story of how a brainy everyman became something more than that: a tech change-maker. As a student, Natwut studied hard; he gained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from a decent university (Chulalongkorn University) and then he studied some more (industrial engineering at Georgia Tech, Atlanta, followed by an MBA at MIT, Boston). A good corporate job followed, and yet one day he woke up and felt a sense of ennui. “When I’m stuck in an administrative or management role, I get bored very quickly,” he says.
Looking for a change, Natwut founded his own business, Focal Intelligence, a mobile phone application development company, in 2009. It wasn’t until 2011 that he and a group of friends from MIT took the even bolder move of establishing T2P and then finding a way to bolster Thailand’s online payment industry, which still lags behind much of the modern world. “In Thailand, less than 30 per cent of people own a credit card,” he says. “We wanted to create a platform that facilitates online payment for merchants and consumers.” Since its establishment the company has grown to include the e-wallet mobile app DeepPocket, which transforms your smart phone into a wallet through which one can easily conduct online payments.
“Right now we have up to 100,000 top-up channels nationwide,” says Natwut. In 2014 the company also partnered with Central Restaurant Group. “We are now serving more than 15,000 stores across Thailand and handling around a million cards,” he says. While the lives of card holders are greatly facilitated by an e-wallet that comes with numerous benefits, business owners also gain from consumer behaviour analysis.
Thanks to its innovative framework, T2P is garnering attention, and even beyond our borders. “We are currently working with Myanmar’s CityMart Holdings,” he says.
The success of T2P and its numerous platforms is a great accomplishment but Natwut thinks that his proudest achievement so far has been an application that he specifically created for the blind. “I always wanted to read to the blind but I never had the chance to,” he says. “About three years ago I approached Google and Samsung and together we created Read for the Blind. It allows anyone to create audio books and articles, simply by recording it on your mobile phone and uploading it onto the net. The blind can then immediately access it. We have over 120,000 downloads already.” The Kingdom of Bhutan has even expressed its interest in the app. “I’m very excited about this,” he smiles. “They want to explore how Read for the Blind can help the visually impaired community there.”
People do not always get to do what they love but Natwut, who is a devoted husband and dog-lover as well as a successful tech entrepreneur, has been lucky on that front. “Creating new things that people can use is what makes me tick,” he says. “I have a constant urge to find new things to do all the time.” His interest in life was clear since he was a young lad. “When I was little I wanted to be a scientist,” he laughs. “Back then, I thought scientists invented things. Perhaps I was too young so I confused science with engineering.”
Despite his successes, Natwut is not ready to sit back and relax just yet. “Looking into the future, we want to be the largest major e-wallet provider and we also hope to expand within the region,” he says.
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