Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thai boss to take over at Siemens Thailand soon

Once Ralph Hasselbacher leaves Siemens in Thailand for a new, challenging assignment in Germany, Katrat Upayokin will become the first local to be promoted to a high-ranking position, effective on June 1.

Hasselbacher, 46, who is the senior vice president and general manager of Transportation Systems Group in Thailanld, seems to have had success in building up local people to the managerial level with "succession planning".

"My main achievement during my time [three years and three months] is strengthening the organisation in Thailand," he said.

As also head of Mobility, covering the transportation and mobility business in Asean, he has been able to share resources and knowledge among Siemens' people working at its units in countries such as Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

Apart from the subway and airport link projects in Bangkok, Siemens, the world's largest rail system supplier, won a contract in February to install a highly efficient traction power supply for the "downtown line", Singapore's new driverless metro line. It also won a contract last month for a double-track, main line project in Malaysia.

"We built up local experience in Thailand. Meanwhile skilled people in Thailand were sent to work at our unit in Singapore," he said.

Foreigners on the first day he started working at Siemens in Thailand amounted to more than 70 per cent of the workforce, as some expatriates were sent here. Now, the proportion of foreign workers is less than 50 per cent.

"We have tried to put local people at the manager level like Katrat to oversee rolling stock in Thailand - succession planning to be continued," he said.

Katrat, 39, now head of sales for Industry Mobility, who will be the new head of Industry Mobility, has been working for 17 years.

Before starting with Siemens, in 1998 he was responsible for the maintenance of rolling stock and the workshop for the Skytrain - Bangkok's first mass transit line - for four years and six months.

He then took a three-year break from mass transit to join the Siam Paragon shopping mall as the project director, eventually becoming its general manager.

Since July 2006, Katrat has worked for Siemens and is now in charge of sales, marketing and strategy for Thailand, Cambodia and Burma as well as functions within the Asean cluster.

He is also looking after rolling stock, turnkey and all business units related to sales activities for his own business in the cluster and supports headquarter-driven business in the cluster. "My ultimate goal was to maintain Siemens' position as the No 1 supplier for mass transit in Thailand," he said.

His first priorities are to win the next mass transit project in Thailand and keep a good and close relationship with his customers.

Hasselbacher said Thailand had a very good plan for rail system development. Bangkok could also rise to the status of a world-class capital in the 21st century in 40 years, compared with Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta, which are grouped among emerging countries.

Thailand had the best railway 150 years ago with 100 kilometres of track. But, no more major lines had been developed since then, he said.

"Meanwhile, the railway operators [KTM] in Malaysia are not only talking, but they are doing," he said.

Vietnam was slower in starting to develop its railway system than Thailand, but it now has more modern locomotives than Thailand has, he said.

"Although there have been no lines [under the government's plan to build 10 lines in greater Bangkok] as yet, we haven't lost it. We just keep on waiting," he said, referring to the mass transit electric train projects.

He suggested commuter lines were needed to convey people from inner Bangkok to the city's outskirts.

"However, Siemens' Thai unit is now stronger than before and we are confident we have very good chances for upcoming projects," he said.

Siemens Ltd Thailand was established in October 1995 to position itself as a serious player in its own right, offering an entire range of products, systems, solutions and services. It now has a workforce of 1,800 employees.

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