Central Tech, the e-retail technology arm under Central Group, is partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to establish the Central Tech Retail Lab to support startups with ideas that can be incorporated into Central Group’s operations, offering incubation, training, consulting and eventually commercial partnerships.
Startups can submit their proposals to Central Tech via their website and those chosen by the company will receive varying levels of support based on how mature the startup is and how promising the technology.
An innovation committee comprising Central Group management will decide which projects to bring to market through a proof of concept showcase.
“We are looking for really new ideas that can help us grow our business, drive productivity within the organisation and maybe optimise the way we deal with business partners,” said Axel Winter, chief technology officer at Central Group.
“Each project should be about 4-8 weeks so we can see if there is a benefit, and if we see the value we are prepared to take the next step.”
Early-stage startups can receive training and consulting, while later-stage ones can be taken to market and showcased at Central stores.
Those that prove to be valuable to startup groups can partner with Central and be incorporated in the corporation’s operations, he said.
Multiple innovation projects have already been developed through Central Tech’s innovation team.
“Top Box” is a project to develop the first “innovation supermarket” in Thailand, which uses electronic price labels, QR codes and app payment services, with no need for a check-out queue.
The lab also developed a smart temperature scanner to prevent future Covid-19 outbreaks, which was first implemented at Tops supermarkets, owned by Central Group.
Cypto Coin is another startup partnered with Central Group that offers a reward programme for Central employees, providing discounts at stores near its offices.
Kowin Kulruchakorn, chief of innovation at Central Tech, said the Central Tech Retail Lab will engage with startups and the local tech community to identify new breakthrough ideas.
“We can use the innovations from startup partners to test their ideas with Central Group business and add value to their products,” Mr Kowin said.
Chawapol Jariyawiroj, Thai country manager of AWS, the cloud computing service under Amazon Group, said the company will provide startups with low cost, easy-to-use infrastructure needed to scale and grow businesses.
Startups can access the resources they need to get started on AWS through credit, training and support.
Those selected by the retail lab will receive US$10,000 in credit towards AWS services, along with technical coaching on how to transform their ideas into viable businesses.
“We hope Thailand will have a unicorn startup to drive its economic engine,” Mr Chawapol said.
“Thai startups are very lean with limited resources that make them more efficient. Post-Covid, investors and startups will focus more on profits and losses rather than scaling for growth. However, this opens up new opportunities for businesses to transform, in particular by hyper-personalising user experiences.”