From radio to an airline, Branson claims to be ready for further expansion in Thailand


From radio to an airline, Branson claims to be ready for further expansion in Thailand

The British multinational conglomerate Virgin Group and its flamboyant owner Sir Richard Branson are well-known across much of the globe. On a recent fly-in-fly-out visit to Bangkok, Branson made it clear he is very much interested in establishing his Virgin airline in Thailand.

Although he was quoted as saying the airline would be set up ‘soon’, Branson did not give a specific time frame, simply indicating he would do it when the time seemed right and in a big enough way to shake up the local industry.

He noted how just 15 years ago he entered the Australian domestic airline market with just one plane, but now his company holds a 35 percent share of the market down under.

Branson already has business experience in the Thai marketplace with two radio and fitness ventures in the country. Thailand was the first country outside Britain to have a Virgin radio station when BEC-Tero Radio Company secured the rights to use the Virgin brand and in 2002 established the 95.5 Virgin Hits station. BEC-Tero now runs two radio stations under the Virgin moniker, having established Virgin Star FM 98. All told Virgin employs 150 people.

This compares to Virgin’s overall global reach which extends to over 400 companies employing more than 60,000 people in over 50 countries in a range of businesses from travel to telecommunications and finance.

Branson said Thailand had a lot to offer and he said Thai people were good to work with, making the aviation and hospitality industries perfect for their talents.

Commenting on the radio and music business, Branson said radio was the kind of medium which would go on forever because people can listen to it at home, at work, in the car; basically wherever they could pick up a signal.

While music shops, for example, had pretty much disappeared in the last decade, Branson said today’s music listeners haven’t changed, they still listen to free music on the radio stations and can download music via the Internet. Consumers are not purchasing music in the same way as they did in the past.

Neil Thompson, the managing director of BEC-Tero Radio, was quoted as saying he believed the local radio business will continue to grow. Radio audiences are on the rise with consumers listening on platforms such as computers, mobiles and through social media. He said 80 percent of Virgin Star’s listeners tune in via personal computers at work.

According to Neilsen Thailand, radio advertising rose by just under three percent in the first seven months of this year to 3.12 billion baht.