Artyt Lerdrakmongkol, a young executive, has recently been promoted to the post of vice president of online business for entertainment conglomerate RS.
The promotion follows Artyt’s work in building up what has become Thailand’s most popular social website, Zheza.com. Over the past two years, the website owned by RS has gathered a membership of 2 million.
Artyt, 29, has now taken over RS’s entire online business, which targets teenagers, who make up a large proportion
Entertainment giant aims to mix Twitter style with e-commerce of the company’s customers. His online enterprises are expected to be a big source of revenue for the entertainment group in the not-too-distant future. This will come, Artyt says, when social media "totally influence people’s daily lives" – an inevitability which he regards as a big challenge.
Artyt, who is known to Tweetple (Twitter people) as @artyt, began his career at RS 10 years ago, when he was a student at Bangkok University. He was then a song writer, but became a music producer when he graduated.
Later, he was promoted to assistant executive producer, then executive producer, and finally, about two years ago, he became assistant vice president for online business, overseeing Zheza.com. It was in this period that 2 million teenagers flocked to join Zheza.com.
He attributes the success of Zheta.com to the fact that he always regarded it not simply as a website, but as a product brand – and he built it up as such.
"When I developed Zheza.com, I always kept in mind that I wanted it to become a social website for teenagers; where they could spend their daily lives with their friends. I think this is the success factor," Artyt said.
As well as Zheza.com, Artyt has now taken over two other RS online products: Pleng.com – which currently has around 500,000 members – and Schoolbus.com, which is scheduled to kick off next year.
He aims to double the combined membership of Zheza.com and Pleng.com, from 2.5 million to 5 million members, by the end of next year. His vital strategy is to build up RS’s three main websites – Zheza.com, Pleng.com and Schoolbus.com – to become social networks equipped with electronic commerce functions, especially for teenagers.
"In the era of Web 2.0, we realise that simple community websites will not be sustainable in the long run, in terms of revenue," Artyt said. "Social networking and e-commerce are the two key elements for driving our three websites to become major sources of revenue in the near future."
His strategies for developing the company’s websites have arisen from his personal interest in social networking as the "new media" and his powerful attraction to the online phenomenon called Twitter.
Under his leadership, RS’s three websites will be equipped with social networking characteristics, allowing members to have a single sign-on and to develop their own social groups in much the same way as they can on Facebook and Twitter, he said.
"From my direct experience and my point of view, although Facebook.com and Twitter.com are now the most popular social-networking sites, they do not engage our target market – teenagers. Most teenagers do not use Twitter.com or Facebook.com, even though they are very powerful communication tools among Thai people. So, our aim is to build up a powerful social network for teenagers, where they can engage by chatting, sharing experiences, making friends and communicating their thoughts to others in ‘their world’. That is virtually what Zheza.com will become," Artyt said.
Personally, Artyt likes to communicate with the others through Twitter. He joined Twitter for the first time about six months ago when Twitter was the subject of the cover story of Time magazine.
"When I saw it on the cover page of Time magazine, I realised that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Then I learnt it and fell in love with it almost immediately," he said.
Now, he spends time each day talking with his friends at Twitter, including both his own followers and those of his friends. He finds the 140-character conversation of Twitter helps him to explore his thoughts, when he throws them out to his society over Twitter.
"It helps me to test my ideas and my thoughts through my friends. On the other hand, it also helps me to learn from the thoughts of others. We share and exchange thoughts through short conversations, and that is its attraction,’ Artyt said.
He believes that the distinguishing characteristics of Twitter – short messages with immediate interaction through reply, re-tweet and directed messages – will comprise the fundamental features of next-generation social media.
"In my personal point of view, Twitter seems to be an incomplete development for a commercial product. It is likely to be a ‘trial version’. I think that in the not-too-distant future we will see the full, complete version of it emerge as a commercial product. It will gain lots of revenue for the company and will be expanded to involve a wider group of people, especially teenagers," he said.
Artyt’s fascination for Twitter and Facebook has helped to create his mission for building Zheza.com, Pleng.com and Schoolbus.com, as well as his ambition to renew his success in social media.
Currently, RS’s entire online business accounts for only 10 to 15 per cent of total revenue. About 80 per cent of that revenue comes from the mobile-phone channel rather than via the Internet.
However, Internet-based online business is expected to grow rapidly because of the major trends of Web 2.0 and social-networking media, and the coming of wireless-broadband access.
RS has split its existing digital-business unit, spinning-off its online business to become a dedicated business unit headed up by Artyt, who will oversee what is expected to be a major source of revenue for the future.