Executive Search in Thailand – 2021 Outlook

Cornerstone Responds with New Services

Thailand navigated the global pandemic relatively unscathed, reaching December with less than 4,000 recorded infections and 59 COVID-related deaths. However late December saw the second wave of cases, generated by a heavy influx of undocumented migrant workers, which drove the infection numbers to almost 10,000 in the first week of January.

With several key industrial provinces effectively reverting to lockdown, the first weeks of 2021 are already testing the best-laid plans for recovery.

In addition to the pandemic, 2020 was a tumultuous year for the Thai government as demonstrators took to the streets to protests in the middle of the global pandemic. The huge crowds were heavily populated by student and youth movements, taking notes from the Hong Kong demonstrations playbook.

The fundamental objectives were to remove the existing regime and also demand a more democratic rewrite of the recently edited constitution which has effectively consolidated guaranteed power in the incumbent ex-military party.

Protests both peaceful and bloody are not uncommon in Thailand, a country that has witnessed 13 successful and 9 unsuccessful coups in just over a century. Significantly this time around, the protestors have openly demanded reform and accountability from the monarchy, long-held as untouchable in Thailand. These ongoing developments could be a major factor in the geopolitical landscape in 2021.


One sector which maintains uncertain is the Thai tourism industry. Thailand has long been a destination of choice for global holidaymakers and tourism forms up to 20% of Thailand’s GDP. Several government initiatives have been launched to try to stimulate domestic tourism but the shortfall will continue to impact the country significantly for the next 2 years until higher volume international tourism can return.

The Department of International Trade Promotion expects exports to return to expansion mode in 2021 with an estimated 4% growth rate.

Thailand’s economy has benefitted from COVID-related exports in areas such as food, hygiene products, home entertainment & consumer electronics, and work-from-home tools. Other industries that have a positive outlook for 2021 include digital & IT related businesses such as e-commerce, delivery and packaging services, cyber-security, healthcare, and insurance.

The other much-discussed upside for Thailand’s well-developed manufacturing sector is the China+1 scenario. As a result of the coronavirus fallout, many multinational businesses look to mitigate the risk of their supply chains’ over-reliance on China-based operations by moving capacity from China to ASEAN. Thailand is well-placed to support these businesses with cost-effective relocation and improved robustness across several key industrial sectors such as electronics, automotive, packaging, and medical device/healthcare.

The country’s infrastructure and strong telco sector have also been essential in the conversion of many jobs to work-from-home for workers in the capital city Bangkok.

In November, Thailand became a founding partner of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world’s largest free trade agreement. The hope is that Thailand will be a net winner from this agreement as a major producer of industrial and agricultural products and a rapidly-developing regional hub for e-commerce and supply chain logistics.

Thailand’s automotive sector looks set for a more positive 2021 as the country’s commitment to EV manufacturing has gained significant traction; the country continues to maintain significant competitive advantages over neighboring manufacturing “competitors” such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. The sector was handed a huge boost with Toyota’s announcement that they would be investing over US$630M into the production of electric vehicles in Thailand as their focal point in Asia-Pacific.

Thailand now dominates the SE Asia EV market, also hosting established commercial operations for Nissan, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and newcomers Fomm and Takano.

Business Expectations and Strategies for Cornerstone Thailand

In 2021, Cornerstone Thailand will be fully embracing service range diversification and the “Trusted Advisor” mantra. Cornerstone Thailand now brands itself domestically as a Talent Optimization consultancy. While keeping Executive Search at the core of our client proposition, we will be responding to client demands to address the holistic people needs of their businesses.

In 2021, many companies will be re-strategizing, reinventing, and implementing talent strategies to meet the needs of the “new normal.”  Essentially this means many businesses are looking to increase automation and outsource non-core business processes. To do this they will need both new mindsets and technology to support their transition.

New talent will be needed at all levels of many businesses with an increasing emphasis on digital savviness, multi-functional agility, and the ability to make and implement quick decisions in volatile business environments.

As such we have now launched partnerships with highly technical companies that have a great set of complementary services for our core industrial clients. From 2021, Cornerstone Thailand will be able to offer clients advice on areas such as automated workforce management, smart factory conversations, and digitally-driven HR processes.

At the same time our GameSpace platform, launched in 2019, continues to attract great interest as many companies look to optimize and improve their existing workforces through the latest mobile training technology.


In conclusion, the 4th industrial revolution is well and truly upon us! Companies in many sectors will be looking for support for their new talent strategies and using a combination of people and technology to drive their “re-invention” phase.

Contact the author, Richard Jackson at richard-jackson@cornerstone-group.com
Information on Cornerstone’s Executive Search Office in Thailand