Usanee Mongkolporn, The Nation

When Siemens Information and Communications (Thailand) first considered venturing into the mobile data application business last year, it was looking for a whiz kid to explore the field.

Chana Sriratanaban, now 28, became that much-sought-after individual.

Chana's doctorate degree in multimedia communications from the UK's Surrey University, along with a long list of awards and a record of ingenuity, landed him the job.

Now a consultant for Siemens' new unit, a mobile data application, Chana can add another feather to his cap: He is the youngest executive and the youngest doctorate holder ever to work for Siemens Thailand.

Chana's major responsibility is to develop wireless application protocol (WAP) and mobile Internet access in Thailand.

Needless to say, he knows his job won't be easy. Siemens wants the new unit to be its cash cow, based on its prediction that mobile-based global transaction values will reach US$ 40 billion (Bt1.82 trillion) next year and $150 billion in 2005.

"Mobile-based transactions will exceed those of PCs. Therefore, investing in mobile commerce solutions looks very promising," Chana said.

He concedes he is new to the field, but said his "ready-to-learn" attitude should help him through. "If you're working in the new technology field, you must be ready to re-learn, whoever you are," he said: Chana believes he's found the secret to developing that elusive "killer app" for the local market. "The key to success in mobile data application lies in understanding Thai clients' needs. Offering foreign-made solutions here is not a smart idea," he said.

Earlier in his life, inspired by the Thai satellite business, Chana once dreamed of becoming a satellite gum. So he decided to take a master's degree in science, specialising in satellite communications at Surrey.

"But I gave up the idea later, thinking it would be impossible for Thailand to build its own satellite," said the former top student from Assumption University.

To his friends at Surrey, Chana was seen as hyperactive. He was president of the Thai Society at Surrey from 1996 to 1999, its webmaster and a lab demonstrator. Last year he was webmaster of the London Hotel Reservation Centre homepage.

The new Siemens' executive also once served as a postman and an upscale one at that, working for the UK's Royal Mail in 1997.

"Thailand was in an economic crisis while I was a doctoral student. I had to hold an extra job to finance my studies," he recalled. He made 56 an hour from the job and earned more working on weekends.

One of the more exciting memories from his Surrey days was when his team entered the final round of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute's contest to develop new GSM standards.

"We were the only amateur team in the round against those from Nokia and Ericsson," he said.

During his free time, he said, he will throw off his Siemens' suit to work as a part-time insurance policy salesman, part ofthe family business.

"My father is a senior executive with AIA (American International Assurance), and my older brother is also in the field. But so far I've sold only two policies," he said.

Note: Chana S. studied at Assumption University during 1990-1993 and took his B.Eng. degree majoring in Electronics Engineering.

ABAC Today Assumption University, Thailand