As part of the global Microsoft initiative YouthSpark, Microsoft Thailand has been running a programme called ‘Enhancing ICT Skills of Small Medium Enterprises in ASEAN to help build the capacity of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to put them in a better position to capture opportunities through technology. By using the Internet, social media and cloud computing, they can enjoy more cost-effective methods of working and increasing sales to better compete against bigger players that have traditionally wielded the most clout over resources and markets.Kridsda Pinta, a young man from the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai, took time off to tell us how his web development training is helping him manage his family’s homestay business, Huai Pu Mai.Hi, Kridsda, could you introduce yourself to our readers?Hi, I’m 24 years old and have just graduated from Maejo University. I’m the oldest child in my family, with a younger brother and sister, and we live in the Mae Rim district of Chiang Mai. I enjoy art and entertainment.Can you tell us more about your business?Due to the lush nature and abundance of cultural attractions here, Chiang Mai has come to be known as the Rose of the North. Even as the political situation has been undermining the tourism industry in Bangkok, the market outlook remains positive for Chiang Mai. Analysts predict greater visitor volume in the coming years with the completion of more infrastructure projects.Because of the steady volume of international and domestic tourism, my family saw a viable opportunity to start a homestay business near the mountains where we live. By staying with my family, tourists and business travelers are able to learn more about our culture, while having the chance to be immersed in nature—and all at a reasonable rate.What challenges have you been facing in operating your homestay?Unfortunately, our business has not been able to tap into Chiang Mai’s tourism success.Our main challenge has been in attracting guests. We have been relying on brochures and flyers as our main tools to promote our service, and would leave them in the airport and other locations with a large volume of tourists. There is intense competition in the hospitality industry and we have not been able to rack up the guest numbers.In addition, our resort is located about 40 kilometres from the city centre and up on the hill Huai Pu Mai; this makes it impossible for walk-ins.What did you learn at the web development workshop organised under the programme “Enhancing ICT Skills of Small Medium Enterprises in ASEAN”?I learnt how to create a blog for the first time. It’s powered by WordPress, so the interface is intuitive and user-friendly. I like that the layout is similar to a website, making it look polished and professional. I have also learnt how to maximise Facebook functionalities for corporate use. With the increased web presence, potential customers are able to find information about our homestay more easily and I am now able to engage with them online, as well as with repeat customers and referrals.How have technology and the Internet benefitted you and your business?As we run a small family business, we do not have the financial resources for extensive marketing and advertising. WordPress, being free, is a cost-effective way of reaching a global audience. Now that we have some form of web presence, it is easier for me to join other information and booking channels. It also frees up the time I would have spent on sales and advertising, for managing the homestay instead. What’s more, WordPress is so easy to use!