Culture is not only for the rich - Thai Toshiba

The Nation, Local - Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Japanese electronic appliances manufacturer Toshiba says the recent Jessye Norman and Midori concerts in Bangkok are testimony to its mission to contribute to society in diverse ways.

'Toshiba is all about good products at reasonable prices. And we want to transfer this theory to culture too, which is why we have brought world-class artists at affordable prices' said Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, vice president for Thai Toshiba Group of Companies, yesterday.

Norman was brought in by The International Peace Foundation, while Midori's concert was in conjunction with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. Both artists performed charity concerts.

'The two concerts did not cost more than Bt5 million, but brought together a wide variety of people. They expanded the tastes of local audiences;' Kobkarn said.

'There's the belief that culture is only for the rich, but we believe it's for all people,' she said.

Many corporations promote sports, but not culture, as they feel it is an expensive proposition.

'But we worked hard to prove this wrong and focused on art, culture and education;' said Kobkarn referring to the variety international artists Toshiba has brought to the country for more than a decade.

This is why Kobkarn was happy with the master classes that Midori held for young music students in the city, for which she charged little than her basic honorarium.

“Midori has a great commitment to spread music in the community,” Kobkarn said.

'We want to bring the heart back to the community. Business is not just about the brain but the heart too. At Toshiba we firmly believe that the materialistic world is not all about profits and products. As the materialistic world expands, so should the world of humanity,' she said.

Toshiba has four companies with nearly 4,000 workers in the country, and everyone was involved in the cultural programmes of the group.'We don't calculate sales and returns in this field, as we believe that there are hidden benefits for, everyone,' said Kobkarn.

Kobkarn, who won an International Woman's Entrepreneur Award recently, is particularly proud of the art competition Toshiba holds every year, which brings in at least 2,000 entries at five levels from kindergarten to university.

Toshiba says this cultural and educational ethos is manifested by its companies around the world.

The Tokyo office sponsors a jazz festival every year, while the London branch supports the Asian section of the Prince Albert Museum and the Science Museum.

The New York branch backs the 'Explora Vision' science project, with science teachers' associations in schools.

Lekha J Shankar