Myanmar firm gets account for SEA games

SAIL CEO John Handley presents the SEA Games sponsorship approach with U Thaung Htike (centre) and Dr. Khin Khin Kyawt (right) looking on during a July 7 press conference in Yangon

SAIL Marketing & Communications, a Yangon-based advertising and consultancy firm, inked an MOU with the Myanmar Olympic Committee, becoming the sole advertising agency for the 27th Southeast Asian Games, which are scheduled to take place in Naypyidaw, the nation’s capital, in December 2013. The event has not been held in the country since 1969.

Founded in 1991 by Dr. Khin Khin Kyawt, the woman largely credited with creating Myanmar’s advertising industry from the ground up, SAIL weathered a storm of sanctions that suffocated the nation only to emerge after historic reforms encouraged the West to ease economic limitations.

The firm has since mushroomed from a low of three employees to 147, becoming the largest advertising and marketing network in Myanmar by staff, with 12 offices nationwide and a fully owned research division. Private equity firms and a number of multinational companies have recently approached SAIL with the intension of participating in the Southeast Asian Games.

Over the last 20 years, SAIL has launched some of the largest brands in Myanmar such as Myanmar Beer, Close-up, Fair & Lovely, Milo, and Adra.

The Southeast Asian Games, SAIL’s first official interaction with the Myanmar government, is seen as having the ability to highlight not just Myanmar athletics, but also local businesses.

“The surge of support and business investment set to pour in, coinciding with the 2013 Southeast Asian Games, makes it a unique platform for national and multinational investment”, SAIL CEO John Handley, an American who has been living in and out of Myanmar for over 10 years, told Inside Investor.

U Aye Myint Kyu, deputy minister of the Ministry of Sports, oversaw SAIL sign the MOU with Secretary General of the Myanmar Olymic Committee U Thaung Htike on July 7, expounding to local press the government’s plans to keep on the path of reform.

“What surprised me the most was to hear [U Aye Myint Kyu] say that ‘transparency will be valued above all else’”, Handley told Inside Investor via a Skype interview.

“I didn’t expect there to be such a thrust”, he continued.

Now that international restrictions on financial transactions and investment have been eased, the transformation expected to occur to the bucolic, still mostly agrarian society that forms a land bridge linking China and India has stoked intrigue in global companies.

Daiwa, a Japanese technology firm, recently signed a deal to install an online system for the Myanmar government and has been chosen to build computer systems for the country’s first stock exchange. Earlier this month, General Electric became the first US company to investment in Myanmar by agreeing to sell medical equipment to hospitals in Yangon.

The world’s largest advertising group WPP, owner of advertising, public relations and market research companies such as Ogilvy & Mather, Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, Grey, JWT, TNS and Young & Rubicam, recently entered the Myanmar market by acquiring a stake in one of Myanmar’s larger advertising agencies, Today Advertising, based in Yangon. Among Today’s clients are PT Konimex Laboratory, PT Sampoerna, Mandalay Beer and City Mart Supermarkets.

“The business potential of Asia’s newest frontier becomes apparent”, Paul Heath, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific, said after signing the deal.

Myanmar’s advertising market was worth just $33 million in 2011, according to media buyer ZenithOptimedia, compared with $600 million for Vietnam, indicating a huge upside potential.

Such is the infancy of Myanmar’s stage of development that the dizzying changes currently being undergone create distinct opportunities to establish or reshape the backbones of entire industries.

Internet censorship recently ceased in Myanmar, with local sources telling Inside Investor that running searches of previously banned content – such as “Free Burma Campaign” – no longer result in being blocked. The immediate effect has been a massive strain on the country’s IT infrastructure, flaring bandwidth consumption and overcrowding the nation’s fledgling network.

Deficiencies in the provision of adequate capacity such as that seen in the IT and telecommunications industries are where investors stand to seize the most opportunities.

“You are not starting at ground zero – this country is more than ‘shovel ready’. Many opportunities exist in infrastructure, telecommunications and infrastructure since Myanmar has been implementing these systems for many years”, Handley advised.

However, overcoming hurdles involved with setting up business in Myanmar will likely require adopting a similar “frontier strategy” as seen in Vietnam during the early 1990s. Local infrastructure is poorly maintained; many railway links have gone neglected, limiting maximum speeds to a crawl.

Staying “skeptic” is widely upheld as popular opinion by analysts and Myanmar watchers who fear possible “backpedalling” in reforms, but Handley – a former General Electric employee – sees major moves being made by US corporations as the kindling of a new era in bilateral ties.

“There is no going back on the relations being built between the US and Myanmar”, Handley said.

“[Businesses] should expect a lot more than they think”, he added.

 

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SAIL CEO John Handley presents the SEA Games sponsorship approach with U Thaung Htike (centre) and Dr. Khin Khin Kyawt (right) looking on during a July 7 press conference in Yangon

SAIL Marketing & Communications, a Yangon-based advertising and consultancy firm, inked an MOU with the Myanmar Olympic Committee, becoming the sole advertising agency for the 27th Southeast Asian Games, which are scheduled to take place in Naypyidaw, the nation’s capital, in December 2013. The event has not been held in the country since 1969.

SAIL CEO John Handley presents the SEA Games sponsorship approach with U Thaung Htike (centre) and Dr. Khin Khin Kyawt (right) looking on during a July 7 press conference in Yangon

SAIL Marketing & Communications, a Yangon-based advertising and consultancy firm, inked an MOU with the Myanmar Olympic Committee, becoming the sole advertising agency for the 27th Southeast Asian Games, which are scheduled to take place in Naypyidaw, the nation’s capital, in December 2013. The event has not been held in the country since 1969.

Founded in 1991 by Dr. Khin Khin Kyawt, the woman largely credited with creating Myanmar’s advertising industry from the ground up, SAIL weathered a storm of sanctions that suffocated the nation only to emerge after historic reforms encouraged the West to ease economic limitations.

The firm has since mushroomed from a low of three employees to 147, becoming the largest advertising and marketing network in Myanmar by staff, with 12 offices nationwide and a fully owned research division. Private equity firms and a number of multinational companies have recently approached SAIL with the intension of participating in the Southeast Asian Games.

Over the last 20 years, SAIL has launched some of the largest brands in Myanmar such as Myanmar Beer, Close-up, Fair & Lovely, Milo, and Adra.

The Southeast Asian Games, SAIL’s first official interaction with the Myanmar government, is seen as having the ability to highlight not just Myanmar athletics, but also local businesses.

“The surge of support and business investment set to pour in, coinciding with the 2013 Southeast Asian Games, makes it a unique platform for national and multinational investment”, SAIL CEO John Handley, an American who has been living in and out of Myanmar for over 10 years, told Inside Investor.

U Aye Myint Kyu, deputy minister of the Ministry of Sports, oversaw SAIL sign the MOU with Secretary General of the Myanmar Olymic Committee U Thaung Htike on July 7, expounding to local press the government’s plans to keep on the path of reform.

“What surprised me the most was to hear [U Aye Myint Kyu] say that ‘transparency will be valued above all else’”, Handley told Inside Investor via a Skype interview.

“I didn’t expect there to be such a thrust”, he continued.

Now that international restrictions on financial transactions and investment have been eased, the transformation expected to occur to the bucolic, still mostly agrarian society that forms a land bridge linking China and India has stoked intrigue in global companies.

Daiwa, a Japanese technology firm, recently signed a deal to install an online system for the Myanmar government and has been chosen to build computer systems for the country’s first stock exchange. Earlier this month, General Electric became the first US company to investment in Myanmar by agreeing to sell medical equipment to hospitals in Yangon.

The world’s largest advertising group WPP, owner of advertising, public relations and market research companies such as Ogilvy & Mather, Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton, Grey, JWT, TNS and Young & Rubicam, recently entered the Myanmar market by acquiring a stake in one of Myanmar’s larger advertising agencies, Today Advertising, based in Yangon. Among Today’s clients are PT Konimex Laboratory, PT Sampoerna, Mandalay Beer and City Mart Supermarkets.

“The business potential of Asia’s newest frontier becomes apparent”, Paul Heath, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific, said after signing the deal.

Myanmar’s advertising market was worth just $33 million in 2011, according to media buyer ZenithOptimedia, compared with $600 million for Vietnam, indicating a huge upside potential.

Such is the infancy of Myanmar’s stage of development that the dizzying changes currently being undergone create distinct opportunities to establish or reshape the backbones of entire industries.

Internet censorship recently ceased in Myanmar, with local sources telling Inside Investor that running searches of previously banned content – such as “Free Burma Campaign” – no longer result in being blocked. The immediate effect has been a massive strain on the country’s IT infrastructure, flaring bandwidth consumption and overcrowding the nation’s fledgling network.

Deficiencies in the provision of adequate capacity such as that seen in the IT and telecommunications industries are where investors stand to seize the most opportunities.

“You are not starting at ground zero – this country is more than ‘shovel ready’. Many opportunities exist in infrastructure, telecommunications and infrastructure since Myanmar has been implementing these systems for many years”, Handley advised.

However, overcoming hurdles involved with setting up business in Myanmar will likely require adopting a similar “frontier strategy” as seen in Vietnam during the early 1990s. Local infrastructure is poorly maintained; many railway links have gone neglected, limiting maximum speeds to a crawl.

Staying “skeptic” is widely upheld as popular opinion by analysts and Myanmar watchers who fear possible “backpedalling” in reforms, but Handley – a former General Electric employee – sees major moves being made by US corporations as the kindling of a new era in bilateral ties.

“There is no going back on the relations being built between the US and Myanmar”, Handley said.

“[Businesses] should expect a lot more than they think”, he added.

 

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