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MYANMAR

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Myanmar – Reemerging as Apparel Sourcing Hub

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Prior to 2011, Myanmar’s apparel industry was plagued by sluggish growth, partly due to isolation from international markets in opposition to country’s military regime. A turning point came when a quasi-civilian government was established in 2011. Most of the sanctions were lifted in the following years and many countries granted a free trade or preferential trade status to several products, including apparel, manufactured in Myanmar. Myanmar’s changing political landscape is expected to have a positive impact on its export-oriented apparel industry. In view of rising demand, the industry will need to expand and strengthen its current capabilities.

1-Rise and Fall
2-New Life
3-Tough Road Ahead

EOS Perspective

Economic reform policies introduced by the democratic government and relaxation of international trade embargoes have opened up a plethora of opportunities for Myanmar apparel industry in the past few years. By 2015, international retail giants such as Adidas, Gap, H&M, Primark, and Marks & Spencer had started sourcing apparel from Myanmar, confirming recognition of this country as one of the frontiers for cost-competitive apparel sourcing.

Still, as a country evolving from conservative military rule and international isolation, several pitfalls and challenges exist. Apparel industry’s long-term growth prospects will largely depend on how proactively the industry stakeholders tackle the issues of underdeveloped local supply chain and low production efficiency. More importantly, Myanmar will need to gear up for transition to FOB model to meet the demands of international markets.

While Myanmar’s apparel industry is on its way to achieve the status comparable to its neighboring rivals such as Vietnam and Cambodia, it will first require extensive investment and collaboration from the apparel manufacturers, suppliers, apparel sourcing companies, as well as the government in order to positively shape its future growth trajectory.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Succeeding in Myanmar’s Fragmented Grocery Retail Industry

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In recent years, several reports have talked about how the rapid economic growth, expanding middle class, and consumer spending have fueled growth in Myanmar’s retail industry. Although the growth potential is very lucrative, retailers should also look closely at the industry challenges that currently exist. These challenges must be carefully assessed and addressed in order to capture the growth opportunities and succeed in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s rapidly improving growth indicators and demographics have attracted the attention of several investors as well as business consulting firms globally. The country’s growing urbanization, middle class population, and rising disposable income point towards tremendous retail opportunities for players looking for new growth markets.

Slide1 - What’s Attracting Retailers to Myanmar

In the past three years, companies such as Coca-Cola, Carlsberg, PepsiCo, KFC, etc., have already entered and started their business operations in Myanmar, while several others are looking at ways to enter the nation’s lucrative retail market, and to be the part of its growth story. Many industry experts remain upbeat on the nation’s future economic growth prospects, and have projected the retail industry to grow at a strong pace in the future.

Slide2 - M&A, JV, and Investment Deals

Slide3 - Store Expansion

Slide4 - Challenges

Slide5 - Challenges 2

Slide6 - Hurdles

EOS Perspective

Rapid economic growth, urbanization, and growing purchasing power, along with consumerization of IT are bringing bigger exposure to international brands for Myanmar’s rising middle class. This is expected to boost the demand for fast moving consumer goods. In addition, the evolving buying preferences of young and aspiring middle-class population, who are looking to spend their rising incomes on bigger and better brands are set to trigger improvements in the range and quality of retail products and services.

Recent FDI reforms and the influx of foreign capital are likely to dramatically change Myanmar’s retail industry landscape in the coming years. International retailers are expected to spur industry growth by creating more jobs, improving supply chain networks and infrastructure, bringing cutting-edge technologies, processes, and management best practices. Furthermore, the increased competition between local and foreign retailers is likely to promote market efficiency, which might also result in better portfolio of grocery products and services on offer.

For foreign players, Myanmar’s retail industry still remains relatively unknown. As the market remains highly fragmented with lack of structured data on consumer preferences and market segmentation, companies need to spend time to study the market.

The best strategy for foreign retailers should be to form a joint-venture with the right local partner, who has comprehensive understanding of the market and its consumers’ buying behavior. Joint ventures remain the preferred strategy for many multinational retailers to enter Myanmar’s retail industry. With the help of trade fairs and road-shows, companies can identify and engage with potential partners. This will help them conduct due diligence, at the same time gain better understanding of the industry as well as first hand market insights. Many companies from Japan and Singapore have successfully reaped the benefits of this approach.

Proven as very challenging, retailing in rural Myanmar remains untapped. There are plenty of growth opportunities for grocery retailers as consumer and market dynamics are expected to continuously improve in the long run. By offering value added services such as bill payments, mobile recharge and top-up cards, and postal services, retailers can truly create a competitive advantage. Retailers can start investing in partnerships with wholesalers and independent retailers to grow their current network. Once the opportunities become ripe, retailers can scale up their operations by acquiring these partners, and thus expand their footprint in new geographies.

Slide7 - Opportunity

In order to succeed in Myanmar’s grocery retailing, foreign and local players will have to form strategic alliances and create a win-win relationship through exchanging technologies and global best practices with sales network and market intelligence. Furthermore, retailers must be agile, flexible, and adaptable enough to seize market opportunities in Myanmar’s fragmented retail sector. Succeeding in Myanmar’s grocery retailing requires unique solutions tailored to meet the evolving demands of various consumer segments.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

The ASEAN Pharmaceutical Market – Measure of Attractiveness

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The ASEAN region, home to more than 600 million people, has historically been an attractive market for international pharmaceutical companies. With the exception of Indonesia, all other countries in the ASEAN region rely heavily on pharmaceutical imports, with Myanmar importing up to 80% of its annual demand. Relative attractiveness of each country in the region also depends on several other factors, as highlighted in the following illustration.


Market Attractiveness of ASEAN Region Countries for International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

As Myanmar Works Towards Stability, Communal Violence Holds The Nation Back.

In mid-2012, we published a report on Myanmar, looking into its potential as a new emerging market with considerable investment and trade opportunities for foreign investors (see: Myanmar – The Next Big Emerging Market Story?). Almost a year later, we are returning to Myanmar, to check and evaluate whether the political, social, and economic changes envisioned and proposed by the quasi-civilian government have really translated into actions to push the country forward on the path to becoming the next big emerging market story.

Being plagued by uninspiring and inefficient governance for more than six decades, Myanmar for long has been proclaimed as Asia’s black sheep. The Chinese named it ‘the beggar with a golden bowl’, asking for aid despite its rich natural and human resources. However, having embarked on a momentous yet challenging political revolution, the nation is said to be on its way to open a new chapter in the Asian development story.

Contrary to what was believed to be just hollow promises and sham, the reforms initiated by the Thein Sein government have gathered much steam in quite a few cases. Bold moves over the last year have also immensely helped the country in gaining goodwill internationally. We are looking at some of the game-changing reforms enacted over the past present year in Myanmar.

Media Censorship

In August 2012, the government put in actions their proposed end to media censorship. As per the new system, journalists are no more required to submit their reports to state censors prior to publication. To further strengthen the power of media, in April 2013, the government abolished the ban on privately run daily newspapers – ban remaining in force for over 50 years.

Foreign Investment Law

In January 2013, the Thein Sein government passed a foreign investment law that was initially drafted in March 2012. The law allows foreign companies to own up to 80% of ventures across several industries (apart from activities mentioned on the restricted list –including small and medium size mining projects, importing disposed products from other countries for use in manufacturing, and printing and broadcasting activities). This acts as an important milestone in opening up the Burmese economy to heaps of foreign investment.

Opening Up Of Telecom Sector

Myanmar, one of the least connected countries in the world, has embarked on the deregulation of its much neglected telecom sector by initiating the sale of 350,000 SIM cards on a public lottery basis. It plans to offer additional batches on a monthly basis. As a more tangible effort to revolutionize the sector, the government is auctioning two new 15-year telecom network licenses to international companies. These companies are to be announced in June 2013 from a list 12 pre-qualified applicants, namely, Axiata Group, Bharti Airtel, China Mobile along with Vodafone, Digicel Group, France Telecom/Orange, Japan’s KDDI Corp along with Sumitomo Group, Millicom International Cellular, MTN Dubai, Qatar Telecom, Singtel, Telnor, and Viettel. Despite the current 9% mobile penetration claimed by the government, an ambitious goal has been set to reach 80% penetration by 2015.

The World Responding To Myanmar’s Progress

As Myanmar works towards attaining political stability, introducing economic reforms and easing social tensions, the world is also opening up its arms to increasingly embrace the otherwise banished land. In April 2013, the EU permanently lifted all economic sanctions against Myanmar, while maintaining the arms embargo for one more year. The USA, on the other hand, has not permanently removed the sanctions, but has had them suspended since May 2012. This allows US companies to invest in Myanmar through the route of obtaining licenses. The definite abolishment of these sanctions by the EU puts pressure on the USA to act soon and lift them as well, to avert the risk lagging behind in the race to tap this resource-rich market. The USA has already begun working on a framework agreement to boost trade and investment in Myanmar. Japan has also been improving its relations with Myanmar to gain a foothold in this market.

With the EU, the USA and Japan encouraging investments in Myanmar, several international companies have directed investments to this previously neglected country.

  • In August 2012, a Japanese consortium of Mitsubishi Corporation, Marubeni Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation contracted with the Burmese government to jointly develop a 2,400 hectare special economic zone in Thilawa, a region south of Yangon. The Myanmar government will hold a 51% stake, while the Japanese consortium will own the remaining share in the industrial park, which will also include large gas-fired power plant. In the first phase of the project development, the companies plan to invest US$500 million by 2015 to build the necessary infrastructure on the 500 hectares area in order to start luring Japanese and global manufacturers.

  • In August 2012, Kerry Logistics, a Hong-Kong based Asian leader in logistics, opened an office in Myanmar. Recognizing the immense potential in the freight forwarding and logistics sector (underpinned primarily by growing international trade), European freight forwarders, Kuehne + Nagel, also began operations in this country in April 2013.

  • To cash upon a booming tourism market, in February 2013, Hilton Hotels & Resorts initiated the development of the first internationally branded hotel in Yangon, which is expected to open in early 2014. The hotel will be a partnership between Hilton Worldwide and LP Holding Centrepoint Development, the Thai company that owns the 25-storey mixed-use tower, called Centrepoint Towers, which will house the hotel. Hilton has signed a management agreement with LP Holdings to operate the 300-room property.

  • In February 2013, Carlsberg, the world’s fourth-biggest brewer, announced its plans to re-enter Myanmar, after it left the country in mid 1990’s owing to international sanctions.

  • Fuji Xerox, a joint American-Japanese venture, set up its office in Myanmar in April 2013. The company, which is the first player in the office equipment industry to start direct operations in Yangon, looks to revive its internationally declining business through this venture.

  • In April 2013, JWT, an international advertising firm, entered into an affiliation agreement with Myanmar’s Mango Marketing, in anticipation of opportunities in this country, given an increasing interest in Myanmar expressed by a number of international players who are likely to seek advertising and marketing services.

Civil Unrest Still Stands As a Major Concern

While Myanmar has made great strides in reforms over the past year, the ongoing unrest between Myanmar’s majority Buddhists and minority communities (primarily Muslims), and the lack of a concerted effort by the government to address it, poses a major threat for the nation to descend into ethnic-religious war. In October 2012, the Rakhine riots between the Buddhists and Muslims claimed 110 lives and left 120,000 displaced to government setup refugee camps around Thechaung village. A similar case followed in April 2013 in Meiktila, where the death roll of Muslims reached 30. Strong international condemnation for the growing racial and religious violence in the region has caused concerns of losing international support gathered over the past few years. Moreover, the use of military force to suppress the Meiktila riots raises fear about the army once again seizing power in the name of restoring order to the nation.


Myanmar’s attempts to transition into a democracy from a highly repressive state have yielded positive outcomes over the past year. While Myanmar seems to be on the right trajectory for future growth and stability, the government must address internal conflicts immediately before the nation stands at risk of tumbling back into chaos, with possible outcomes similar to those seen in Yugoslavia. Therefore, it is safe to say that although political and economic developments are increasingly seeing the daylight, underpinned by the government’s pro-development course, the recent spate of religious, ethnic and communal violence as well as the magnitude of reforms still to be introduced, might still question the nation’s ability to attract and sustain foreign investments and economic development in the long run.

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