Aug 24, 2013

Thai-Myanmar business matching takes off

The match-making business for prospective traders and investors in Thailand and Myanmar is booming, prompting Krungthep Turakij newspaper and G Business Link to work together to promote a new era of bilateral business ties.

Vichai Kemtongkum, director of G Business Link, which has been doing business in Myanmar for nearly 20 years, said: "Myanmar has just opened up to the rest of world after several decades of isolation, so there are tremendous opportunities for business, industry and services.

"While many Thai businessmen want to do business with Myanmar or invest in the neighbouring country, there remain many misunderstandings about [it].

"We're used to capitalism, but Myanmar is more familiar with socialism, so the businessmen's practices and attitudes are different. Some Thai businessmen also have a wrong assumption on the purchasing power in Myanmar. It's not that everyone is poor. The fact is that 4-5 per cent of Myanmar's 60-million population have high purchasing power, while another 10-15 per cent are regarded as the middle classes, so there are 3 million rich people and another 6 million to 9 million median-income consumers.

"Many high-income Myanmar people come to Thailand to use medical services, for example, while medium-income people like to buy Thai consumer products. In addition, Myanmar farmers use Thai agricultural equipment and machinery.

"There have been many business delegations from Thailand to Myanmar over the past year. Most trips take one to two days. We go there like a tour group, while Myanmar's businesspeople also come to see us as a group, so business interaction is limited, superficial and ineffective.

"Usually, the organisers did not do the homework in advance in terms of setting priority for meetings between Thai and Myanmar counterparts. Now, we work with Krungthep Turakij newspaper to help prospective investors and traders find their most-suited match with a focus on advance planning.

"Thai businessmen, especially small and mediium-sized enterprises, are encouraged to submit their applicants to join our business match-making programme. We do the screening and then work with counterparts in UMFCCI [the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry] to find suitable Myanmar businesspeople whose interests match those of Thai counterparts.

"For each of the Thai applicants, we arrange in-depth meetings with only one or two Myanmar counterparts at most to ensure effectiveness, since all are screened in advance [to ensure] that they have the qualities suitable to do business together."

Moe Myint Kyaw, secretary-general of the UMFCCI, said: "Thai and Myanmar people have enjoyed a close relationship for many years, while our consumers are also familiar with many Thai products.

"Food and other consumer goods, electronics and electrical appliances, agricultural inputs, telecom gadgets and equipment, and building materials are among those with strong market potential in Myanmar.

"UMFCCI [has] more than 27,000 members, including 24 chambers of commerce and trade associations across the country. In other words, nearly every business and industry is a member of UMFCCI.

"My private businesses include food manufacturing as well as import and export. For example, we export rice, beans and other agricultural products while importing machinery for farm use, construction materials and equipment as well as other products from Thailand."

Suthee Petchlohakul, general manager of TSP Group, said: "About seven or years [ago], we tried to do business in Myanmar. TSP Group is a producer of farm equipment and machinery such as those used in rice fields, mainly via the border trade in Mae Sot [in Tak province] and Mae Sai [in Chiang Rai province] districts of Thailand.

"Earlier, we negotiated with a few Myanmar partners in order to set up a factory over there, but the project did not materialise.

"We have a strong market potential in Myanmar as far as farm equipment and machinery are concerned. Now, 95 per cent of these products are Chinese-made, which are the cheapest in the market, but they are not durable.

"Thai products are not as cheap as Chinese but they are more durable, so we can use this as the strength. We also need to study the practices of Myanmar's businessmen."

Source: The Nation