Interview: Rehan Khan
What should be the top priorities for companies engaged in responsible investment in Myanmar?
REHAN KHAN: Multinational companies entering the market should ensure that their efforts lead to meaningful, measurable progress for the country and the people of Myanmar. Responsible investment comes in many forms and should be embedded in the core of operations. Entering the market is not just about expanding the business; it must create opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs.
Companies should honour a commitment to hire and develop local people through the implementation of capacity building programmes. It is vital to support the leadership potential of local employees and work with them to reach their career goals and allow them to advance into management positions. This is equally important from a business standpoint as it is from a developmental one, and is a core component of our model of doing business ethically and responsibly. Not only should companies expect employees to comply with the law and behave in an ethical manner, companies must hold suppliers to the same standards.
These efforts will contribute to the development of an industry-wide culture of ethical and responsible business development. In Myanmar it is a business imperative to build sustainable communities. Companies entering the market should look to develop programmes with partners to find solutions to local needs, giving back to the communities that they serve. For example, Swan Yi, which is a community initiative in partnership with US-based NGO Pact, will empower 24,500 Myanmar women by 2015, teaching them entrepreneurship and financial management skills.
Myanmar is still considered a new frontier for many foreign businesses. How would you assess the ease of entry into the market?
KHAN: After an absence of 60 years, Coca-Cola’s reentry into Myanmar was eased by our commitment to embarking on a shared journey with the country. Consumers were receptive to brands that believed and continue to believe in Myanmar’s development.
We are no doubt seeing positive advancements in Myanmar, and responsible investments will create a tide of positive change and sustainable development. As with any developing market, there are challenges facing the people and organisations, but we believe these challenges should be viewed as great opportunities. We are optimistic about the future of Myanmar and its potential for a strong economy, which is underpinned by our planned $200m investment over five years. Investment is a tangible demonstration of long-term commitment to generating a lasting positive impact by manufacturing, distributing, selling and hiring through the local market in Myanmar.
What indirect benefits can Myanmar’s economy expect from the entrance of international fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs)?
KHAN: Through the establishment of local operations, companies like Coca-Cola can contribute to Myanmar’s economic and social success by investing in local manufacturing, employing local people, engaging local suppliers and distributors, and supporting community investment programmes. As international FMCG companies enter the market, their expansion and direct hiring will create a ripple effect of indirect employment opportunities across the country.
In addition, as our industry expands, whole supply chains will evolve and advance alongside the development of the country as a whole. International FMCG companies that set up local operations here will help provide development opportunities for the people of Myanmar through ongoing capacity building across functional areas, including sales, marketing, production and supply chain management, administration, finance and IT. Furthermore, we bring world-class technology, equipment and business management best practices to Myanmar, contributing to an elevated level of business operations across the industry.
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