Name : Kinoshita Yokho
Position : Executive Advisor of FWP research
When were you first visit to Myanmar and what was your first impression back then?
Firstly, I came to Myanmar in 2012, June and it has been around five and a half years already. However, I had been doing used car exports to Myanmar since 2005. For me, Myanmar is a familiar country because exporting used cars was really a good business. Until now, I set up companies and businesses in seven countries and Myanmar is the 7th country. Unlike other countries, I thought it was hard to get along in a proud country. I have been to 40 countries up to now, and it turns out that Myanmar was the most difficult one to do business. For the first 2 years, my business was not in good shape, so I studied Myanmar culture, history and national character carefully.
What do you think of Myanmar now?
Although Myanmar has changed from military regime to democratic regime, the way people think and legal aspect do not change immediately at once, so there are still many difficulties for foreigners to live and do business in Myanmar. Myanmar is known as “The Last Frontier” in Japan and lots of Japanese people tried doing business in Myanmar because Myanmar is a Buddhist country and people are kind and friendly. However, due to the lack of business fund and experience, information shortage, many companies stopped their businesses. I felt lonely because most of my acquaintances from the time I came to Myanmar has returned to Japan.
Apparently, I wanted to challenge the notion that Myanmar is a difficult country. I believe that there is surely a business chance because Myanmar is a country of great potential. I want to do lots of things for Myanmar.
Could you tell me more about your duties and responsibilities?
Japan will host for Olympic games in 2020. Until then, the Japanese economy is very good, but I assume that there will be some drop in economy after the Olympics. So, I will commit to Myanmar business until then. I have been doing business management for 30 years.
Now I am over 60. I want to share my experience with young people as much as possible and give them opportunities. I want to contribute toward the country. I am the only Japanese Rotarian in Rotary Club of Yangon. I will contribute to development of Myanmar by donating and volunteering through Rotary club activities as much as I do my business.
FWP research is in Japan as well. What does FWP do in Japan?
We do research in both Myanmar and Japan. Most of our clients are Japanese companies doing business in Myanmar, but the contracts are usually done through Japan Headquarter. Design for Yearbook and pamphlet, printing, management are operated by Japan HQ. In addition, we are doing data center business for Japan in Myanmar. This business is going to be done by a regional office.
Tell us something about your latest publication pls.
Most of our job requests are from large Japanese companies. Large Japanese companies have much information on Myanmar. Most requests are about the information even Large companies cannot obtain. In FWP RESEARCH,we do not receive fee when we cannot accomplish the survey target. However, expenses to pay to staff and external investigators are necessary. So the more we do the higher deficits it becomes.
So I stopped taking survey requests for time being and started Yearbook publication. We found that there are 1,000 tax payer rankings and TiME rankings. With the co-operation of political economic writer Alinsik (IR) and American lawyer Sam P.Britton, advice from U Soe Win of NLD and help from UMFCCI, we were able to create this book.
A team of 10-15 survey staff conducted survey via phone and personal visits daily. Everyone tried their best. Yearbook contains not only the data on 1,000 Myanmar companies but also introduction on 20 Myanmar Tycoons, Government chart, Legal summary, tax ranking list and TiME ranking list, about 720 pages in total. We published this book in English language because we wanted it to be used by as much foreign business as possible. Except from printing, most of the process was done by FWP (Design, DTP, Data check, native check, License). In addition to the content of the book, I dedicated the best to paper quality, printing and packaging. The project took about 1 year which is longer than I expected. When you purchase this Yearbook, you can use Web search function called FWP Finder for 3 months free. You can search with company names, business types, executive names & NRCs.
What other kinds of service FWP research provide for local and international Companies?
Through the sale of Yearbook, they will be informed about FWP research and we conduct market research, business matching, DM Marketing service (Directmail Marketing service), corporate survey and consulting services.
For business matching, we will create a database of information on what kind of business the companies want business matching. This will be the very first business matching service.
We have basic information of 10,000 companies and among them, 1,500 companies have already surveyed. Based on that information, we will make mailing labels according to the clients’ request. For example, if a company making business expansion in Myanmar wants to hold an exhibition, we can make contact stickers that meet their requirements. In this way, you can easily create invitation letters without waste. I think this will be the first DM Marketing service in Myanmar.
What kind of projects is your team currently undertaking?
We are now planning to open a branch office in Thailand. We will establish a Myanmar business PR center called “Myanmar Business Center” in partnership with Thai companies. We will provide information service of 11,500 Myanmar companies, seminars and individual consultation sessions. We are discussing with Royal Thai Embassy and Thai Business Association of Myanmar.
If the business runs smoothly in Thailand, we will set up “Myanmar Business Center” in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.
We are working in alliance with Sankei Newspaper in Japan for our Yearbook sale. However, I do not intend to set up “Myanmar Business Center” in Japan. Most of Japan companies making business expansion are in Thailand, Singapore and China. There is an organization supporting the Japanese government’s overseas expansion called JETRO, so I would like to give it a try if I could do an alliance with JETRO. However, it is hard with my current situation.
Where do you get all the information needed for the Yearbook?
Based on the TiME ranking and Tax ranking announced by the government annually, company information from UMFCCI, telephone survey and visit survey are conducted on daily basis. I think it would be really great if Myanmar Insider Magazine could let me refer to some data as well.
What is your view on transparency of companies in Myanmar?
In the case of Myanmar companies, since there are many family businesses in large companies, it would be great if they could reconsider the corporate management. This is very similar to the current Korean companies’ situation. In Korea, there is no stability of the country with only large companies and small businesses and shops. Even if SMEs (small and medium enterprises). in Myanmar upgrade the business transparency, business opportunities with foreign companies will increase. By increasing transparency, banks will make loans to SMEs.
When can we expect the 2ND edition?
It will be around October and November, 2018.
What are the upgrades we can expect in the 2nd edition?
In Vol.2, we will focus on group companies. Actually, apart from Vol.2, I would like to publish Yearbook by type of business. The current Yearbook is about major and excellent companies, but in Yearbook by industry, we will research from large companies to SME companies. We will divide the companies of various industry groups into 4 to 5 volumes. For example, it is divided into construction, manufacturing, service, agriculture and fishery, so if customers need only one volume to know the information of their selected business type.
This may take about 2 to 3 years to finish all 5 volumes as it is a big project.
From a business standpoint, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing you and your team in next 1-3 years?
Some of the big enterprises are not willing to open up their data and some of the companies even rejected to be in our Yearbook. I would like every company to open up for the development of the Myanmar economy. Information disclosure is becoming common in Thailand and Vietnam. Therefore, it is one of the reasons that the advancement of the foreign enterprises has progressed.
If you could make one major changes to any government policy, what would it be?
The present government needs overseas investment. However, with underdeveloped laws, protection policy of domestic enterprises, ongoing maintenance process of tax system and customs clearance, non-disclosure of various information, high value of real estate it seems as if overseas investments are not very welcomed. With my one year multi-visa, I have to go abroad every 70 days. My visa will soon expire. Visa application process also cost more than other countries. I feel like even my visa does not welcome me. The major obstacles stopping overseas investment are sudden rise in real estate price and protection policy of domestic enterprises. The Myanmar economy will develop greatly if it improves.
The infrastructure of Myanmar (electric power and road) is not well developed, however foreign companies will help develop infrastructure if the investment environment is in place. The government wants to improve education and medical care. If it is create policies for schools and hospitals, they can be improved soon. I understand this because I am familiar with school construction and hospital facilities donation through Rotary club activities. Please improve the special economic zones rather than making industrial parks. Then, you can immediately build an industrial park in the special economic zone.
Lastly, my mission and vision is to introduce Myanmar companies to foreign business through FWP RESEARCH Yearbooks and surveys, inviting foreign investment to Myanmar. I sincerely hope for the economic development of Myanmar.