Home Insider Getting ready for a scalable competition in Beer market

Getting ready for a scalable competition in Beer market

Name : Daniel Sjogren

Nationality : Swedish

Company : Carlsberg

Position : Country Manager

Profession: Marketing and Sales


MI : When was the first time you visited Myanmar?

I came for the first time to Myanmar in February 2013 to have a first look to review and see the country. I came away very excited. I was in and out of the country till May 2013. I signed the contract with Carlsberg in June 2013 and have been actively on the ground since then.

MI : What was your experience back them?

I saw a melting pot of cultures. Classical traditional attire combined with international exposure. I have never seen this in my life or career.

MI: What are your impressions of the country now and what you see in its future?

I am impressed, especially in the midst of international pressures, by the speed of for- ward movement and momentum without chaos.

The government has been relatively suc- cessful in developing on all fronts. Everyone becomes encouraged by developments and reforms.

I believe everything is going relatively well for Myanmar. It is important for Myanmar to be allowed to develop itself at its own pace. It would not be advisable to push too hard or too quickly.

MI: How does working in Myanmar under the present business climate compare with other Asian countries?

A recent World Bank report ranked the dif- ficulty of doing business in Myanmar 189th globally. Personally I think it’s unfair, based on my experience so far. Other countries seem better because their laws have been translated perfectly into English already.

Awareness and understanding of how to set up a business in Myanmar is not there and they did not make the required investment to understand. Commitment from the se- nior team and the right external partners are needed.

MI: Could you share with us Carls- berg’s present activities in Myanmar?

We started building our factory at the begin- ning of 2013. It’s now about 90% complete. Now we are in the process of installing big machines for our production. We are cur- rently hiring in Bago for technicians. Train- ing in supply chain management is also being conducted by Carlsberg professionals from around the world.

We also opened our office in the new prem- ises from 16 June. We are well staffed for all functional disciplines, combining the best of international standards and the Burmese way.

We are all geared up for the opening of the brand new factory in October 2014.

MI: What does doing business in Myanmar now offer most for your company?

Myanmar has a great potential, especially in terms of beer consumption. Average per capita beer consumption is 22 litres in Hong Kong and 35 litres in Cambodia. Myanmar beer consumption per capita is extremely low at 4 litres per annum. In fact it has the lowest consumption in the world.

With economic and social development, there would generally be growth in con- sumption.

We were the first investor in this sector to re-enter Myanmar, after so many years of self isolation. We have the unique opportu- nity to be part of something important – to help make sure Myanmar starts the right way.

We also want to have an impact on the em- ployment opportunities in Myanmar. Re- search shows that for every job in a beer company, it would create an additional 17 jobs in supporting sectors.

MI: What are the Group long term ob- jectives?

To become a scalable competitor in Myan- mar and to become a large player in terms of volume.

MI: Carlsberg is a responsible glob- al brewer, could you share with our readers Carlsberg’s plan/initiative in these other areas of social and eco- nomic development in Myanmar.

The CSR (corporate social responsibility) angle of our investment is very important. We emphasise on creation of circular com- munities, growth along the value chain and practise stringent CSR standards within the group.

For example, we trained personnel of sup- pliers who built our factory. We prioritise sourcing of materials locally. And, all rice used in our production process would be from Myanmar. Technologically, we invest- ed more in speciality equipment to cut ener- gy usage and wastage.

MI: What effect do you think that the sudden influx of foreign companies/ nationals will have?

There will be new and improved technolo- gies available for the country and the people of Myanmar. E.g., new banking systems, mobile communications, etc. Socially we are already witnessing a change from sarong wearing generation to other fashions due to availability of alternatives.

Business wise, there will be nationwide ca- pability building and additional employ- ment opportunities. Businesses will need to increase competitiveness to be able to com- pete at international levels.

There will be a change, culture wise too. It is difficult to be specific now, as Myanmar has deep roots of culture in terms of religion, heritage and being generally honest people.

MI: What, if any, are the challenges with the local workforce?

If there is a problem. The main challenge is lack of specific func- tional skills compared to other neighbouring countries. We run the risk of losing competi- tiveness due to the lack of abilities. The solu- tion for us at least is we take responsibility for upskilling employees and potential staff E.g., we set up factory visit for 100 students from technical colleges recently.

MI: If anything could be introduced quickly (for example, over the next 6 months) to improve doing business here, what measure(s) would you choose to implement?

We need to stop smuggling of alcohol across the border. Though efforts have been put in, smuggling hit on so many dimensions that it requires even more efforts. First and foremost, the government loses enormous amounts of revenues through tax losses. Un- less government clamp down appropriately and harshly on duty unpaid smuggled goods, future FDIs and employment growth will be affected.

MI: Are there any other risks that you see for the eonomy?

I am generally cautious on the economy get- ting overheated. I am also concerned about the success of companies already invested into Myanmar. It would affect the mood of potential FDIs. We need positive signals to increase confidence of potential investors. Apart from the good work that the govern- ment is already doing, investors need to see the previous FDIs being successful.

MI: How are you enjoying present day life here in Myanmar?

What do you like/dislike about your life This job is the most exciting job I have ever had. The learning curve is very steep. You have to accept that you know nothing and learn very very fast. There are more options now for recreations, sports, restaurants and bars. These options are increasing every month. The social scene is taking very pos- itive steps. Infrastructure, telecom every- thing is improving, even if process may be painful and difficult.

MI: What would the messages that you would like to pass to local enterprise on fair competition and collaboration with foreign partners?

eer industry has so much potential. There is work for all of us to share the future suc- cess of the industry. Both local and interna- tional brands are needed by consumers in Myanmar. It is important to put more efforts into values behind local brands. There are more choices now, so consumers want to try out. Consumers requirement for quality and reliability will increase for everyone.

MI: With the benefit of hindsight, would you have done anything differ- ently when you started, and why?

We are very pleased with where we are right now. Employees are of higher calibre then I originally thought. Business partners i.e., distributors, suppliers, etc., shows high level of professionalism than I thought. I am cau- tiously confident that Carlsberg has the for- mula to be successful in Myanmar.

MI: From a business standpoint, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing you and your organiza- tion in Myanmar in the next 1-3 years?

The biggest challenge would be to stay agile and flexible in an unorthodox way. Because of on going reforms, we have to accept a higher level of uncertainty effecting long term plans.

MI: How do you see Myanmar com- paring with its Asian neighbors in the short and long term future?

I believe Myanmar has a fantastic future. In the short term, Myanmar is coming from a less competitive environment. Free trade may be the right thing for the world, it may needs some fine tuning here.

MI: How do you see Myanmar com- paring with its Asian neighbors in the short and long term future?

I would recommend them to double their investment on understanding Myanmar business environment beyond their current plans. We simply do not know what we do not know. Carlsberg took that advice and now we are in a better position avoiding pitfalls that we otherwise would not foresee. It led to better plans.