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Interview with Alan Chan Commercial Director, Asia Pacific, Dow Water & Process Solutions

Name : Alan Chan

Position : Commercial Director, Asia Pacific, Dow Water & Process Solutions.

Brief Bio

Alan Chan is the Commercial Director in the Asia Pacific for Dow Water & Process Solutions business, a role he has held since January 2017. Based in Shanghai, he’s responsible for all commercial activities in the Asia Pacific area. Chan joined Dow in 2000 with extensive experience in engineering and polymer science. Chan is originally from Hong Kong and holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering and Polymer Science from Louisiana State University.


When was your first visit to Myanmar and what was your first impression back then?

This is the first time that I have visited Myanmar. My impression is how friendly the people were. There’s also something vibrant yet calming in the atmosphere. That I find as one of the charms Myanmar has to offer and I can see why a lot of people are drawn to this country.

Please tell our readers about Dow Water & Process Solutions?

Dow Water & Process Solutions is a global leader in sustainable separation and purification technology. We’re helping to make water safer and more accessible, food taste better, pharmaceuticals more effective and industries more efficient and spearheading the development of sustainable technologies that integrate water and energy requirements. We offer a broad portfolio of ion exchange resins, reverse osmosis membranes, ultrafiltration membranes, particle filters and electrode ionization products, with strong positions in a number of major application areas, including industrial and municipal water, industrial processes, pharmaceuticals, power, oil and gas, residential water and waste and water reuse.

What inspired Dow Water & Process Solutions to open its office in Myanmar?

We first established our presence in Myanmar in 2015 and set up our office in Yangon in January 2016. To go backin time a bit, coming to Myanmar fitted with our business strategy, which was and is to expand geographically by going to an area or a country where we are underrepresented. We see a huge potential for Myanmar’s manufacturing sector to grow and aim to contribute to the development of this country, by offering our many technologies and solutions for the manufacturing industry. Chemicals are essential to manufacturing and Dow has 6,000 product families to offer to suit various markets.

How did you end up in your current position at Dow Water & Process Solutions?

I began my career with Dow in 2000, where I joined the METHOCEL Process R&D Group in Louisiana, in the United States. From there, I moved to Shanghai to lead the R&D capability of Dow’s pharmaceutical business in Asia Pacific and later as Global Application Development Leader for Dow’s Water. In 2011, I moved to Hong Kong to head the newly formed Dow Energy Materials business and develop regional business strategy. I began my role as Commercial Director for the Pacific region with Dow Water & Process Solutions in November 2014 and further expanded to cover AsiaPacific in January 2017.

Dow Water & Process Solutions in a number of other countries as well. What are the differences between working in Myanmar and other countries?

I do believe that every country is unique and there is not one template that fits all. What remains the same in terms of our approach is that we bring the same dedication to help solve challenges that include access to food, clean water and energy conservation. For example, in Myanmar, where access to clean and safe drinking water continues to be challenging, we bring effective water treatment solutions that are trusted worldwide.

What kinds of service does Dow Water & Process Solutions provide for local and international companies?

There are a number of commercial services that we provide. I think what makes us different from other companies is how we stay with the client until the whole process is completed. In cases where we don’t have any technical team available locally, we will send for someone from outside the country. It is our responsibility, part of our service, to make sure that the client can start operating. This is the most basic service. In cases where the user already has some experience, and let’s just say, similar technology, we will introduce ways to achieve higher productivity and efficiency.

What are the necessary water solutions for urbanites in Yangon who have had to deal with issues such as poor treated water quality, aging water facilities, and main pipelines, among others?

As in any market with high growth, Myanmar has many challenges that require innovative solutions. First thing first is to raise water quality standards, which is important because as a country, Myanmar is only beginning to open up and have more investments coming in. To be able to reach that goal, it takes collaboration among the government, the industry and the general consumers. On the government side, what we need to recognize is that every country is unique. What works in another country may not work for Myanmar. The government needs to understand the balance between regulations and economic development. On the industrial side, clearly, we have to start with utility. No economy can grow without utility. We need to have more industry players involved in associations to become more aware about what is common industrial practice. The third element is consumer awareness. We need to start early to educate consumers about the safety of drinking water. In our experience, it is the most difficult part because quite frankly, sometimes people look at water and it is clear. They think it’s clean and they drink it. They may not have the awareness that there are a lot of things you can’t see inside the water that may not be healthy.

With the growth of other cities in Myanmar, such as Mandalay and of course the capital Nay Pyi Taw, water quality issues are becoming increasingly important. What are some practical things that can and should be done by the government in its planning?

These ties with your prior question. I believe that on the government side, there needs to be realization that every country is unique. What works in another country may not work for Myanmar. The government needs to understand the balance between regulations and economic development. That’s where it needs to collaborate with both the consumers and the industry, of which we are part of and would be eager to contribute to.

What is the target market segment for Dow Water & Process Solutions?

Our business focuses on sectors such as Building and Construction, Infrastructure, Agriculture and Consumer markets, which complement the Myanmar government’s development plan.

Who are your major competitors and what are your competitive strategies here?

Competition is everywhere, and it is good. We are confident about our business because we have the market share, experience and tangible results. Many of our competitors offer one particular product, which is good and they can be perfect at that technology. But I would say from our experience, the highest achievement comes when you’re able to solve a problem and to have a combination of knowledge and experience. Our expertise is in offering solutions that fit the users’ needs. Not many companies can say that with certainty.

What is your view on in Myanmar?

I’m very excited about being in Myanmar and growing along as the economy picks up. We now have in store local talents responsible for local support. That is what we have accomplished so far and we are seeing very good returns on those. Compared with last year, this year, business has grown a lot. Among all the countries in Asia Pacific, Myanmar is definitely one of the fastest growing. Our company aspires to be a responsible business partner to help Myanmar advance its economy and improve the living standard of its people. We seek to add value and innovation to Myanmar’s manufacturing industries and infrastructure sector so as to enhance the country’s competitiveness in the region and believe that in turn, this will contribute to job creation and growth for the local economy.

What are your future expansion plans?

What we plan to do, in the coming future, is to continue with what we have done in the past year, which is to develop and expand our service capability locally. Eventually, we will work with our local partners to explore and define opportunities either in consumer or industrial areas.

From a business standpoint, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing you and your team in next one to three years?

Right now, we’re still relying on resources outside the country, but I’d like for the team to put our footprint here. I see Myanmar going through the same thing as we saw in Vietnam, where the technical and commercial teams have grown very fast. We will continue to grow our local talents by providing them with more knowledge. That will be the immediate next step to be put in place. There will be more investment in the longer run, to be decided based on the growth and size of the country. It’s important to us that our clients will benefit from the balance between the cost and benefit, as well as get more return.