Name : Dr. Thein Naing
Position : Founder and Chairman of Zenith Strategic Group of Companies
Dr. Thein Naing entered the business field after graduating from the University of Medicine (1). He won the KBZ Entrepreneur of the Year Award (First) at the Myanmar Entrepreneurship Summit in 2016.
How did you start Zenith Strategic Group, and what made you want to do it?
After graduation I wanted to run my own business, so I looked into different areas like manufacturing, trading and service. As I’m a doctor, I decided to start by doing what I’m familiar with, which is medicine. There are two different groups of medicines; antibiotics and prescription drugs and multivitamins. Antibiotics and prescription drugs usually take around 1 to 2 years to get Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval and I didn’t want to wait that long. So, I focused on multivitamins. There are lesser quality (multivitamin) products than I expected. They mostly come from Southeast Asian countries. Korea makes them but also Bangladesh and India. Not many products come from the USA or Europe. The market trend (for multivitamins) in Western countries has shifted over the last ten to twenty years – consumers no longer want their daily supplements to be made from chemicals and have started to favour food-based products. In our country, no such food-based dietary supplements can be found on the market. Thus, I decided to import 21st Century company products from the USA. My company is one of the first five businesses that imported dietary supplements.
Is there any particular reason for choosing 21st Century brand goods?
Because their products are of good quality and are affordable. It is a reputable brand in Southeast Asia and Singapore and a best seller in Malaysia. As it is distributed in over 100 countries, it has a guarantee of quality. Also, the CEO of 21st Century and I get along well and that is also one of the reasons I decided to work with them.
How did you undertake the marketing and promotion, as it was not a known brand among Myanmar citizens?
Many Myanmar people had never heard of 21st Century when I first introduced it. So I had to do a lot of promotion. We had to go to clinics, hospitals and supermarkets and we met with authorities for distribution. When we first started selling in 2013, we sold no more than 4-5 bottles. Now it has become one of the top 3 best sellers for dietary supplements in the country.
What are some of the difficulties you faced?
I was a medicine graduate and there was no one to give me guidelines. I had to learn everything starting from basics to establish my own business. When I went to meet different suppliers, I was rejected by 80 per cent of them. As I had little business knowledge, I learnt from failures and passed the obstacles one after the other.
Tell me more about what your company is doing now. At the moment, there are three principal products: 21st Century dietary supplements, TruLife Bird’s Nest and Super Tech Medical Devices. They are managed under Zenith Treasure Trading. Under Zenith Distribution, we distribute products through pharmaceutical and consumer channels. Another is Aiden Creative Myanmar Co.,Ltd, which makes applications, software and designs websites. I’m also preparing to open retail chains and money changers under the name ‘Zenith Pharmo Investment’.
What is the objective of the Zenith Group?
We would like to be recognized as a market leader in each region and sector in which we operate, delivering excellence through the professionalism and quality of our people, products and services.
Can you name a unique point of your company?
At present, only 30 per cent of Myanmar citizens are city dwellers while 70 per cent are living in rural areas. If a country develops, people from small towns will move to cities. Thus, there will be more middle class and upper middle class people who can spend more and buy premium products. In that case, they will show interest in our quality products and we will sell more. Also we care for the well-being of our customers and offer premium products at an affordable price.
Any advice for youths who want to become entrepreneurs?
I would like to advise them to be open-minded. They should be curious of their surrounding and try to absorb as much information as possible. Think first before doing something and look for the differentiation point of your idea. After studying the market, make plans and think of ways to develop your idea into reality. Consult with experienced professionals. Think and analyze properly before you start and don’t stop once you finally get started. There will be obviously be difficulties but never give up and move on and you will see the fruits of your labour one day.