Name : Ken Leong
Position : Business Director of Visibility Design Limitedy
W h e n w a s y o u r f i r s t v i s i t to Myanmar and how has she changed since then?
It was in the fourth quarter of 2011 I think, or a little earlier around the time President Thein Sein announced Myanmar was opening up to the world. I came in after the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was in Nay Pyi Taw. Back then things were in a constant state of change, in particular business – the streets were suddenly full of cars and new businesses were very eager to meet. They were all very willing to hear about what other companies were doing. So things earlier held a lot of prospect, even if there were no promises on the horizon immediately.
One of the key differences is that now during certain hours, you cannot even get out of the car park. Traffic jams are a common occurrence and gone are the days you could fit in 4 to 5 meetings per working day. But that appears to be the nature of a fast growing nation, seeing an influx of foreign companies and a rapidly expanding urban center.
Please explain to our readers about Visibility Design Limited.
Visibility Design Limited was founded in Singapore 16 years ago and we are an integrated advertising and marketing consultancy. We analyze and devise effective strategic solutions for our clients’ advertising and marketing needs. Over the years, our competencies have seen us tackling a varied set of requirements across industries. In Singapore, we create TV commercials, design campaign visuals, handle digital marketing for clients, conceptualize and execute engagement activities for clients across the FMCG, Pharma and Alcohol segments. Visibility Design Limited in Myanmar offers the same bouquet of services for clients, but ensures they are tailor made to address the business needs of an emerging market.
What are the major services provided by your company?
We offer end-to-end services – from developing strategies to implementing them. Working with businesses from a wide range of industries, we help them reach their target audience, while ensuring significant steps are taken in reaching their objectives. In addition to print and digital work, we also design, manage and execute PR related projects that encompass everything from product launches and CSR events to hospitality events and more. An example would be the 24th ASEAN summit in Nay Pyi Taw, where we were interviewed and selected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to supervise teams made up of 85 individuals from 26 companies – companies from all across South East Asia.
How did you end up in the current position?
We’ve been in Myanmar for 7 years now. Having worked with clients across different corporate levels and the government, we have come to understand the needs of the Myanmar market. Understanding local nuances has enabled us to work with businesses here and offer them solutions for their needs.
What are the differences between working in Myanmar and other countries?
In all fairness, Myanmar is an emerging market and one that has made significant strides since it welcomed the world to conduct business on its soil. To compare it with developed markets so early is unfair. Having said that, the relative ease of doing business in Myanmar still leaves a lot to be desired. A lotof services are still lacking and you see businesses grappling with ways to modernize. We have the experience to get technology to the front to benefit our clients, so that mistakes that were made in other developed markets can be avoided here with the right guidance.
What inspired the company to open its office in Myanmar?
We have always felt that we can use our experiences from working on projects in Singapore to benefit our clients in neighboring countries. I have always believed that it is a wise move to have an office in a region where the prospect of work necessitates the presence of a team. Myanmar, with its very large population, had been closed to the rest of the world for a long time. A lot of brands are starting up in Myanmar, and combined with the foreign brands in the market – the time is ripe for them to benefit from what we offer. Foreign brands coming into Myanmar will need to be able to localize their services and approach. We’ve been here long enough to understand what it takes to address the requirements of clients in a developing economy. We understand the local context and have a proven track record of using that knowledge to our clients’ benefit.
What is the target market segment for the company?
We do not focus on any specific industry or target market. If you look at our portfolio, we have managed projects for government ministries, local businesses and even produced designs for small Chinese restaurant in the city. We are open to working with organizations from across the length and breadth of Myanmar. But if we were to get a little specific, I’d say we score high with the FMCG, Agri-business, Real Estate, Mobile Technology and Health segments.
What are your competitive strategies?
Since we work on projects across different categories, from launch events and advertising campaigns to marketing work for condominium projects, there are many competitors across different sectors. For each prospective project there are competing international and local agencies. To address this we rely on the strength of our local team to correctly interpret and design for the local market – ensuring that local sensibilities are catered to and clients have a campaign that works for them. For example, when developing brand identities for new FMCG products, ranging from packaging to their selling mechanics, we study the market and understand key information on the ground. This includes data gathering, research, audits, etc., leading to the adoption of a very process oriented approach to work.
What kind of projects are your team currently undertaking?
As the country is rapidly developing, it has seen the entry of big names in the real estate development segment. We are currently working on a very promising national scale project in Mingaladon, which is a JV between a Chinese developer and prominent local landowner. As their advertising and marketing agency, we are developing a fully integrated solution addressing the business needs of what will be an international level commercial trade hub. Additionally we are working with Wilmar on developing new campaign lines through branding and visual merchandising in the retail space. AWBA, a local agri-business company, engaged our services to develop a series of Infographic videos to convey key information about their product line to farmers and businesses involved with the agricultural communities. These are just some of the activities that we design and implement to bolster the presence of our clients in the market.
With a couple of events for the month of October in the pipeline, we are also gearing up for Thadyingut. Holidays are always a key period for our FMCG clients and we are currently developing retail campaigns and promotions to encourage higher sales during the season.
What is your overview on the PR Industry in Myanmar?
I can see that the PR industry is developing very quickly and I think it’s a direct response to Myanmar’s appetite for new products and experiences. The growth of the PR industry is also tied in with how well the country’s economy is doing at a given point and at the moment, it is looking steady. I noticed that global mobile handset companies are releasing products in Myanmar at the same time as other international markets and this is a very promising sign. PR is critical in any stage of a country’s economic and social development – effective communication put out in a timely manner is an invaluable investment for an emerging market like Myanmar.
What are your future expansion plans and projects for the company?
The feedback has been great so far and we’ve just moved into a new high-rise office in the Kandawgyi area, which is able to accommodate a larger team – a response to our growing client base. We believe that a culturally diverse team with a strong local voice is key to making a positive difference for our clients’ brands.
From a business standpoint, what are the biggest challenges facing you and your team in the foreseeable future?
We are a very process oriented company and a market that is growing rapidly and trying to catch up with the rest of the ASEAN region throws its fair share of challenges at us. Apart from the obvious infrastructure and service related issues that most businesses face, adoption of technology isn’t up to the mark. There is a lot, for example, that cloud-based technologies can bring to the table for businesses in Myanmar. Technology is a good equalizer and the faster businesses are to adopt the current trends, the faster we can bring our core competencies to the helm for their growth.
If you could suggest one major change in government policy, what would it be?
There is a definite need for quicker and more efficient solutions to financial services and their integration into everyday commerce. Additionally, a need for some regulation in how real estate prices are fluctuating across Yangon – this has an adverse impact on businesses and individuals looking to work and stay in the city. Finally, if government services can slowly be migrated to online/mobile platforms, it will go a long way in improving the ease of business quotient.