Home Insider Interview with Thura Swiss’s Dr. Aung Thura Sharing his insight and experiences...

Interview with Thura Swiss’s Dr. Aung Thura Sharing his insight and experiences in the world of business

Name : Dr. Aung Thura

Position : CEO Thura Swiss


MI : What it was like growing up in Zurich, Switzerland as a Myanmar national?

When I grew up in Zurich, there weren’t many Myanmar nationals in Switzerland at that time but every once a year or two, we flew back to Myanmar and gave a visit to our families and relatives.

When I was in high school, I’d had much interest in learning Latin and Ancient Greek languages. I graduated high school with the second highest grades in the whole school and was chosen by a Swiss foundation that supports the most outstanding students in Switzerland.

My earlier idea was to study Physics after high school but later I’d changed my mind and decided to pursue Mechanical Engineering at Swiss Federal Institute of  Technology Zurich (ETH), which in my opinion has a more practical aspect and is also related to my earlier interest in Physics. I gained a master’s degree with specialization in air- craft engines and internal combustion. After that, I studied business and graduated with a master’s degree in finance and economics. While studying for my PhD, I worked for Credit Suisse’s Business Development Private Banking.

My opinion is that an engineer should also have an understanding in business. For example, as an engineer, if I want to invent something, I have to take consideration of its business potential and advantages. And while I was studying Engineering, at the same time, I attended business and economics classes and for my master’s degree in business, I wrote a thesis with Swiss National Bank.

MI : Tell me more about your film “Shadows of the past”?

As I’ve stated earlier, I have much interest in variety of subjects and one among them is film. I wanted to know the whole process of creating a movie. I always give attention to the background information and the making of a film whenever I watch one. So I wanted to give it a try. We filmed the first part of this “Shadows of the past” after I’ve finished my PhD and the second one was filmed in Switzerland during Summer, six months after I’d moved to another Swiss bank.

I was interested in more than acting and yet I wasn’t skilled enough to direct a film but I participated in the whole film making process in other ways. From reviewing the script, choosing the location in Switzerland to applying visa for the whole team, I took part in it.

Currently, I don’t have immediate plans for the entertainment industry as I don’t have enough time and I have to manage my business here. But may be later in the future, I’d like to make a comeback, probably not as an actor but as a producer or a director.

MI : Why did you decide to move into Myanmar?

I’ve thought to come back and live in Myanmar since I was at ETH. But I decided to finish my education and have some work experiences before going back to Myanmar. I’d made a plan that I would decide whether I moved back to Myanmar before I turned 35. After that, on my way back to Switzerland from my one visit to Myanmar, the thought of moving in appeared again. Then I consulted with my parents and at first it shocked them but after hearing my thoughts and ideas, they gave their support. It was in early 2011 and the country was at the beginning of its transition process and I wanted to give it a try and when I look back, I didn’t want to regret this as an opportunity I’d missed.

MI : How was Thura Swiss founded?

Thura Swiss was founded in January 2012 and I moved in here in July 2012. For the first three or four months, the company wasn’t known by many people and there weren’t many clients but we focused on brand-building. My specialization and experiences lie in banking and finance but when I thought of founding a business here, I de- cided to choose market research. There are many reasons that I chose market research but firstly, it is the kind of business that can derive regular revenue from which I can build up a team. Another advantage of this business is that every time we do research in a particular area for our clients, we be- come skilled in that area ourselves. And when investors want to enter Myanmar’s market, at first they’ll either go to the law firm or a market research organization. So I’ve already had connections with foreign investors while doing research for them at the early stages and that provides opportunities for us to be partnered up.

MI : Where does Thura Swiss derive most of its revenues?

When I first founded Thura Swiss, the revenue was operated mostly from the industry research that is a customized research. When a client wants to enter the market, we first give a proposal that we can provide with a report in six to eight weeks in which we inform the regulatory framework, about decision makers, key players and drivers in demand and supply area as well as research on distribution channels, cost structures and margins. For every project, first we always start with desk-research then we will discuss with experts and government officials and provide the client with a report after systematically analyzed our research. Lately, we expand our service to consumer research and consulting. We’re currently working on researching five thousand households in Yangon about their living conditions and social economic standards and our employees use highend devices for the whole survey process so that there are fewer errors be- cause of the technical assistance.

MI : What kind of difficulties you faced with during last few years doing your business in Myanmar? And how did you overcome them?

Lately, the rental fees here have been higher than before and the only companies that can last in long term are the ones that can operate higher revenue. Luckily, our company’s revenue depends on foreign clients that they know the value of the market research and are willing to pay for that. But lately, compare to last three years, we have more local clients that most of them are working on capital market. At first, we’d faced with the staff quitting without any advance notice but after working more on the content in the contract, the employees have become realized and maintained the relationship between us even after moving to another company. Another hindrance is that when we inform the actual tax while most companies don’t. Not that much of a difficulty but it’s kind of hard here working on trust-building, it takes a particular time in Myanmar.

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

In two or three years, rental fees will continue to grow and there will still be the shortage of labor as more foreign investment enter the country and local companies need to be prepared for that.

MI : Who in your opinion are your main competitors?

We don’t have competitors whose business is exactly the same as ours but as we give services like consumer research, industrial research, consulting and capital market, there are similar companies in each field but are not exactly like us. We can name some foreign consulting firms as our competitors to some extent but at the same time, they are also our clients as we provide them with the data and they do consulting based on them. Compare to our competitors, our advantage

is that we have local knowledge. Since Thura Swiss staff are all Myanmar nationals, except for one, we’re really good at local knowledge and network, both in private or government sector. And we don’t have language barrier which can’t be underestimated here when working with foreign companies and for that matter, our staff can interact with both local and international clients without difficulty.

MI : Can you share with us the type of assignments that you have done for your client?

We’ve been assigned for Oil and Gas sector and we’ve done research frequently on re- finery petroleum products and fuel stations and also provided with reports on microfinance, consumer finance, mobile money, construction sector in Yangon, telecom sec- tor as well as fast moving consumer goods.

Local clients would assume that it would be expensive to assign market research with Thura Swiss but actually, for those clients, we try out many ways to lighten the cost.

Local companies that teamed up with foreign investors were enlightened that the market research is essential. Compare to last three years, there are developments in market size and Thura Swiss has gained more revenue as more foreign companies invested in Myanmar and local ones have also become open-minded about the market research.

MI : How do you plan to participate in upcoming Yangon Stock Exchange?

Since there is no official announcement on YSX’s licenses, I can’t tell exactly at the moment but I want to take part in Myanmar’s capital market in some way though I can’t tell exactly how for now. There are many other ways in participating YSX even if it’s not as a security company. I occasionally give seminar on capital market for the local businessmen at UMFCCI or Myanmar Banking and Finance Association as well as give lectures for students at National Management College. I’ve also been thinking about uploading a video file of power point presentation on capital market on YouTube.

MI : What are your future plans for Thura Swiss?

As Thura Swiss, we will continue our business in market research and consulting. As for me, I’ve been planning to participate in upcoming capital market and I have also some other business in early stages that I’ve recently started.

MI : Previously, Thura Swiss news- letter was ad free. Now you’re getting ads into the newsletter. Do you think the ad income would become significant? Why?

It has been about three years that we started writing newsletters and there weren’t any thing like that before us at that time. There are two reasons for us publishing electronic newsletter, the first one is to give the over- view information for those who aren’t able to study the country’s market constantly. The second reason is that the newsletters act as the main marketing instrument for us. Currently, we have about 12,000 receivers and about 1,000 weekly-readers. When we first publishing newsletters, there were only over one hundred receiver and as the number of receiver increases, we have to expand the technical expenses as well as to manage the quality control. Though there is not much profit from those Ads, we use the revenue from them to maintain the quality of the newsletters.

MI : What could be the downside of the sudden influx of foreign companies/ nationals brought into the country?

There aren’t any disadvantages from the entering of foreign investment generally but Myanmar need to be prepared strategically. Myanmar has to define which kind of in- vestment can be advantage for the country. Not every foreign investment is good for the country and some will only end up competing the local companies. The government has to support the foreign investment that can be benefitted to the country. Consulting with all the concerned organizations be- fore the actual implementing is also should be done. Lately, I’ve seen the government asking for inputs from UMFCCI and other related associations and it can be deduced that’s quite on the right truck. This influx Not only the government, but also from the political party, I would like to hear more plans about the economic growth and how they are going to develop these plans step by step in coming five years. I would like to see the decision makers working with the long term strategy instead of short notice. Even if they have plans and strategies, it still lacks in communication. Since the General Election is drawing near, political parties should let the public know what their economic plans are if they win the election and if they still don’t have one, it’s time to start planning.

MI : What advice would you give to someone looking to start up a business and invest in Myanmar?

It’s not very easy starting up a business here and investors should be prepared before entering the market. Though there won’t be much difficult for a foreign operator but in founding a small and medium enterprise-SME, it takes consideration in market potential. The next important factor is the quality of the staff. Be prepared to be an attractive employer and is not all about giving high salary and bonus and is about motivating the employees, giving deserved position and responsibility.[/paypal]