Interview with Aye Hnin Swe, Chief Executive Officer at Mango Group
- Please introduce yourself and Mango Group to our readers.
My name is Aye Hnin Swe. I am the CEO of Mango Media Group. There are 6 entities under Mango Media Group and I am responsible for 5 of them. My partner, Lynn Lynn Tin Htun, works for MAC, which is the advertising company. We founded Mango Group in 2004 so it’s been 16 years already.
- What inspired you to establish Mango Group in Myanmar and what challenges did you face?
Starting from 1994, I worked at Bates, which is an international advertising agency. During that time, women only could work for the roles of admin or secretary. So, I started as the secretary of the Managing Director and I started to like how advertising works. Since then, I’ve been into advertising. But in 2002, I received a scholarship to go abroad. It was really difficult to make a decision at the time because I was working for a good company with impressive pay. So, I was in a dilemma whether I should go abroad or not. But I decided I should polish my knowledge and skills more so I went abroad. Then, I stayed there for 2 years and received a post-graduate diploma.
At the time, a lot of international companies are leaving Myanmar since there were a lot of economic recessions in the country. The company I worked for was also included so my colleagues convinced me to come back and establish my own business here. At that time, I was also planning to establish an international school here. So I came back to Myanmar and established Mango Media and also an international school. So yes, I established Mango Media with my passion for advertising.
16 years ago in 2004, women mainly worked for family businesses. People did not really accept and they looked down on women who work outside. Even my parents did not believe in me. It was difficult for me to gain the trust from people. There weren’t any investment companies at that time and banking also was not that popular. It was not possible to take a loan from the bank so we had to use our own money that we had saved. We also didn’t get a lot of clients. We had to pay for the employees although my partner and I did not get the salary. There were also a lot of people who didn’t want to see us become successful with our company. Nothing would have happened if we just gave up easily. But we both decided to make it happen.
We would buy a license for SEA GAME and broadcast it back here. We didn’t have that much money to buy it but we did it anyway. But we were lucky enough and with people who supported us, we sold all of the airtime that we bought. It became a great asset for us to survive at that time, and people from broadcasting stations whom we had to deal with were mostly men. They were not very impressed and they couldn’t treat us with a business-like behavior. Those difficulties and struggles are nothing if we think it back. We just need to overcome those.
- What changes are you observing in media agency biz due to COVID-19?
Obviously, we couldn’t work at the office anymore due to COVID-19. We have to work from home. The main reason is that we want to make sure that our employees are safe and healthy and also our job is something we can finish working from home so we try to work from home. During the first wave of COVID-19, nothing really happened and the conditions were much better than this. During that time, we started working from home in March and then we opened the office again in June.
The nature of our company is that it is still okay if we stay at home and work. But when there was a commercial shooting or some finance work, we faced a lot of difficulties. We are lucky that our clients are very supportive of us, who are long-term partners with us. Some other advertising agencies also had to face difficulties during this period. However, we all tried to overcome those during the first wave. And now in the second wave, some of the companies had to reduce the pay or even the manpower. This depends on the situation of the company, of course. But for us, we are still trying to survive. It is a lot more difficult to operate compared to the previous years.
It has also become a challenge to get a new client, unlike before. It was a lot easier to sit down with the team and discuss the business matters. But now, a lot of people are struggling with their mental health since it has been so long that they have to stay and work from home. And not everyone cannot have a large space to work at home, especially women. Some have kids at home and they have to also include in the housework since they are at home. So between men and women, the latter has to struggle more during this time. And since they cannot fully concentrate on the work when they are at home, the creativity of them has also decreased. And unlike at work, it has become more difficult to interact with each other.
And among the youths, they would hang out with their friends during lunch time or after work. But they cannot do it anymore so it also affects the mentality of them. We just have to encourage each other and try to overcome these difficulties. So to recap, for media and advertising agencies, we have to try harder than before to be more creative and we are also facing some difficulties in having team meetings online, which definitely is different from talking in person. Another thing is our clients are also cutting their budgets, which also affects the revenue of our company. We also have to try really hard to not affect our job performance during this period.