MI : When was your first visit to Myanmar?
I first came here three years ago. It was in 2011. I had a personal trip for a few days here. But then shortly after that I was informed that I had to be transferred to work here.
MI : What was your impression of the country then?
I think Myanmar is very nice and beauti- ful country. And Yangon is very nice and peaceful town. At that time, there was not so much traffic and we were so excited to see all the sites.
I think it was a very good option because we see Myanmar as a very upcoming market for ASEAN and for the world. And Yangon, at that time, may be it was good to see all the growing businesses and options.
MI : How was Toyota Mingalar found- ed in the first place?
Toyota Mingalar was founded by SCG Group. Actually, we are under SCG Trading Company. We have been here for more than twenty years, trading and importing cement to the country. We saw there are a lot of op-
tions for automobile business and Toyota is the market leader for the used cars in Myan- mar and in Yangon. We thought this would be a very good option to open the dealership in Yangon. We found very good partners with the Oriental Apex Co., Ltd (OAC) and Japanese Company, Mitsui Corporation. To- gether three parties founded a joint venture and that is how we started Toyota Mingalar.
MI: Could you tell as more about your role as the Managing Director of Toy- ota Mingalar Motor?
We have started working on this project for quite some time but our company started running in June 2014. And of course there are a lot of duties and responsibilities. We had to start from zero and we had to recruit and train all the staff. We also had to con- struct the service center.
MI : Please explain more on the 9th Toyota Dream Car Art Contest held in Myanmar?
It’s a very good activity that we have a con- test for Myanmar kids to send the artworks. And this contest is very open. For the kids who win in the contest, we have more opportunities for them to visit Japan. So, it’s a very good opportunity for the kids.
MI : What do you think of current trends in automobile market in Myanmar?
I think a lot of good things are implemented by the government like, nowadays new cars must be left hand drive which will increase much more safety for the people and this is the most important concern for us. People will have a better quality of cars by import- ing new cars and also left-hand drive. And I see that in the future, there will be more and more safety concerned regulations will be implemented.
MI : What is your opinion on the dom- inance of used-cars in the current market?
I think it’s very normal. I came here three years ago and there were not so many cars in the market. People buy a lot of used-cars at that time. And recently in the middle of last year, a new car showroom was authorized. I think it’s about timing for people to change from buying used-cars to new-cars. I think new cars have a lot more advantages than used-cars because of the quality and also the service. Driving a brand new car can also improve your status in a way. And also the safety and quality of a brand new car is totally different from a used car. I think if more people get used to buying brand new cars, then used-cars might fade out.
MI : As the market leader in Myan- mar, how is Toyota planning to keep its current position in the automobile market?
Toyota plans to do a lot of activities in order to support society. We just don’t want to sell the car. Our goal is not to just sell the car but to support the society. So we focus on customers’ safety. This is not only helping the society but also supporting the brand of Toyota in the market.
MI : How different are the customer’s expectations here in Myanmar com- pare to other countries?
I think because customers here are very new to using brand new cars, I find they are very interested in buying a brand new one. They want to see the real one they are going to purchase. Even the color and model are the same, they just want to choose the right one. Myanmar customers would like to see the one they are going to buy as “This is my car.” Since it is what customers want, we try our best to support and make it convenient for the customers. Our goal is to increase the service for customers. We just don’t want to just sell the car, we want to give the best service to the customers.
MI : What are the Toyota Mingalar’s objectives?
Our objective is to provide the best service to the customers in terms of car sales and after-sell services and also social contribu- tion to the people in Yangon.
MI : What are difficulties and hard- ships that you have encountered?
I think finding the right people is one of the most difficult things. As the Toyota brand, we want to have very good people working as well as sales persons and service people. We want to keep the best quality served to the customers. And it is very difficult to find the right person and if we find the right ones, we do our best to train and teach those people. It’s easy to train them but to find the right people, it’s not that easy.
MI : What specialties Toyota Min- galar could offer to consumers in Myanmar?
We try to provide the service by well-trained sales persons and service people and we guarantee the service. If there is a problem caused by our service, we will have a re-work and we guarantee that the service we give is the best service. In terms of car sales, Toyo- ta provides three year warranty for 100,00 kilometers drive.
MI : What are the current projects that you and your team have been working on?
Our current project is opening the service shop, in Ahlone Road. We will open our service center in the beginning of February. As Toyota brand, we just don’t provide sales but also quality service. That is why opening the service center is very important for us. We put our effort and make sure that cus- tomers feel very comfortable to come to our service center.
I want to persuade customers to come to the showroom to see the cars we have. These cars are brand new. Some of the customers who used to see used-cars see brand new cars, they would like to have one for their own because of the different quality. Our service shop also access all Toyota brands including used cars in the market. We want to provide a better service quality because we can see some used-cars’ quality are not so good which may cause some accidents on the road. People will feel satisfied to come to our service shop by doing so. At our service center, we take care of used-cars because some of them are quite old and we would like to suggest them to come to our center where we guarantee the quality and safety to the customers on the road and this is very important.
MI : In which ways working in Myan- mar different from working in other countries?
The government policies have been updat- ing (frequently) like every month and on our side, we also have to keep up the news and updates. This is a growing market. I think Myanmar people are very unique, in a nice way. And lately, the number of people who purchase brand new cars is increasing as they have more money by the coming of investments. They are the new group of cus- tomers which keep immersing so we need to catch up these options.
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?
I think used-car market will be fading and people will buy more and more brand new cars. That will be very impactful future in our business. I think there will be more op- tions for the buyers if you make people buy more brand new cars.
Toyota always tries to provide the quality service. We can say that our brand’s service is totally different from other brands in the market. People who purchase Toyota brand will feel very confident of their choice as they are taken care of.
MI : What effect do you think that the sudden influx of foreign companies/ nationals will have?
I think it will be very good for Myanmar because there will be more investment and people will have more job opportunities, more training. People will have much more money and much more spending power. And the city will be much more developed.
MI : What advice would you give to someone looking to start up a busi- ness and invest in Myanmar?
The most important thing is to understand the people. To have an understanding on consumers is the first thing I would like to
“Lately, the number of people who pur- chase brand new cars is increasing as they have more mon- ey by the coming of investments.”
suggest to those who are coming here for investment. Secondly, it’s important to un- derstand regulations and policies by gov- ernment. Myanmar is unique and different from other ASEAN countries and people have to study regulations and laws carefully before they make an investment.
MI : If you could make one major change to any government policy, what would it be?
Because nowadays the Government doesn’t allow foreign companies to do sales and trading businesses, I would like the Govern- ment to allow foreign companies to do sales and trading activities which I think will bring much more investments from foreign- ers and this will have much more impact on the country.
MI : How are you enjoying your days in Myanmar?
I see a lot of changes here in Yangon as I have been here for almost three years. It used to be very peaceful without much traf- fic but nowadays it’s difficult to transport from one place to another. Now it takes about an hour to get a place which used to take only about fifteen minutes. I like go- ing to Shwe Dagon Pagoda during the night time to see many people praying and that is very peaceful.