Interview with Christoph Vavrik
Managing Director of Carlsberg Myanmar
Please introduce yourself and the story of Carlsberg in Myanmar to our readers.
My name is Christoph, and I have been living in Myanmar since August 2018 when I was appointed Managing Director of Carlsberg Myanmar. The business was established in 2012 as a Joint Venture between Carlsberg Breweries S/A, and Myanmar Golden Star Breweries Cy Ltd (MGS). It is a greenfield investment, meaning we did not buy an existing company, but instead set-up a brand-new brewery in Bago, which started operations in April 2015. Today, the business employs more than 750 people, of which 99% are Myanmar nationals. Prior to Carlsberg, I was a Member of the Austrian Parliament, but I spent most of my career in the private sector, working for Procter & Gamble and Danone in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. I studied in Austria, Italy and the US and I am both a French, and an Austrian national, my wife is Greek. I truly class myself as a global citizen.
What is the current beer market size in Myanmar and how would you rank your market share?
Myanmar Carlsberg ranks fourth in the market after only 4.5 years of operations, but our objective is to become a strong no. 2. To achieve this, we need to achieve 25% market share which looks reasonable and achievable. Myanmar’s consumption of beer is approximately 6 liters per person per year, which is low compared to other Southeast Asian countries. However, the market grew by over 21% between 2014 and 2018. This growth was largely in line with GDP growth and is a trend that looks set to continue. With a population of over 54 million and a low average age, we believe there are great prospects for the future of the market in Myanmar.
What is unique about Carlsberg brands and which brand is the most popular in Myanmar?
Carlsberg has 173 years of experience producing quality beer products with our beer produced in a brand-new, state-of-the art brewery in Myanmar. We have two brands unique to the country, Yoma and Black Eagle. Both were developed by a local team, for local consumers. Just a few weeks ago, Yoma and Black Eagle won two Gold and one Silver award at the Monde Selection Quality Awards in Brussels. Yoma is our most popular beer in Myanmar and it truly embodies the heritage of Carlsberg, outstanding quality, and strong local roots. We believe that our role as an international business operating in Myanmar, is not only to bring quality beer to the market, but also to contribute to the economic and social development of the country. To that end, Carlsberg contributed almost 26 billion Kyats in Special Goods and Commercial taxes in 2019.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
Thanks to the Government’s great effort in controlling the virus outbreak, our brewery is fully operational once again and business is starting to pick up. Throughout the outbreak, we retained all our employees which means we were well prepared to restart when recovery happened. That said, Myanmar’s beer market was heavily affected by COVID-19, and the closure of bars and restaurants cut demand for beer by almost 100%. On top of this, the economic fall-out of the pandemic on household incomes led consumers to focus their spending on necessities. As a result, our revenues went down between March, and May with the traditionally good sales ahead of the Thingyan holiday wiped out.
What actions or steps did your company take to ensure continuity and workforce protection?
Protecting not only our employees’ health, but also their livelihoods has been the management’s utmost priority throughout the pandemic. Therefore, on top of deploying many health protective measures, we have retained all our employees, with no pay cuts……..