Their first contract has been entered with the Danish company Thrane & Thrane whereby Myanmar Liaison Limited has become the sole distributor for Myanmar of Thrane & Thrane’s maritime radio communication and navigation equipment in Myanmar. The deal is attractive, as Thrane & Thrane’s Sailor series presently holds an overwhelming share of the global market and is already in great demand in Myanmar.
Together with a local partner, the two Danes are now in the process of establishing a large showroom for Thrane & Thrane in a very attractive Yangon location.
The two Danes had expected to concentrate on Danish companies interested in Myanmar, but based on the response they have also had from non-Danish companies they have now started the process of establishing yet another separate company.
“The response has been quite overwhelming, so we are now working on a new business initiative together with a partner that we cannot yet disclose the name of. But the idea is to adopt a much broader Nordic/north European perspective,” says Jakob Korslund.
Jakob and Bjarke notes with slight amusement that since the opening of Myanmar has become a reality, a lot of experts on the country have come out of seemingly nowhere.
For anyone interested in Myanmar it should be noted, that there is no such thing as easy money, they say. That goes, if anything, only more so for Myanmar.
“Myanmar is a traumatized country and characterized by distrust towards not only outsiders, but anyone who a person or group of persons is not already familiar with. That is why local presence and having network entry points is critical,” Jakob explains.
“I would like to stress also that with the hype right now being felt in Bangkok and elsewhere – sometimes bordering hysteria, I’d say – it is important to do your own research and use multiple sources, rather than just running with any one of the many many ‘Myanmar experts’ who have suddenly appeared.”
Many of these experts also seem to forget to look at what is good for Myanmar.
“In terms of general development we firmly believe that what Myanmar needs right now, almost more than anything, is to get some ‘wheels turning’, creating business and local jobs, in order to get a functional and sustainable economy up and running.”
“Our aim is to do profit oriented business in partnerships to the benefit of local progress. By making use of our portfolio of local partners and focal points, we are in a position to help companies find local partners and customers, or make bids for government tenders – basically facilitating business”, says Jakob.
“At a time when especially Europe is hard hit by economic crisis we feel motivated to help Danish, and other, companies find new markets,” adding that “it feels great to be able to be part of ‘win-win’ initiatives”.
The strength of Myanmar Liaison Limited lies not least in the two partners’ combined several years of experience in Myanmar.
Jakob Thoft Korslund arrived in Thailand in 2006 to do an internship with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). He continued to do a Master Degree in Development and International Relations, and worked almost three years as Political & Consular Officer with the Royal Danish Embassy in Bangkok. In September 2010 he went back to Denmark where he spent one year in Copenhagen, only to return to Bangkok last year with fresh ideas and a new-found ambition for private enterprise.
Before co-founding the Myanmar Liaison Limited company in January 2012, he worked for the advanced web design company Area Digital and Control Risks Group, which is a global risk and strategic consulting firm specialising in political, security and integrity risk.
Bjarke Manniche Nielsen’s career includes two years with the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) in Thailand and 3,5 years of service as Senior Programme Officer at the Danish Embassy in Bangkok. Bjarke was responsible for the Danish development assistance to Myanmar, which has given him a very extensive insight into the socio-economic development of Myanmar. Bjarke has also actually lived in Yangon while working as Project Coordinator for the Australia based Institute for International Development (IID).
Together, they have successfully developed an extensive and efficient network in Myanmar which include many highly placed focal points, as is critical when doing business in the country.
Advice for business with Myanmar
For anyone interested in starting business in or with Myanmar determination and perseverance is key, according to Jakob – and definitely along with a good measure of patience. He further mentions that work on local networks is important – a lot of time must be invested in this, as it will very often determine which possibilities and alternative options you will have as a business.
To this end, he adds, a real physical presence in Myanmar is necessary – i.e. by frequent visits and/or locally placed representatives.
“As in any country, it is also important to nurture multiple positive relationships in the local business community and not – so to speak – place “too many eggs in one basket”. The turnover of people in influential positions – private sector as well as official – has increased dramatically since democratic reform started gaining momentum and are likely to continue. Depending on the context and sector it can be notoriously difficult to predict who will be the decision makers tomorrow”.
“Reality checks should always be done, especially in regards to HR issues, logistics and market opportunities, just as it is also important to steer clear of indications of corrupt practices and people with a tainted reputation”, he adds.
But overall, Myanmar is an exciting once-and-for-all opportunity that is happening right now.
“It has really been an adventure and there is no indication that it will slow down for us anytime soon – the future is exciting, to say the least,” Jakob says.