Daw Win Win Tint, Managing Director, City Mart Holding and Chairman of the Myanmar Retailers Association, demonstrates the potential of Myanmar’s private sector. The family-owned City Mart supermarket group she heads is one of the country’s success stories. City Mart opened its first store in Yangon in 1996, but the first few years were a struggle since there was no tradition of supermarket-shopping in Myanmar and importing goods was difficult.
Daw Win Win Tint, the eldest child, took over the management of the company although she was new to the business world. Today, in addition to City Marts, the group includes the Ocean hypermarket chain, upscale Marketplace shops, City Care pharmaceuticals and beauty-products outlets, Seasons bakeries, and City Baby Clubs as well as significant interests in the real-estate sector. City Mart has around 4,000 employees.
European Times: Can you describe the new Myanmar Retailers Association (MRA)?
Daw Win Win Tint: MRA acts as a unified voice for retailers across the country. By working with all stakeholders, we aim to create the right environment for the modernisation of Myanmar’s retail industry. The Association encourages the implementation of the latest technologies and best practices that will benefit both consumers and employees. We foster a continuous process of learning, training and information-exchange. The MRA also serves as a bridge between the government and retailers, and we host networking events and training seminars and provide consulting and other services.
European Times: What are the prospects for Myanmar’s retail sector?
Daw Win Win Tint: With a consumer market of over 60 million and a growing middle class, I see great potential. Myanmar’s retail standards are still low when compared with other regional markets so the MRA’s mission is to advocate, innovate and educate. We estimate that there are over 200,000 retailers across the country, including many large players but also many smaller stores that require additional exposure and know-how to grow.
European Times: What challenges does the sector face?
Daw Win Win Tint: It is difficult for small supermarkets to grow because they do not have access to affordable loans. The scarcity of affordable financing will hinder many owners of traditional shops and markets from modernising their outlets and, therefore, from keeping up with the growing competition. These stores are part of the fabric of daily life of so many people, particularly the 70% of Myanmar’s population who live in rural areas. Local, smaller players need to be given the chance to grow, and this will only be possible through access to affordable financing.
European Times: How can foreign investors get involved?
Daw Win Win Tint: In retail, size matters. By developing our human resources, supply-chain logistics and technology, both smaller and larger retailers can better serve consumers. FDI can play an important role in providing the capital and expertise necessary for this growth. Foreign investors can form joint ventures in the retail sector starting in 2016 and will have 100% ownership starting in 2020. The MRA sees great potential for collaboration with foreign companies to upgrade local retailers capabilities as Myanmar continues to open its doors to the world.