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Building A Business In Myanmar

Kyoko Fujita

More women in South East Asia are taking leading roles at companies, and some are heading up national economies. In the first of a two-part series, we meet a female CEO who is transforming Myanmar's retail market.

Win Win Tint is CEO of Myanmar's leading retailer, City Mart Holdings. Almost 20 years ago she took over the family grocery business, building it into the major chain it is today. She has since expanded into other retail businesses, such as baby goods stores and pharmacies, and employs more than 6,000 people at some 200 outlets.

"Being able to do something different for people, for our customers, for the staff, for the family, is really a great feeling. So I enjoy doing this," she says.

Win Win Tint has been changing local shopping habits. She studied the branding strategies of foreign firms to sell international goods, while offering fresh local products at affordable prices. Most grocers are small, family run operations. But her stores are here to stay, targeting an emerging middle class.

"Prices are mostly fair compared to the shops on the street. I like the fruits here because they're fresh," says one customer.

Win Win Tint has launched two new business partnerships with Japanese firms to increase her access to goods. "The supply chain is still weak in the country," she explains. "And the standard, the quality standards are still developing. Japanese companies usually make things of the highest quality."

One of the businesses is an agricultural company that produces fresh fruit and vegetables with less pesticides. "I think their products are very healthy and very reliable, and tasty too," says a Japanese farm manager Takashi Fujita.

The farming company means she can grow new kinds of produce for her stores. Win Win Tint says Myanmar is an agricultural country without sufficient investment. She is tapping into that market to gain an upper hand.

The other new business is in logistics, delivering cold storage and frozen foods such as ice cream and imported beef. The foods are gaining in popularity at restaurants and cafes as incomes rise, and the number of visitors to Myanmar increases.

A Japanese firm is supplying the latest technology in inventory management. Products have to be stored at the right temperature and delivered promptly, and a Japanese manager has high hopes for business growth.

"More households in Yangon will have refrigerators as electricity supply stabilizes over the next two or three years," says Premium Sojitz Logistic's Ichiro Uesawa. "When people have refrigerators, they will buy cold and frozen food."

Regarding her own success, Win Win Tint says more women in Myanmar should have faith in themselves and take on leadership roles. "I don't see any issue being a woman doing business. We just have to promote more of that, so that we don't become minority."

As a pioneer of business in Myanmar, she is helping to build a new level of infrastructure as she takes the country's retail sector to a new level.

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