Monday, September 25, 2017

Small businesses should take up regional opportunities

Small and medium-sized businesses in Myanmar should act fast and market their wares to regional markets, taking advantage of a growing opportunity for trade, say experts.

Instead of thinking locally, small companies should try to export to an international market, said Dannie Chiu, regional director for Southeast Asia and India at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Speaking on the sidelines of the ASEAN Business Forum 2015 in Bangkok last week, she said SMEs should be as innovative as possible.

“If you do not have a big budget, you can promote your business through online advertising or in newspapers,” she told The Myanmar Times. “SMEs need to be innovative, attempt new things, and come up with an original design and brand name – registering a trademark is easy.”

The ASEAN Economic Community will present a huge chance for Myanmar’s SMEs to expand, she said.

“In Myanmar I saw young tailors making clothes in Bogyoke market and many other small shops. Now they have an opportunity to expand,” she said.

If a garment company opens a small factory with 50 workers, for example, it can begin taking orders from the international market, she said.

Manufacturing companies across ASEAN want to open factories in Yangon, and local businesses should try to connect with them at events and seminars. If I had to give some advice I’d say don’t be shy, talk to people.”

In the domestic market, SMEs have an advantage over big international businesses because they are familiar with the local laws, language, traditions and culture, she added.

“There’s no need to wait for investments. If you do not act now, other businesses will come and take your place. The longer you wait, the more chances you will lose out on.”

Myanmar produces good agricultural products and if logistics are improved, exports will flourish, she said.

The main concern of SMEs across ASEAN is financing. Around 90pc of smaller businesses believe they need more funding, said Teh Kee Sin, president of the SME Association of Malaysia.

SMEs also need government backing, in the form of policy support, infrastructure, funding and technology, he said. Without this, businesses will struggle.

“The government should also help SMEs to market themselves and ensure that information is available,” he said, adding that non-government organisations can also provide vital support.

Entrepreneurs should be aware that technology is constantly changing and ensure they are able to adapt and stay ahead of the curve, he added.

Surapon Vongvadhanaroj, CEO of Surapon Foods Public Company agreed that innovation is key. “Try to find a product that nobody else is offering – something that people need,” he said.

Within the ASEAN Economic Community it will be important to consider how to support SMEs, he said, adding that without additional regulations, small companies could end up being pushed out of business by larger firms.

“For the SME sector, we should consider a regional law, because at the moment different countries have different laws. Unless we have a regional standard it could cause problems,” he said.