Connecting Myanmar one step at a time

Connecting Myanmar one step at a time

In the last couple of years Myanmar has undergone a metamorphosis. The removal of international sanctions enabled its entry onto the global business stage and 'Myanmar' became the word of the moment.

In the last couple of years Myanmar has undergone a metamorphosis. The removal of international sanctions enabled its entry onto the global business stage and 'Myanmar' became the word of the moment.

For Capacity Media it was no different. Myanmar is an interesting proposition for any international companies entering the market and the road to get Myanmar Connect to where it is today has featured the odd bump.

The seeds of the event were sown at Capacity Asia in Bangkok last November. For the first time a few Myanmar companies attended and the steady echo of "here are the Myanmar people" reverberated across the conference hall. The Indochina-focussed panel was hijacked by Myanmar discussion, making it clear that the market opportunity was a hot topic for debate.

At PTC in January, Alex Grose (our director of event sales) and I met with a few key stakeholders to test the idea of launching a new event in Myanmar. After the fifth emphatic 'yes' we knew we were on to something. We were so excited that we booked our tickets to fly out to Yangon the following week.

Myanmar itself enchanted us (which is lucky considering the amount of time we have spent there in the last six months!) and Yangon's heady mix of chatty tea shops, golden temples and smiling inhabitants, alongside some resoundingly positive meetings, only increased our determination to create a new platform connecting Myanmar’s telecoms ecosystem with the international market.

A Yangon call centre in January 2013

Since then the project has been a series of minor triumphs which objectively appear insignificant but when taking into account the complexity and difficulty of the task that we had set ourselves were cause for much rejoicing around the office.

The first of these triumphs was when HGC got behind Myanmar Connect as a launch partner and Redlink became a local sponsor "turning our concept into a viable goal." 

In June, Alex Grose and Annabel Helm (our conference development manager) returned to Myanmar to meet with key government representatives and to build momentum in country. They returned with two new local sponsors (Yatarnapon and Fortune International), a consultancy partner (Deloitte Myanmar), a local partner (the Myanmar Computer Federation) and a whole host of new ideas.

On 27 June 2013, Ooredoo and Telenor Myanmar were announced as the mobile licence winners with Orange as the reserve applicant. This gave us the ability to firm up the agenda and build a picture of exactly who needed to speak.

The ball was really rolling now but, as great as this was, we knew that the key to putting together an exceptional conference on Myanmar's communications rested on government involvement and endorsement. Government approval is pivotal for any business in Myanmar so our delegates needed Ministerial contact in order to make their trip worthwhile.

There followed a flurry of official letters, invitations and confirmations.

Our aim from the outset was to build a sustainable and reputable conference that would directly impact the communications market in Myanmar. Improved communications has a direct impact on every citizen from easier access to health and education to job creation alongside the obvious economic and trading benefits brought about by access to the world of global business.

We were not the first company to try and 'put on a conference in Myanmar' and this has left many of the local officials jaded by constant hounding and empty promises. We were, however, the first event organiser to do it properly, obediently jumping through every bureaucratic hoop whilst trying to stop our patience from wearing thin.

Finally at the end of the July, the invitation for a face-to-face came from His Excellency U Myat Hein, Union Minister, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Alex dutifully re-packed his bag and made the journey to Yangon to hear the good news in person: the Ministry would co-host, the Union Minister would open and close the conference, PTD would speak, MPT would speak... all confirmed pending final Presidential approval.

On Tuesday 6 August 2013 the confirmation came from the Ministry.

So, after an incredibly steep learning curve we have now reached the point where we have the first, government supported telecoms conference offering a real opportunity for discussion on the opportunities available in this market. So far, we have delivered what we set out to do. Not only do we have the Ministry's endorsement but we also have all four mobile operators on the agenda (MPT, Yatarnapon, Ooredoo and Telenor Myanmar).

If this blog has inspired you to see the fruits of our labour, please join us in Nay Pyi Taw in September- our brand-new brochure is available for download and has full details of the agenda, speakers and sponsors.

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