Myanmar is a country with a very rich cultural heritage. Numerous wonderful traditional arts have flourished in this beautiful nation in the past and many of those are still in existence and practiced widely. The beauty of this culture has been enhanced manifold by its willingness to assimilate and adapt to different cultures and arts during its long and colorful history. Among the various arts and crafts that are practiced in Myanmar, there are ten arts which have a special place in the culture of this country. These traditional arts have been passed on from one generation to the next for the past many centuries and they have managed to survive even till today. These ten special arts are referred to poetically as Myanmar’s ten flowers and they are as follows:
Panbe – Art of the Blacksmith:
This is the art of forging iron in a furnace and using specialized tools for creating various kinds of items from it. In English language, this art is known as the art of the blacksmith.
In Myanmar this art emerged in the 11th century A.D., which is also known as the early Bagan period.
By the mid Bagan Inwa and Yadanapon period, this art had improved and enhanced considerably.
In the Yadanapon period, Myanmar’s Panbe art had become quite famous and even today it is quite famous in South East Asia for its special artistry.
Panbu – Art of Making Designs in Wood:
Panbu is a branch of sculpture wherein figures and designs are made using wood and ivory.
The origins of this art in Myanmar can be traced back even before the Bagan era began. Significant strides of improvement were made during the Bagan period and this art continued improving as the time progressed.
Most of the figures and designs made using
the Panbu art are related to Buddhism.
Many practicing artists survive even today and wooden sculptures can easily be found in shops.
People interested in seeing the wood sculptures of older periods may visit Shwezigone Pagoda at Nyaung-U; Shwe-inpin Monastery, Mandalay; and Bargayar Monastery, Inwa.
Pantain – Art of Goldsmith and Silversmith:
This is the art which is known in English as the art of goldsmith and silversmith.
In older times, silver was used in Myanmar for making various kinds of utensils while gold was used for making ornaments.
Pantain artists have been creating silverware for the past one thousand two hundred years, and the quality of the utensils even in those old times was truly exceptional.
The people of Myanmar can be truly proud of
their rich heritage and superior workmanship in this area.
Pantin – Art of Making Utensils from Metals
Pantin is the art of taking metals such as copper, bronze, or brass and changing them into useful utensils.
This art emerged in Myanmar before Bagan period and was improved upon during the Bagan and Inwa periods.
The bells used in pagodas, gongs, and cowbells made using the Pantin art are popular souvenirs which foreign tourists like to take back with them.
Pantaut – Art of Creating Designs and Figures from Stucco:
A Pantaut artisan is someone who is skilled in using stucco to create floral designs and figures such as lions and dragons.
The people of Myanmar started practicing this art even before the Bagan period and kept improving on it in the Bagan, Inwa, Amarapura, and Yadanapon eras.
Me Nu’s brick monastery at Inwa is a stellar example of Myanmar’s exceptional Pantaut workmanship.
Panyan – Art of Bricklaying and Masonry:
Panyan is the art of bricklaying and masonry.
This one art that Myanmar can be really proud of as the buildings built in this country during the Bagan era are considered much superior amongst all historical periods.
The buildings built during this period are astounding due to their solidity, magnificence, enormity, and elaborate adornments.
The masonry of mid Amarapura period is also considered quite exquisite in its own.
Pantamault – Art of Stone Sculpting:
This is the art of sculpting with stone and Myanmar’s history is rich with stellar examples of Pantamault art.
Traditionally the artisans in this country make images of Buddha, pillars, flag poles, tables, and animal figures such as elephants and deer.
Even today this art form is very popular and widely practiced throughout Myanmar.
The city of Mandalay holds the most Pantamault studios but workshops are held in Yangon and many other cities as well.
Panpoot – Art of Turning Wood in Lathe:
The history of Panpoot art in Myanmar can be traced backto8th centuryA.D.
This art involves crafting wooden utensils by turning wood in lathe.
Umbrella shafts, table legs, bed legs, posts for railings and pavilions, food containers, bowls, and boxes are some of the common items made using this craft.
The art of turning designs on the lathe gives a unique and interesting shape and design to the items which are well liked by people all over the world.
Panchi – Art of Painting:
Panchi is the art of painting and Myanmar’s history is rich with gorgeous illustrations of this splendid art form.
The Myanmar’s Panchi artists traditionally paint sceneries, objects, figures of humans and animals, and even cartoons.
The Konbaung period of Myanmar history has presented the world with the most number of paintings. The paintings made during this era were also more colorful and lively as compared to other periods.
Panyun – Art of Making Lacquerware:
This is the art of making lacquerware using bamboo, wood, and a special kind of varnish.
The traditional style followed by Panyun artists was derived from the stories about Buddha’s life.
In Myanmar’s history, the emergence of this art can be traced back to 11th Century A.D.
Bagan is considered as the home of this craft and many of the Panyun lacquerware is considered invaluable due to its artistry and historical significance.
Besides the above mentioned “Ten Flowers” Myanmar also has a rich history of many other arts which include pottery, tapestry, mosaic, lapidary, silk weaving, wall painting, and gold foil making.
Myanmar is all set to get its first taste of American food as KFC opened its first outlet in Yangon on 30th June. Though Myanmar already has some of its own local brands such as Marrybrown and Loiterra, KFC is the first international player to enter the market. Yoma Strategic Holdings is the local KFC franchise owner and it already has plans for opening up many more outlets in the city before this year ends. As more foreign players enter the market, they are going to bring more money and jobs with them which will certainly benefit the locals. Being the country’s largest city with a population of over five million, Yangon does seem to be the perfect location and Yoma Strategic’s goal of opening up several outlets here seems to be very much achievable.
According to Mr. JR Ching, Yoma Strategic’s chief financial officer and managing director of KFC Myanmar, building the supply chain to international standards was the biggest challenge faced by them. They did not want to outsource and wanted to get as many products as possible from within Myanmar itself. All of the chicken being used by them comes from within Myanmar itself. KFC did not give them any special treatment or exemptions and held up to the same rigid quality standards that it maintains all over the world. Maintaining such stringent quality control might be posing some problems for Yoma Strategic Holdings at the moment but in the long term it is going to prove greatly beneficial both for them and for the people of Myanmar.
By focusing on increasing brand awareness, maintaining highest possible quality of products and putting in work to create a world class ambience within its restaurants, Yoma Strategic is trying to rise above and separate itself from other local Myanmar brands. After KFC, other global restaurant chains are expected to enter Myanmar soon and that will provide a lot of high quality options to the people of Myanmar. So, the customers here can expect a lot of beneficial changes taking place in future and get ready to be pampered with high quality products and top quality service.
Jade Emporium is a popular annual event held in the Myanmar’s city of Nay Pyi Taw every year. Each year this event attracts thousands of locals and foreigners from different parts of the world. The 13 day emporium opened this year on 24th June and it continued till 6th July. At the emporium raw jade, gems, jewelry, and sculptures are put up for sale and the visitors bid in order to take home their favorite items. Traders from China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan are usually invited to attend this function.
The Chinese often form the biggest lot of traders and they bid heavily on Jade. The biggest interest of the Chinese merchants is in a specific type of jade called jadeite. In China it is believed that this gem can ward off evil spirits and has a beneficial effect on health. As a result there is always a high demand for this gem in the Chinese market. Up to 90 percent of the world’s jadeite is mined in the northern regions of Myanmar and that is the main reason behind the Jade Emporium attracting such large number of Chinese merchants.
This year, however, saw a decline in sales as compared to last year’s Jade Emporium where 2.6 billion euro worth of gems were sold. It is being speculated that sales slump in the Chinese market over the last two years is the main reason for low sales at this year’s emporium. The Chinese usually take an aggressive approach while bidding for jade at the event, but this year they have taken a conservative approach and that has brought the prices down. Highest reserve price of the Jade stones has also fallen down at this year’s emporium.
After being secluded and shut down for the rest of the world for almost 60 years, Myanmar has now opened up its gates. The effects of its transition, which started in 2011, have already started to show and it has become apparent that this country is slowly getting ready to play a leading role in a variety of areas. Tin market has been one of the first to feel its impact in April this year as tin prices took a major dip. The main reason for this price drop was the huge increase in supply of tin from Myanmar to China. The magnitude of the impact of this transaction can be seen from the fact that tin prices dropped a huge 22% from the beginning of the year.
Now, as tin supplies start dwindling from Myanmar, it is once again having a profound effect on the tin prices all over the world. Only this time, the prices are moving in the opposite direction and tin is getting pricier. May imports of China from Myanmar are down 35 percent from April. This is an indicative of the fact that the peak has already been seen and it will probably be a downwards trend from now on. Apart from depleted supply from Myanmar, Indonesia’s new rules aimed at curbing exports have played a major role in this upward price trend. These factors have created ideal market conditions for bulls that have been patiently waiting for tin prices to appreciate for quite some time.
Among the latest entrants in Myanmar’s newly opened market are the two European beer giants Carlsberg and Heineken. Myanmar is home to over 53 million people and out of this huge population 80 percent of the adults in this country are beer drinkers. As per statistics, the beers sales in the country are showing an upward trend with a 14 percent increase in beer sales between the years 2009 to 2013. The value of beer sales in the year 2013 was estimated to be $ 265 million and this number is expected to increase up to $ 673 million by 2018.
Carlsberg opened its $ 75 million brewery in May and has partnered with Myanmar Golden Star Breweries in an attempt to build a strong sales network. Heineken is in the process of opening up a $ 60 million brewery before the end of July and it has partnered with Alliance Brewery Co. Ltd. in order to build a solid presence in the Myanmar market. As both these foreign brewers start their attempts at capturing Myanmar’s beer market, the country may well be seeing an epic battle being fought between the two European brands.
In last few years, both these brands have seen a fall in the beer sales and revenues within their home markets. As a result, they are seeking to explore and harness the latent potential in other parts of the world. As Myanmar embraces consumerism, its middle class is expected to double by 2020 thus making this an opportune time to enter its market. Heineken might have a slight advantage in this battle as it has already done this in the past in Vietnam. Whether Heineken will be able to repeat its success in Myanmar or will it be trumped by Copenhagen-based Carlsberg is yet to be seen.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. has made a debut in Myanmar market with the signing of Sheraton Yangon Hotel. Located in the Tamwe Township, near Kandawgyi Lake, the Sheraton Yangon Hotel will feature 375 rooms. Other property offerings will include a spa, three dining venues, and recreation facilities ranging from a swimming pool to a fitness center. There will also be a function space totaling 1,880 square meters for meetings, weddings and functions. The hotel will be developed and owned by local firm Family Business Group Hotel Limited.
Recently, several international hotel brands have entered Myanmar as this nation saw a marked increase in tourist traffic after a semi-civilian government came to power in 2011. France’s Accor, US-based Best Western and Hilton, and Swiss luxury chain Kempinski have already launched properties, while Wyndham and Meliá have recently concluded property deals. As per the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, Myanmar’s hotel and tourism sector received $ 357.94 million in foreign investments 2014-15.
In April, the first month of the current 2015-16 fiscal year, the sector received $ 50.75 million in foreign direct investments (FDI).Mr. Lothar Pehl, senior vice president, Operation and Global Initiatives, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Asia Pacific said that he sees enormous potential for quick growth in Myanmar’s market and he is very happy to be a part of the process.
Mr. Lothar Pehl further stated that the signing reflects the group’s push to expand Sheraton’s global portfolio through strategic partnerships with owners and developers in mature and emerging markets. The move brings brand’s Asia-Pacific portfolio to 73 hotels and 37 resorts.
FPT Corporation is Vietnam’s leading tech company which has plans of expanding its reach further into other countries of the world. This company has been present in Myanmar since 2013 and now it has been successful in becoming the first foreign company to be allowed to provide telecom services in the nation. Myanmar’s information and communications technology ministry has been granted the Network Facilities Service-Individual telecommunications service license [NFS(I)] to FPT Corp. This license took effect from July 6th and it is valid for the duration of 15 years. The senior officials from the company state that Myanmar is an important part of the company’s global investment plan. The NFS(I) license, has provided FPT access to a huge market of over 56 million people. It will allow this tech giant to set up its infrastructure throughout the country and enable it to provide fixed line telecoms, internet services and other value added services to its consumers in Myanmar.
Being the only foreign company to be granted the permission to provide such services, FPT Corp. will not have to face any other foreign players though it will have to compete with the six local companies which are already operating in the country. The company already has a significant amount of experience of providing telecom services in Vietnam and Cambodia and it is very happy to have been trusted and presented the opportunity to be able to do the same in Myanmar. FPT Corp. is quite confident that its expertise and experience will enable it to do quite well in Myanmar especially as now the obstacles in relation to Internet line quality and bandwidth have been eliminated. The company has plans to invest in the betterment of the telecoms infrastructure in Myanmar and hopes that it will be able to pave the way for the application of Information Technology to enterprises and government management.
There is no doubt about the fact that Myanmar market has huge potential and FPT seems to be all set to tap into this potential. With a booming economy that is expected to grow a staggering four times at the rate of 9.5 percent annually by 2030, FPT considers Myanmar as Southeast Asia’s fastest growing market. Three years ago, only one percent of Myanmar’s population had access to internet. Today that figure has grown to 25 percent which shows the astonishing rate at which the telecom sector is growing here. By investing in such a booming telecom industry of this nation FPT hopes to obtain sweet rewards in recent future.
The Central Bank of Myanmar is urging government organizations to only use kyat payments to reduce US dollar demand and prevent dollarization of the economy. As per a report published in Myanmar Times, the Foreign Exchange Management Department of the bank last week announced that the only kyat should be used in domestic payments at national, regional and state-level organizations. The document aiming to prevent widespread government use of the dollar was one of several measures put out by the central bank on May 29.
A separate document also limited US dollar withdrawals from a domestic bank account to $ 10,000 a week for all people or institutions except for a few bodies such as international NGOs, embassies and United Nations organizations. The kyat has lost about 6% against the dollar so far this year, according to the bank’s official reference rate. If the market rate is used for calculations, the depreciation of the kyat is closer to 10%. Several different government departments have been known to demand payments in US dollars from local companies.
Sailors or car importers must often make their tax payments to government accounts in US dollars rather than kyat, for instance. While government use of the greenback has been tapering off from 2011, many hotels, restaurants and jewelry shops still list their prices in US dollars. Business people say it is important to preserve use of the US dollar at private businesses. Some shop owners find the use of kyat inconvenient as when transactions get expensive a large mass of notes is required. Some other businesses prefer kyat payments, but have to give in to customer demand.
While online shopping has become a way of life for most people all over the world, for the residents of Myanmar it’s still a new concept. Bad internet connectivity and exorbitant costs had hindered the growth of E-commerce in the past. But now as these obstacles are being removed, the people of Myanmar have started catching up with the rest of the world. As internet speeds continue to improve, many companies are entering the online retailing segment hoping to cash in on this new opportunity. However, things are not simple or easy for online stores in Myanmar at the moment.
The biggest obstacle that these stores have to face stems from the basic mindset of the consumers in this country. The people of Myanmar want to see the products with their own eyes and touch them with their own hands before making a purchase. Trusting online stores does not come easy to them. This hesitancy is understandable considering they haven’t had much exposure to the online world. However, things are expected to change gradually with time as they have in other countries and this expectation is already creating a lot of competition in the field which until recently didn’t even exist.
Zaw Gyi Mart is one of the oldest online stores in Myanmar and it has been around for a period of two years. This store offers a huge amount of products to its customers, supplies them without any extra delivery charge in the Yangon area, and provides exchange of defective products that are in warranty. The fact that this online store has only had 10,000 customers till now says a lot about how sluggish this industry has been in this part of the world. It is true that e-commerce will definitely grow in Myanmar as access to internet services spreads and more people learn how to use it but the online stores of Myanmar have to face some other challenges as well.
One of the major problems is in the area of logistics as many of the goods sold by online stores are not stored in the country but are outsourced from other nations. This increases the turnaround time for product delivery and makes the transaction less convenient for the consumers. Additionally, it also increases the transportation costs and may make selling certain products uneconomical for the stores. Another major issue is that Myanmar is largely a cash society and not many people use plastic money here. Facilities such as credit cards and online secure payments are slowly emerging but it can be a while before their usage becomes common. E-commerce is no rocket science but it does require the users to have some basic knowledge and the people of Myanmar are still in the process of gaining and understanding that knowledge.
E-commerce industry in Myanmar might be a bit sluggish at the moment but it is certainly showing an upwards trend. Yangon Online Store makes about five sales per day and the Myanmar Online Store receives about 5000 to 10,000 monthly visitors. Myanmar’s promising economy has also attracted some foreign investors who are backing some of the E-commerce firms operating in the country. An example of this is Rocket Internet’s Myanmar vehicle marketplace Motors.com.mm which is getting a huge viewership and registering close to 160,000 visitors per month.
Motors.com.mm has also launched a mobile application which has been installed more than 35,000 times. This is indicative of the fact that Myanmar’s E-commerce industrymight still be in its early stages but it is certainly moving in the right direction. Myanmar is seen as the least developed market in Asia on certain counts but no one can contest that fact that it has a huge potential for growth. The government is doing its bit by providing internet and smartphone access to its residents and creating more job opportunities. As the job opportunities continue to rise, more and more people will get busy with their work and as a consequence they will start making use of E-commerce in order to save their valuable time.
Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) is a state owned enterprise that works under the supervision of Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Until the year 2013, MPT was the country’s only telecommunications operator. The monopoly enjoyed by MPT enabled is to set prices as per its own convenience but things changed after other players entered the telecommunications sector. Telenor and Ooredoo are the other two telecom operators operating in the country. The competition brought in by these two companies will prove to be beneficial for the customers as it will lead to lower prices and better services.
Calling prices of both Telenor and Ooredoo are presently lower than those of MPT. Additionally, these two companies also offer bundle deals with diverse amounts of internet and calling packages which result in financial benefits for the customers. As a result of this competition from these two new telecom entrants, MPT too has been forced to consider pricing cuts. The company hasn’t yet declared the exact amount of pricing cuts that it will make but it has made clear that cuts will be made as it wants to please and satisfy its customers.
MPT also has plans to open up more shops in Yangon and Mandalay so as to provide better and a wider range of services. At these shops, customers will be able to buy SIM cards and top-up cards and along with that they can also apply for fixed-line internet services. The shops will also handle customer complaints and help them to replace lost or stolen numbers. MPT is also working on improving the level of its services by replacing missing or lost SIM cards in a single day.