What do you do with a country that is a veritable jewellery shop of precious minerals, which will enjoy a glittering future after recently opening up its markets to international trade, but where most of the population lives in relative poverty?
Dozens of consumer brands have approached us since
Myanmar threw open its market gates last year, eager to promote their products to this exciting new demographic, but unsure about a culture that has remained isolated from the world for so long.
Our response was to create TNS Myanmar MyLife, a study of 10,000 lives and their beliefs, habits and tastes. It was a consumer journey that took us through the complex tapestry of beliefs that underpins their culture, eventually leading us to the centre of its society – the teashop.
The journey may have ended here, but it began in the bustling environment of a typical humble homestead, where several generations of the same family live under the same roof. The food is simple, bought from local markets and is the result of admirable entrepreneurialism: families live on approximately $1,000 per annum, two-
fifths of which is spent on food, but two-thirds of the population is self-employed. Money and status is not a major concern among families in Myanmar, but the family themselves and the community they live in is: when walking through the average neighbourhood, you will see jugs of cool water left by residents outside most houses for pedestrians to refresh themselves with as they walk by.
Inside homes, the television takes pride of place: just over one in ten households have a gas stove, but nearly three-quarters have a TV and approximately two-thirds of urbanities describe it as their favourite pastime. Gone are
On trade, tea and TVs: the key to Myanmar’s consumer market the days when advertisements were prone to government censorship and here lies an interesting opportunity to reach out to the populace, as internet is in its infancy with home internet penetration at 2%.
clear: they associate quality and price with an imported product’s country of origin, so a Japanese product will fetch a higher price than an identical Chinese product, which plays a crucial role in the retail dynamics of the country.
In contrast, mobile/smartphone ownership has seen an enormous boom in the past six months, up by over half in the urban centres of Yangon and Mandalay.
But before Western brands consider trying to attract the nation’s young population using Western methods – and it is a young population, with 56% of the majority ethnic group, Burmese, under the age of 29 – there are cultural and religious considerations to keep in mind.
However, change is afoot with a rise in aspirations.
Financial stability now ranks above personal health among the Burmese, and finding a prestigious job at a company is a key motivation for young consumers. Education is a growing priority for families as over a tenth of income is spent on education.
Buddhism is a way of life, with three-quarters worshipping daily and a similar proportion believing it is essential to follow tradition and established values in their everyday life. They have a strong moral compass, with the vast