Minglabar is hello in Myanmar. I have found travelling very fascinating: learnt hello and thank you in 8 new languages last year! The power of local language brings smiles on people’s faces and makes everything easier.
I am in Yangon for a month now. In my view, this city is raw, crowded, congested yet calm, friendly and still mellow at night. Everything is rising, waking up, finding a direction and taking shape.
My first step:
The airport is a cute one. By that I mean, it is small and just about basic. As I stepped out of the airport, I saw my cab driver holding my name card and waving out to me. He gave me a huge smile and immediately offered to take my luggage. Ah, back to Asia! I noticed that all cab drivers were wearing the traditional lungyi and chewing betel leaf. Add to that some humidity. This totally reminded me of Kolkata. Although in Kolkata, lungyi’s are worn at home so this was a bit surprising!
Why am I here?
My work experience at Moody’s led me to analyze Indian state government finances which highlighted the deficit in public expenditure on capital assets. I believe that a partnership with the private sector can lead to sustainable development outcomes. Thus, here I am interning at a private equity fund in a frontier market, working to build sustainable businesses in Myanmar. I am excited to be here at a time when the economy is opening up and embracing changes in almost every sphere.
The first week:
I immersed myself in understanding the workings of my firm and what was expected from me. The set up is very international, with colleagues from different nationalities such as Myanmar, British, Singaporean, Canadian, Dutch and Portuguese. A talented and welcoming set of people! I find the work environment very hands-on with a strong ownership of work.
The dynamics on the roads are interesting: roads are flanked by hawker stalls on both sides and pedestrians cross them while traffic is full-on. Cars actually do stop for you (unlike in India) but it takes some guts and practice to carry this out!
Mobile internet penetration has reached 80% in just two years! This is a spectacular development in Myanmar with two foreign players ramping up the telecommunications infrastructure to support 3G from no internet two years ago. Analysts predict many sectors would see a similar trajectory and thus this country offers many exciting opportunities! So yes I have my internet, which became my lifeline in this last year of travelling around.
I attended two events in my first week: A women’s networking event and a start-up pitching competition. I admired the enthusiasm of both the organizers and attendees. Foreign organizations are hosting these events with local partners and bringing in ideas and expertise. You can see how nascent everything is and yet to fill a room with 60 people is commendable.
I have been welcomed very warmly by my local friends. They are mostly those returned from an education abroad. They have chosen to come back because “things are happening here” and they want to contribute to that. Smart and bright people, they could be the ones to put Myanmar on the world map!
Officially, one more month to go. Unofficially, we shall see. Lots more to explore!