Political transition heralds higher-quality products

Political change could be leading to lifestyle change, business sources say. They point to a new willingness to import higher-quality brands, on the grounds that the Myanmar people have voted to change the old ways for something different – something better.

U Khin Maung Win, managing director of VSK International, said, “The country is changing, so our business is also changing. We’re starting to introduce new high-quality products.”

Media Electric has been distributing its Chinese- and Vietnamese-manufactured products since 1985, and consumers have come to know and trust its quality, he added.

Though the products are aimed primarily at higher-income groups, the popularity of quality products might now extend to the less well-paid, according to Media’s overseas general manager Bai Lin.

“People’s views are developing, and we hope they will come to see the value of better-quality products,” he said, adding that the problem of cheap fakes occurred all over the world, not just in Myanmar.

“Media Electric is always researching and thinking about new technologies,” he said.

Quality importers will have to overcome a traditional mindset among consumers more used to thinking about the price. Sales promotions attract a lot of people by cutting prices by 30 to 50 percent, said Daw Yi Yi Thant, who lives in Hlaing township, Yangon Region.

“I bought five rice cookers for me and my friends. I was familiar with the brand and they were a bargain at 50pc off, so I just bought them,” she said.

Along with quality, safety and health are also emerging as more important considerations.

Trade counsellor at the Malaysian embassy, Jonathan Rao, said people might be moving away from cheaper products, starting with cheap food that made them unwell.

Speaking at a recent trade fair, he said, “There’s nothing wrong with inexpensive products as such, as long as the government can keep things that are bad for your health out of the market.”

“In Malaysia, 80pc of people are middle class. In Myanmar, maybe 25pc, so it’s harder to market a quality product at a good price. As the middle class grows, foreign companies will do better here.”

However, some in Yangon say it’s still early days. People have become used to cheap products and it will take time for tastes to shift towards more expansive models, said Ko Htwe, who imports mobile telephone handsets from China and sells them wholesale.

“Quality products are too expensive for people in Myanmar to buy, and many people don’t understand the benefits of higher-priced products, such as durability, energy saving and so on,” he said.

While the most expensive products remain out of reach for most, a growing middle class is increasingly able to afford mid-range electronics, said a salesperson at J Phone handset and accessories in Yangon.

“People look for branded products at a reasonable price, but their income does not support the most expensive products yet,” he said.

Ko Si Thu, who distributes handset accessories from Yangon to the rest of the country, said, “People have been familiar with cheap Chinese products for a long time. But I think this is already starting to change.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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