Founder and CEO of Capella Real Estaet and Investment Ko Zaw Min Htun discusses the challenges to developing a small business
How did you start your business?
I opened Capella Real Estate and Investment in 2013 to build a neighbourhood plaza on Mae Zin Gone Street in Hlaing township, near to Hledan.
Real estate and construction were booming then. I envisaged a 24-hour plaza, three or four storeys, of the kind that is common overseas but lacking in Yangon. If you want to meet friends in the evening there aren’t too many suitable places that offer inexpensive cafes, restaurants and places to shop.
In the US, you would find something like that every few blocks.
A plaza of this kind would also get the street vendors off the streets, creating more space and providing a cleaner environment.
What challenges did you face?
The first challenge is finance. I couldn’t borrow from banks here like you can in other countries. I had to go into partnership with others who were prepared to buy shares. Real estate is very expensive, especially downtown.
The second challenge is that experienced workers are expensive. I had to train my staff myself because I couldn’t find anyone here that could do the work for a good price.
The third challenge is red tape. Sometimes you have to deal with two government departments, and they spend a lot of time quarrelling with each other. It can take ages just to get one signature that you need.
Why did you choose the construction business?
Transition is a golden time to start a business. That’s why I came back from America, in late 2012. I spent 12 years in the United States in the construction and banking sectors. I will focus on a commercial real estate property that produces monthly rental income, like Hlaing Plaza.
What about your expansion plans?
I’m looking for half an acre for our next neighbourhood plaza. I will focus more on income-producing commercial property, like office buildings, which will bring greater benefits to the landowners as well as to the community.
Our plazas will have a combination of office space and individual store units that will benefit the local communities in terms of jobs and the expansion of spending power.
Will you expand into other sectors?
In the US I worked as a financial adviser at Bank of America, and after I came back to Yangon I served as an adviser to AYA Bank and Myanmar Citizens Bank. So I can bring my overseas experience to bear.
The banking sector will develop a great deal over the next few years in Myanmar, especially if the Yangon Stock Exchange opens later this year. There will be a lot of gaps to fill. I’m trying to get a licence to conduct investment banking. But even if I expand into finance, I will also retain my real estate profile, since I also have a lot of local and international experience there.
What is your advice for a new SME owner?
You need passion and determination. It isn’t just about the money. If it’s your heart’s desire, you will succeed.
Source: Myanmar Times