Doing Business in Myanmar

In the build up to The Training Gateway’s upcoming trade mission to Myanmar and Malaysia this May, we look into the business infrastructure, practices and etiquette of Myanmar.

Myanmar has a population of over 51 million and is the second largest country in Southeast Asia in terms of area. However, as recently as 2001 and 2007 the previous regime actively aimed to deter external investment. Although since 2011 there has been rapprochement with the West, Myanmar is undoubtedly still feeling the effects of EU sanctions that were only fully lifted in 2013. As a result of these sanctions, there is still a real shortage of international trade going through Myanmar, and the new government has made welcoming new business to the country an absolute priority.

The three major cities of Myanmar have, somewhat confusingly, all served as the nation’s capital at some point in the past 100 years. Yangon is by far the largest city in Myanmar, with a population of around 7.4 million. Located in the South of the country, Yangon was the capital of Myanmar until 2007. Many of the country’s industrial estates are based in the city, and if an international organisation has an office in the country it is more often than not located in Yangon. Nay Pyi Taw is the nation’s new capital, and has a population of approximately 1.2 million. Located in central Myanmar, Nay Pyi Taw is one of the 10 fastest growing cities in the world. Manadalay has a population of 1.7 million, and was the country’s last royal capital. It is considered the economic hub of Upper Myanmar.

Business Practices and Etiquette
Visiting foreign businessmen would be expected to dress in a suit or smart casual, a shirt or polo shirt with smart trousers for example. Businesswomen should avoid clothes that show their shoulders or legs. It is also common to remove your shoes when entering an office.

Many business meetings in Myanmar are conducted in English, however it should be noted that outside the major cities, English is not commonly spoken. Furthermore, visitors should be aware that although Burmese is the main language of the country, dialects and language can fluctuate fairly significantly based on geography. Businessmen in Myanmar will generally greet each other with a handshake, likewise if a businesswoman offers her hand it is considered appropriate to shake it. However, a man should not offer his hand to a woman, instead a small bow is considered appropriate. In general, male to female contact should be avoided in public.

Exchanging of business cards is common in Myanmar, and it is considered polite to take a moment to read the card fully. Furthermore, Myanmar has a deep culture of hospitality and the presenting of gifts is not uncommon at a first meeting. Where possible, a reciprocal gift should be given at a future opportunity. Building business relationships in Myanmar can take time, often a first meeting (and sometimes a second) can solely serve to build a friendship and foster trust. Patience and friendliness are key.

The Burmese government has taken multiple steps to open up its economy; the World Bank and Asian Development Bank now both have offices in the country, the Tokyo Stock Exchange are working on plans to establish Myanmar’s stock exchange and new laws have been drafted with the aim of simplifying and encouraging foreign exchange and investment. However, as things presently stand it can be very difficult to transfer money into Myanmar. Foreign bank and credit cards are seldom accepted, whilst ATMs are few and far between and though some large international banks have opened offices in Yangon, their presence outside the city is extremely limited.

Any other business Infrastructure in Myanmar is still extremely limited, particularly outside the major cities. Transport links are inconsistent, and mobile and fixed line networks are very limited. Only 25% of the country has access to the national power grid, which is unreliable at best. Finally, with investment and tourism on the increase, there has been known to be hotel room shortages in the major cities, so advanced booking is essential.

Without doubt, Myanmar represents a challenging prospect for those wishing to do business there. However, those that do so have the opportunity to secure business partnerships for life in an emerging market rich in natural resources that bridges China and India.

If you would be interested in joining the Training Gateway on our trade mission to Malaysia & Myanmar this May, find out more here.

Choosing your perfect training provider – part 2

So you’ve honed in on your requirements and nailed the down the specifics of the training for your business,  how do you now find the training supplier who can deliver what you need?

There are a number of key questions to ask any potential providers before reaching your decision:

  • Do they fully understand your objectives and the outcomes you want to achieve – are you on the same page?
  • Are they clear on the levels of training that are required for your workforce and are they able to deliver their training material at different levels if required for your organisation?
  • What track record do they have – not just of training – but of training in your sector, your size of business etc.? If you want a course or longer programme tailored to your business, how much experience have they had in tailoring courses, how do they go about assessing your requirements, how well do they understand your sector and are they up to date with the trends in your industry and their potential impact on your business?
  • How is the training assessed – does the provider have external quality awards
  • Do the trainers have qualifications such as Train the Trainer ensuring delivery will be of a high quality and they will be able to respond to the different learning needs of the delegates?
  • What do past customers have to say about their experience – are you able to see testimonials or speak to previous customers?

Here at The Training Gateway when we are sourcing corporate training providers for our clients, we make sure we get answers to all these questions ensuring that our clients get the best selection of training providers to choose from.

And finally where can you find these providers?

Trade associations may be a good source of training providers in your sector

If you have associations with any professional bodies they may be able to help

You could get in touch with a Sector Skills Council or your local LEP

You could use a training broker like The Training Gateway

You could also visit HR and training exhibitions or consult trade press and journals

Or ask for recommendations from other businesses and business contacts – perhaps through your local Chamber of Commerce

Hopefully this information on what to ask and where to look will help you to find your perfect training provider.

Julie Hardiment manages a training provider network at The Training Gateway

How to identify the best training provider for your business

You are committed to developing your staff to grow both them and your business but how do you find the best training provider for the job? It is fair to say that there are a myriad of trainers out there, delivering across the spectrum of subject matter and through a variety of mediums but how can you find the best fit for your business, ensure the quality of the provision and equally importantly guarantee value for money?
The best way is to focus initially on your specific requirements and the clearer you can be the more chance you have of matching your needs with your perfect provider – for example:

1. What training do you require – this may seem simple but think about whether the training is generic – leadership and management, customer service, soft skills etc. or whether it is specific to your industry for example accountancy, legal, technical training and so on..

2. How many staff do you want to train in total and in what size cohorts (you may want staff to attend in groups in order to minimise business impact) and also training providers may have limits of cohort size to ensure quality. There will also be providers who are more specialised in high volume training so deciding on your numbers will help to narrow down appropriate providers

3. How would you like the training to be delivered – do you want staff to undertake training online in which case your provider will need the technology to support this and have online modules which meet your needs or the ability to develop these tailored to your requirements. Would you prefer face to face classroom based training and have you taken account of the business impact on this as outlined in point 2. Perhaps you would prefer a blended approach combining the two methods of training delivery.

4. In-house or off site? This is another consideration – do you want to train staff at your premises and if so do you have the facilities to accommodate this. Or is taking your staff out of the workplace to a neutral venue where they have the opportunity to focus the preferred option – and if this is the case then there will be additional costs associated with this.

5. Qualification or not? Many courses will provide a certificate of attendance but do you want more – do you want accredited training and for your staff to receive a recognised qualification? For example, alongside degree courses for students, a large number of universities now provide accredited short courses aimed directly at businesses many with accreditation by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and with other sector specific accrediting bodies

6. Outcomes. What do you want to achieve by training your workforce – it is a significant investment and you need to be clear on not only what you would like the end result to be for your business but also how you will measure any improvements.

7. And finally – what about money! What is your budget for what you are proposing? For many providers this will help them to focus on what they can realistically deliver within your budget and will also enable them to tailor their offer so it delivers maximum value for the budget you have available.

Ready to progress to the next stage – the trainer selection process? Then look out for Part 2 of our blog with tips on using the training criteria you have identified to help you find your perfect provider. You can also find out more at our website

Julie Hardiment manages a training provider network at The Training Gateway


When you think of Mauritius maybe you think of white sandy beaches, turquoise sea – the perfect holiday destination – but did you also know that of the 51,000 students in 2013 almost a quarter are studying for UK qualifications?

Although the UK is still the preferred place for study abroad, the numbers of Mauritian students travelling to the UK to study has continued to drop over the last 5 years as Mauritians instead look for cheaper in-country solutions. While local universities remain the most popular they are oversubscribed and don’t have the global reputation of a UK degree. This has led to growing opportunities for partnerships with UK universities.

To date, two UK universities have established campuses in Mauritius and a further twenty UK universities offer their degree courses there – some seventy in number. A number of other universities are in discussion with the University of Mauritius about partnerships to establish joint degrees. Furthermore distance learning has increased in popularity with over 700 students currently studying international programmes from the University of London.

So what are the advantages of entering this market?

• There is a clear and strong demand for UK qualifications
• UK degree courses can be 50% cheaper when delivered in
Mauritius making the study of a UK degree at home an
attractive option.
• English is the official language in Mauritius making course
delivery easier
• Mauritian students have a good reputation for hard work and
commitment to study
• Accounting, business and management remain the most
studied subjects – in fact accounting is so popular that
Mauritius boasts the highest per capita of ACCA members and
students in the world
• The UK QAA will begin an online audit of the higher
education sector in September 2014 which will ensure the
reputation and credibility of the sector going forward

Earlier this year the British High Commission in Mauritius held its first ‘UK Education in Mauritius’ fair. This was very well received and attended with participants commenting that the High Commission banner gave confidence in the credibility of those exhibiting and that having all UK institutions under one roof was extremely convenient.

If you are already represented in the Mauritian education sector then the High Commission are now seeking expressions of interest in a further fair to take place in February 2015. This will be open to all UK universities and higher education institutions looking to award UK qualifications in Mauritius and will cost £500 per delegate. The aim is to promote UK education that is available in Mauritius and the event will go ahead if sufficient expressions of interest are received.

You can contact the British High Commission to register your interest at:

Algeria – a new market for UK Education and Training?

A recent request through The Training Gateway to identify university partners for an initiative to bring Algerian student s to the UK to undertake PhDs in English Language and  Linguistics yielded an unprecedented number of responses from our university network – so just how receptive is the Algerian market to UK education and training?

Following on from visits to the UK by the Algerian Education Minister and the signing of an agreement on Higher Education cooperation at the beginning of the year the stage is now set for increased collaboration between the two countries. So if you are looking to export your education and training offer to Algeria what are the key facts?

  • Algeria has a population of almost 34 million and is the largest country on the Mediterranean and the second largest in Africa
  • Despite this it is still a relatively unknown market in the UK
  • Since 2001 there has been a significant economic upturn – it has one of the highest GDP per capita rates in Africa
  • Algeria is a strategic hub for Europe and sub-Saharan Africa and is only a two and a half hour flight away from the UK
  • Plans for significant government spending in future years offer real potential as a market for UK organisations
  • Vocational training is becoming an increasingly important issue in Algeria, as the government is challenged with dealing with a large number of unemployed young people and a ‘brain drain’ out of the country
  • Algeria is unusual in the Near East and North Africa region as it has a ministry specifically dedicated to improving vocational education and training
  • Most educated Algerians are bilingual speaking both Arabic and French
  • Algeria faces a shortage of teachers as a result of the doubling in the number of eligible children and young adults in the last 12 years

And what do you need to know?

First and foremost there is still a certain amount of political instability – particularly in the run up to the elections on April 17th 2014 and it is still inadvisable to travel to certain parts of the country so you should check the UK government travel advice here when making your plans

But the advice if you decide to visit with a view to seeking opportunities to export your education and training offer is:

  • Try to arrange meetings before arriving – but also be prepared for the possibility that they may be postponed at the last minute!
  • Doing business over email is still uncommon, especially in the public sector – the preference is for paper so send a fax rather than make a phone call
  • Presentations to potential customers should be in French or Arabic as should your business cards and promotional literature
  • Few people speak English fluently so if you do not speak French of Arabic fluently then it is worth engaging an interpreter
  • Take time to build up relationships – there is an expectation that you will meet with a potential customer several times before any business is transacted
  • It is considered impolite to refuse an offer of refreshments
  • Don’t leave any follow up too late as the opportunity may have been lost
  • Use any local knowledge you have to your advantage

And to sum up:

It is important to show long term commitment as this is the only way to do business successfully in Algeria. Establishing strong personal relationships is fundamental    with these often turning into a friendship which will result in a long term association between you and your Algerian buyer.  In fact Algerian companies will often use the same supplier for many years on the back of a well developed relationship.

Top tips for doing business in Indonesia

Did you know that Indonesia is the biggest economy in South East Asia and the 16th largest in the world? With a population of 250 million and a growing middle class it is predicted to be the 7th largest world economy by 2030.

All this means that Indonesia is a great place to do business. Here we explore the market in more detail and identify the recipe for success.

The aspirational middle class have growing influence – they are brand loyal and tech savvy and are the fourth largest Facebook and fifth largest Twitter users worldwide. This aspiration is driving growth in education, healthcare, finance, professional services, oil and gas, IT, infrastructure projects and retail.

So what are the challenges of accessing the Indonesian market and how easy is it to get a foot in the door?

Well there are still concerns about corruption and transparency and the regulatory nature of the business environment. Logistics can be a challenge and infrastructure is still underdeveloped but there is a lot of investment in this area. And finally there is the concern about whether the workforce have the right skills to deliver business growth.

So the message here is all about due diligence – do your research!

Take the education marketplace as an example of current opportunities. Indonesia’s aim is to have 500 vocational institutions and they are keen for international support. They are also seeking training in management skills, engineering and English language. There is also a market for specialised training in professional development, finance, tourism and the oil and gas industries.

There are two and a half million teachers in Indonesia and over half of them require additional qualifications. Tertiary institutions are also keen to develop their credibility by developing partnerships with international providers. And there have already been some educational successes – a new University of Cambridge qualification was recently launched and the University of Newcastle has signed an Memorandum of Understanding to deliver a new Medical Doctoral degree.

So how can you ensure success in the Indonesian market?

Well firstly choose a good partner and do your research. Business is very relationship based and communication is of paramount importance – you must be prepared to visit as email is not considered to be an optimal way to do business. Adapt to and follow the local etiquette and be flexible – particularly around meetings and appointments.

Be price sensitive and also expect questions and be prepared to respond quickly. Make regular trips and show commitment to Indonesia – the key is to develop and maintain relationships even after the deal is done.

And above all be PATIENT – consensus takes time although be prepared for the fact that once decisions have been made things may move quickly. The rewards will be worth the wait!