CEO Avner Erlich remembers the junta days well.
“In those days doing business was quite difficult, because of the embargoes,” Mr Erlich said. “We couldn’t sell our products to the government. But we could work with private parties,” he said.
The company's products range from drip irrigation systems to water treatment installations and greenhouses, in which fruit and vegetables can be grown in a controlled environment. Coca Cola is one of the clients of ATC Supply (1993). The world’s best known soft drink producer uses four Atlantium hydro-optical ultra-violet units to treat water, which ends up in the cans from which many Coke lovers drink.
Myanmar is a farmer’s nation, with 60 per cent of GDP coming from agriculture and 65 per cent of the population working the fields.
“Farmers are slowly starting to understand that if they want to increase their yield they need to irrigate,” said Mr Erlich. “For the moment small farmers can’t afford our products, but larger agricultural companies can. There’s one hitch: without proper water management it is hard to irrigate. Myanmar has the water, but it hasn’t been properly managed. As a last resort people dig wells.”
Know-how is limited in Myanmar, because the country was closed off for too long. “So we have to introduce new techniques and train people to use our technology.”
Mr Erlich said ATC Supply (1993) was able to secure a number of deals at Myanmar Water 2014, an event that took place in Yangon’s Tatmadaw Hall from 22 to 24 October, but only because the company is taking its time.
“You need a lot of patience if you want to do business in Myanmar,” he said. “It’s all about building relationships and trust. You can’t just sell and go home. This is a first step. We’re thinking about the long term and growing our business here slowly and steadily.”
Many Western firms are delaying investment decisions until after the general election due in late 2015. If the elections take place without a hitch, they might consider investing.
Mr Erlich laughed, “We decided to setup shop in Myanmar because the market is here. We were here before the rest of the bunch, which gives us a headstart of a few years. This has the added advantage that we are able to show some of the projects we did to prospective clients. It’s like having a showroom in action.”
This Article first appeared in the October 30, 2014 edition of Mizzima Business Weekly.
Mizzima Business Weekly is available in print in Yangon through Innwa Bookstore and through online subscription at www.mzineplus.com