British Chamber of Commerce Myanmar – Lucky number 3
- By Chloe Taylor | Tuesday, 08 August 2017
The British Chamber of Commerce Myanmar officially established its presence in Myanmar on July 16, 2014, beginning with a desk in the British Embassy, one full-time member of staff and one part-time member of staff.
Three years on, the Chamber has now moved to a fully operational office of seven full-time members of staff, residing in one of Yangon’s exciting retail and office spaces – Junction City. Its growth and development has been phenomenal in a short period of time – growing to a network of over 240 companies, in addition to a wider and local network of over 150 local Myanmar companies, as well as a large network of UK contacts.
The British Chamber in Myanmar has fast become one of the most dynamic British Chambers in Southeast Asia.
I joined the Chamber, in its infancy at 10 months old, firstly as Project Director where my primary focus was to build a team to deliver bespoke trade services offered to British companies looking at investing in Myanmar; expanding its network within the UK and with other British Chambers in the Southeast Asia region (BiSEA). I led the development of the Chamber’s internal and external corporate governance, resulting in the achievement of accreditation by international standards awarded by the British Chambers of Commerce UK.
We are where we are today because of the support and investment received from a number of internal and external stakeholders, from our high-level founding sponsors, championing British business (Prudential, Jardines, Shell/BG and Standard Chartered), our active Board of Directors, the British Embassy and the local Chambers of Commerce (UMFCCI), in addition to wider partnerships with other foreign Chambers of Commerce and trade associations. This is in addition to the strong relationships we have with other British Chambers in Southeast Asia.
Importantly, we would not be the Chamber we are today, without the support and continued investment of all of our members. We open our membership to all companies coming from the UK, international, as well as local Myanmar companies, who are based in Myanmar and overseas; and welcome their interest in being part of our vibrant and diverse Chamber business community.
Now, in my new role as Chief Executive, my learning and observations on how the Chamber in Myanmar has evolved, feeds into what I view as top priorities for the Chamber, the integral role it has in providing value to its members in supporting business, and the importance of adding value in a growing ecosystem to help develop Myanmar’s economy.
Having worked for three Chambers of Commerce and to mark our third anniversary in Myanmar, this is my “3 in 3” takeaway on what Chambers of Commerce can represent and do to remain relevant in their business communities, and what our priorities are in Myanmar.
Chambers of Commerce are information gateways, offering insight and on-the-ground intelligence within the markets they are based in. Connecting dots, acting as catalysts in promoting best practice within industry, sharing useful knowledge, and facilitating the exchange of views are fundamentally at the very core of what Chambers should be offering.
This can be done through a number of ways: usually through the delivery of high quality events, seminars, focused workshops and training or professional development.
Collaborating with members is key – a great depth of expertise is found within the membership base; collaborating with institutions and government is key – in working together to find solutions in supporting their roles, and collaborating with other membership organisations is also key – to doubling up on resource and partnering on the same objectives.
Our first priority: our offer of a diverse portfolio of events and services in building, strengthening and promoting our B2B (business to business) network.
Our Chamber has developed a branded portfolio to better engage with our members on accessing information in five categories:
1. BritCham Critical – strategic developments or updates on the market (such as changes to a legislation) or high-level topics relating to business and the economy which could have an impact on doing business in Myanmar.
2. BritCham Market focus – unique events where the format will tend to be a discussion or panel on a specific topic which relates directly to business or is an interest.
3. BritCham Operational Excellence – relevant topics members can share with staff for professional development and training activities.
4. BritCham The Political and Economic briefing – regular quarterly briefings led by the British Embassy for members-only.
5. BritCham Social – monthly social networking events where members can network with members and non-members or meet in an informal setting.
We strive to offer our members quality, consistency and the opportunity to be part of a community through our variety of events and services.
We have a division within the Chamber to support UK companies in establishing trade links with Myanmar companies, and for Myanmar companies to connect with British companies, in advertising opportunities free-of-charge on an online and digital export platform.
I believe this is the value we provide to companies from any part of the world currently doing business in Myanmar, as well as companies from overseas, who would like to remain connected to this market.
Origins of Chambers in the UK date back as far as the 1760s, formed under common law as voluntary bodies. Chambers were the initial result of protests to the government and other institutions against disruptions to international trade and this has evolved over time to the Chambers that exist in the UK today.
Whilst this may differ to origins of foreign and local Chambers operating overseas, the impartiality which all Chambers adopt in remaining independent to government influence is crucial. Not only in the representation of members’ interests to the government, but to remain autonomous in doing so.
This is not to be confused with the necessity and good intention to work collaboratively with national and regional governments in the countries or markets in which they operate, but to provide a “voice” in the disruption of the status quo. How the Chamber can do so, is to rally the expertise of its members and provide an environment – a forum, in which to collaboratively identify issues impending business as well as solutions.
Chambers are based on the synonymous mission to promote and represent the business interests of its members, and in doing so is to create better business conditions for all.
Our second priority: to continue to support and promote industry-specific working groups for members and led by members to develop and strengthen relationships with local Chambers of Commerce, the UMFCCI, and other leading trade bodies in Myanmar.
The Chamber has a legal working group, an energy working group, a tax and accountancy working group and a professional women’s network. Contact us to find out more about how to get involved: [email protected]
The British Chamber is also playing a role in supporting a new Inter-Chamber Initiative between the UMFCCI and the foreign Chambers in Myanmar, where foreign Chambers will actively collaborate together with the UMFCCI as part of a call to action in meeting on a quarterly basis to exchange information on specific issues, challenges and obstacles which affect all members, in addition to discussing proposed solutions.
The Chamber views this as an opportunity to highlight serious business concerns that our members encounter and gives an avenue in which to raise these issues at the highest level for resolution.
Finally, this is an area which some Chambers succeed in and some fail to realise. To remain relevant in the digital and fast-paced business environment that we find ourselves in today, it is important for Chambers to remain in-touch with what their memberships want and what their memberships value.
A top answer on most membership surveys as to why members join a Chamber is “networking”. The art of networking has transformed beyond the number of contacts to focusing on the quality of the relationships formed as a result of those contacts. How is quality attracted? Is it through events that Chambers can provide? Is it through a specific call-to-action? Is it being able to spot a unique gap in which a Chamber can provide support and value in the market it operates, using the network it has built?
I constantly ask myself this everyday – how we, as a Chamber, improve or approach our day-to-day activities in meeting the objective of supporting our members, whilst adopting and shaping initiatives relevant to the environment in which we operate in.
Our third priority: to engage with our membership through online and digital communications, face-face communication at events and inviting members to provide regular feedback and ideas.
To end, I am excited at the opportunity to lead the Chamber into its early years of development and building on the foundations from which it has grown. I believe it is a dynamic organisation which aims to reflect the dynamic character of the economy in which we operate in.
We hope to continue to add value for our members in the years ahead of us as an organisation, during a chapter of which, I am very proud to be part of a hardworking and dedicated management team, working to achieve the British Chamber vision and mission of promoting and representing our membership in Myanmar.
Chloe Taylor is chief executive of the British Chamber of Commerce Myanmar.