As an introductory post, I thought I’d share the answer to a question that everyone asks when I mention that I’m entrepreneuring it here in Yangon.
MYANMAR IS THE CUTTING EDGE
Lots of people rave about the opportunities in Myanmar. More recently in the media, there has been a smaller wave of people urging caution. Both of these camps are correct. Things are going to happen here in Myanmar and I want to be part of it. Will they happen tomorrow? Absolutely not – that’s why I have a five to ten year perspective on my time investment here.
THERE’S A REAL NEED FOR ELECTRICITY
Three out of four (75%) people here do not have access to electricity and those of us who do suffer from frequent blackouts, even in the biggest city, Yangon. I’ve not traveled outside the commercial heart of Myanmar, but people tell me that power is even less reliable.
When I arrived, I held the ideal that Myanmar could skip the dirty power sources (natural gas, coal) the same way they will be able to skip land-line telephones. Unfortunately for renewables, coal, natural gas, and petroleum based fuel supplies are still too cheap, abundant, scaleable, and quick to market than cleaner sources. I do believe that renewable energy projects will be viable here in the medium to long term and at a village/community level.
I LOVE THE PEOPLE
Although I was a bit warmed up from the frigidity of big city Hong Kong with my weeks in Singapore and Thailand, I am absolutely struck every day as to the overwhelming friendliness. I was initially a little paranoid after having traveled in Morocco ages ago and having heard stories in South Asia of how people will pretend to be nice and be cheating you the whole time. However, in an attitude that would make F. Scott Fitzgerald proud, I do try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt despite the potential downsides. That philosophy has served me well here by letting me interact with a people that are very open and friendly even after decades of closed military control. I’m curious to see how far this attitude permeates the upper reaches of business and politics, but my everyday experiences of buying water and fruit are quite fulfilling.
Allen Himes – Managing Director, Indigo Energy. December 3rd, 2012.