Life’s paths certainly have a way of going off in surprising directions.
It seems that way for Kyaw Kyaw Win, who runs Myanmar’s prominent furniture retail chain SINMA Furnishings Co. Ltd. Starting out with a trading concern in 1995, selling consumer goods, among them biscuits and cookies, the businessman decided to enter the industry in 1996.
He recalls: “At the time, we imported most of our collections. From there, we expanded into custom-made furniture made by our own workers. Now we are one of the leading companies in Myanmar.”
According to Win, “Those early years were, of course, very difficult for us due to lack of resources and lack of infrastructure. We really struggled to get through the problems and to reach where we are today. But experience has made it easier, and we know our products like the back of our hand. All this has happened because of hard work and a tireless drive to keep on developing.”
“We are pleased to see that our efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, inspiring other players to come into Myanmar. This means we are contributing to growing a competitive market.” SINMA first operated out of a small store in Yangon in 1996 with limited product lines. More showrooms opened through the years with its first factory launched in 1999. By 2013, it boasted six showrooms, not only in Yangon but also Mandalay and Naypyidaw.
In the Naypyidaw, the country’s modern capital, SINMA opened in the SINMA Living Mall, representing a US$10 million investment. Four factories have been added to the first facility, and complement sales activities.
While continuing to bring in products from other countries such as office furniture in the form of chairs and metal office accessories–many are specific requests from customers–SINMA has progressed to custom-made offerings. These consist of beds, wardrobes and kitchen counters among others. Orders are placed mostly by local hotels and hospitals. Win estimates the company’s annual sales to be around US$15 million.
A knock-down Furniture Production Line and Upholstery Production Line in SINMA imports raw materials like plywood, MDF, Chipboard, HPL and others for its use and distribution to other manufacturers in Myanmar.
Analyzing their clientele profile, SINMA’s big boss breaks down sales as 40 percent coming from government tender, 40 percent from project base and 20 percent from retail. Transactions are all local, and at the moment, they do not intend to export any product lines, he says.
As SINMA Group Chairman, Win says his main responsibility is “to develop business strategies and plans to maximize our shareholder’s value,” adding: I’m also involved in organizational development and organization structure.” As most of SINMA’s workforce of some 600 employees are in manufacturing, he makes it a point “to focus very carefully on production management.”
Promotions, he reports, are still generated mainly through direct sales, and not through social media platforms as in other markets. “When I started the company, I told my employees not to push aggressively any of our products to customers. My strategy was to educate buyers and explain to them the merits of the products before purchasing anything.”
As conceptualized by Win, SINMA’s mission statement “is to provide unique premium furniture and innovative designs through professional services with high quality to build customer satisfaction.”
While the SINMA brand covers all the goods and services offered by the group, “Sofane” stands for a custom-made sofa settee that is popular with local establishments.
Win envisions the “little” business he started out all those years ago to ultimately become a one-stop hub for Myanmar homemakers. With all cheerfulness he says: “Might I say we have everything. When it comes to decoration, renovation, furniture, soft furnishings–you name it, we have it! You want to build a house? We can do it too!”
Examples of SINMA’s bigger projects include Aryu International Hospital and Yangon General Hostpital, which were both was handed over to the clients by end of last year. Earlier in 2016, the Loi Kaw General Hospital was completed. Currently, the company is handling all the interiors and fit-out of the new Sheraton Hotel in Yangon.
A stickler for thoroughness, Win has made sure after-service satisfaction is promised through a helpline and product warranties.
With Myanmar’s economy still not be as robust as its other Asian neighbours, customers remain price conscious, with the exception of a few, who can afford some upmarket designs.
Win observes, however, that people are entertaining a growing taste for modern and contemporary styles even if these are beyond their budget. They’re also becoming keen on upcycled material that is finding its way into rustic-themed restaurants cropping up throughout Yangon.
What keeps him optimistic about the country’s furniture business is the entry of small startups, which he believes “is a good sign that we are creating a competitive environment.”
Together with fellow Myanmar furniture entrepreneurs, Win founded the Myanmar Furniture Industry Association and is currently serving as its president. The association has been actively engaging both participants in the industry and government agencies to help advance the industry.
Win’s plan to build an enterprise on consumer goods may not have flourished, but in its place, he is carving a legacy of home furnishings and interior accessories in a developing marketplace. Along the way, he is also helping develop and grow the Myanmar industry. That for him is fulfilment enough.
Sinma has a 870,000 sqft wood-based factory located in the Shwe Pyi Thar Township that processes logs. Another smaller factory located in the same area specializes in making customized furniture for the local market and projects.
It’s biggest factory is located in the Mingalardone Industrial Zone that is 109,468sqft in size with about 300 orkers. This particular factory handles all the decoration projects. This includes projects for retail shops, offices, schools, universities and hotels including Park Royal Yangon, Shangri-La Yangon and Sheraton Yangon.
Sinma has a showroom is located on Dhamazedi Road in Yangon, within a prime area. It is the first and biggest furnishing gallery in Yangon which provides one stop service when it comes to furnishings and interior decoration.
Another newly opened furniture showroom is 22,150sqft and is located next to one of the biggest port terminal and near to the downtown area of Yangon.