Thursday, 3 April 2014

India’s TATA International making a splash

BULLISH. That is how TATA International country manager Sunil Seth describes his attitude to doing business in what can often be seen as a challenging environment.

A business optimist, Mr Seth has been with the India-based global conglomerate for 30 years.

“In India it is an inspirational company to work for,” he said from the Myanmar headquarters in Hlaing Township. “When I graduated from [mechanical] engineering I was recruited on campus.”

Later, Mr Seth would go on to complete his MBA in France and spend time in Singapore, then-Czechoslovakia, and more recently five years in Thailand before making the move to Myanmar.

“Trading options and investment options for the whole group was the objective of starting the operation,” Mr Seth said.

Since operations began on January 2013, Mr Seth has cultivated a new agro-trading vehicle for TATA that sees a concentration on beans and pulses from the Mandalay and Magwe regions being exported to India.

The venture was received with such high demand that, at the suggestion of the government, Mr Seth formed and now presides over the Overseas Agro Traders Association of Myanmar.

“This is an agricultural dominated country: Nearly 42 to 43 percent of GDP is contributed by agro and we knew that this was a good place for pulse sourcing and supplying to India,” he said.

In addition to TATA’s new agro interests the company is seeking to expand its construction investment, particularly in steel, concrete and power, including solar power – but a lack of regulations and building specifications mean the market is flooded with sub-standard building material and even products fraudulently branded as TATA, Mr Seth said.

“TATA has a very good name here, so people want that brand,” he said. “But we have seen that there is actually a lot of spurious TATA panels, which are coming in from other countries and we are quite concerned about that.

“We plan to educate the people and tell them what to look for in a genuine TATA product.”

Mr Seth stressed the importance of more stringent building laws coupled with an education campaign so that consumers understand the importance of high-quality building materials.

“You can pay a low price, but at the end of the day it is a safety factor if you are only getting low quality steel. If you are engaged in a project … use good stuff,” he said.

“We need the right specifications in Myanmar so people understand what good quality steel is. I am very passionate about this because I worked for 30 years in the steel industry.”

The problem is not unsolvable, Mr Seth said, but will take time.

“There is this whole issue of capacity building, which also takes time. And what is important is for the leadership to prioritise and say: look, these are the four, five things only which I will do and I will do them well, follow through and implement them.”

source: The Myanmar Times
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