Myanmar under the microscope

Market research multinational TNS sets up shop in Yangon and says lots of companies want to know what makes local consumers tick.

Myanmar’s first international licensed market research consultancy now has more than 10 international clients, after carrying out the largest ever consumer studies in the country.

Jason Copland and the TNS Myanmar team pose for a photo at their office in Yangon's Tamwe township.

Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Myanmar, one of 83 global offices belonging to TNS, received its licence to officially conduct business on March 13.

While operating on a temporary licence granted in October 2012, TNS Myanmar undertook a syndicated study with 11,000 respondents in 12 locations.

“Now we have information for key multinational research spenders who have an interest in 56 million more consumers,” Jason Copland, general manager of TNS Myanmar, told The Bangkok Post in Yangon.

“Clients didn’t really anticipate how rapidly things in the country would evolve and change. So we designed and put the study together to give businesses the opportunity to access information.”

The 11,000 interviews comprised about 1,800 retailers.

“The sample size got so large because we started to look at different product categories — we looked at 17 different categories,” Copland explained.

The study aims to provide clients with in-depth analysis of attitudes and preferences of people at a category and brand level. The company has looked closely into personal-care items, household products, food, tobacco and beer.

“We look at this as a fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) landscape study so it gives everybody a broad base of what the lay of the land is,” he said. “They can then start to see how their own brands are performing within each of those categories and then springboard from there.”

TNS Myanmar currently has more than 60 employees. There are four researchers, but Copland hopes to expand the research team to 12 by the end of the year in line with market demand.

Copland is also considering producing policy and social research from the office, as Myanmar inches toward the Asean chairmanship in 2014 and national elections in 2015. TNS is the largest provider of policy and social research globally, with a total of about 500 researchers.

“There are some active research spenders here. We expect to see that sort of change or growth in the coming years as Myanmar’s landscape becomes more competitive,” he said.

“It’s an interesting time in Myanmar for everything in the industry from advertising, to distribution, and to promotion.”

Copland joined TNS Myanmar in October 2012 with more than 18 years of market research experience, and worked in the country from 1997 to 2007 before moving back last year. He has since established a full-service team, including client service, fieldwork, operations and qualitative analysis.

TNS Myanmar is currently gearing up for the Thingyan water festival celebrations in April, which Copland describes as an “abnormal consumer period”.

“Everyone’s starting to think about the new year. People’s behaviour changes, whether it’s for gifting or that sort of thing,” he said.

Copland reports to Ralf Matthaes, regional managing director of TNS Indochina and Myanmar, who is based in Ho Chi Minh City.

“I’m delighted to formalise our business in Myanmar. We have a strong heritage of helping clients grow their business across Indochina and this experience will greatly benefit our clients in Myanmar,” Matthaes said after TNS Myanmar received its licence.

Copland, Matthaes and Chris Riquier, the CEO of TNS Asia Pacific, will be discussing key insights from recent work during Esomar Asia Pacific in Ho Chi Minh City from April 7-9.

TNS, headquartered in London, advises clients on specific growth strategies around new market entry, innovation, brand switching and stakeholder management, according to the company.

TNS is part of Kantar, one of the world’s largest insight, information and consultancy groups. Kantar is owned by London-based Wire and Plastic Products (WPP) Plc: the world’s largest communications services group with billings of US$70.5 billion and revenues of $16.5 billion.

WPP also owns the marketing communication giants Grey, Hill & Knowlton and Ogilvy Group, along with the advertising giant JWT. It acquired TNS in 2008 for $1.93 billion (55.4 billion baht).

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Writer: Justin Heifetz