TC: The Oil & Gas industry will potentially be a major market for Myanmar, with licenses set to be awarded for offshore exploration. How do you see SMART’s role in this growth?

K K Hlaing (KKH): As one of the top service providers in the country, we will have a lot of work to do because of that! I expect that there will surely be international service companies that will come and put a foot in, but our strength as a local firm lies in our knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in Myanmar. As a result, we have confidence that the entry of foreign players into our market is a definite win-win. We can compliment each other because we can develop and learn from these international companies. At the same time, they can learn from us. I have a strong belief that SMART will definitely be able to contribute to this industry’s growth.

TC: Being familiar with the industry, what would be the most pressing challenge to a local company working within this industry?

KKH: For most local companies, one of the most pressing challenges they will face when working with bigger international firms is that they need to ensure that they adhere to international safety compliance standards. The second thing is about ensuring that their processes and procedures are in place to be able to be understood when they work alongside bigger firms. This is important to be able to compete with international companies. Lastly, they need to ensure compliance in terms of code of conduct if they want to compete with foreign players. If you look at the US or UK companies for example, they possess a very strong set of standards. The unfortunate thing is that there is limited knowledge of international compliances among local companies.

Safety, process and compliance are the three top challenges to local firms. PHOTO: SMART Technical Service

Safety, process and compliance are the three top challenges to local firms. PHOTO: SMART Technical Service

TC: With a potential influx of foreign firms, how do you think local companies can retain the talent that they train – will they be able to compete for the best and brightest alongside international firms?

KKH: I think this is a challenge for both local and international firms. Today’s talents come from ‘Generation Y’ – where loyalty to the company is less important than a good salary. We recognise that they don’t want to work in the same position for a very long time, so we at SMART give them a chance to develop along a clear career path. We must develop our people as partners, and recognise them as such. That’s our way to align our ‘hearts’ and theirs together.

TC: Is that equivalent to keeping them involved in company growth plans?

KKH: Involvement is good but at the same time they want glory as well. This means rewarding their involvement monetarily also!

TC: To what extent would governmental policy have on ensuring positive capability development in the future?

KKH: The government has put a lot of effort into the education sector, opening schools and Centres of Excellence. In addition to this, the talented Myanmar people working overseas are also coming back to the country. Presently, every company in Myanmar still needs to train their employees even after they graduate, and this will probably be the case in the next 4-5 years. However, after that I’m sure that we (as a nation) will be in good shape.

The industry is set to grow in the next 4-5 years, as talent development ramps up. PHOTO: SMART Technical Services

The industry is set to grow in the next 4-5 years, as talent development ramps up. PHOTO: SMART Technical Services

TC: SMART is the main organiser of the Yangon Petroleum Group. From that perspective, how is the private sector influencing the industry?

KKH: As a Group, we have a few objectives. One of the main objectives is to upgrade the standards of our local service companies. We also want to be a collective voice, and this is why we have successfully registered as a Myanmar Oil & Gas Service Society. As a collective voice for both local and international companies, we feel that this allows us to be much stronger, as we are better able to address the issues facing our industry together. In addition to that, we are also actively talking to Universities and working together with them to help design the processes and syllables of future curriculums so that they can begin work in the Oil & Gas right away after graduation.

This interview was conducted for The Columnist, a newsletter by Consulus that offers ideas on business, design and world affairs. The views expressed in this article are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Consulus.