It is February 2017, and Ronald Lee is project director of City Properties, a sister company of Myanmar-based City Mart Holdings Limited (CMHL). CMHL runs the City Mart supermarket chain. To support the supermarket business, CMHL had grown into a large diversified family empire in the retail, import, distribution, logistics, property and supermarket landscape.
In 1996, when City Mart, a local family-run enterprise, began operations, supermarkets were virtually unheard of in Myanmar. A relatively poor developing country in Asia, it had a very undeveloped free market economy, and almost no modern trade. The business had to be built from scratch, against a backdrop of a paltry logistics network, rolling blackouts, inadequate property infrastructure and many international brands being barred from entering the Myanmar market due to international sanctions.
But retailing is a downstream business that depends on many upstream suppliers, decisions and processes. Unfortunately, as Myanmar began moving to more open markets not all of these supporting firms and processes were in place, providing the nascent retailer with many operational challenges that often turned into new opportunities. Over the years, the company developed numerous businesses organically as the challenges arose. CMHL became the first modern supermarket in Myanmar, comprising supermarkets, hypermarkets, convenience stores, bakeries and pharmacies. At the time of this case, Lee was planning his next move ahead of multinationals who would surely be looking at entering the market in the future.
Through a discussion of this case study, students will learn about the difference in business environment between developed and developing markets. How new business models find their origins in developing markets. A close-up of the retail industry and its value chain. Advantages enjoyed by local firms and what MNCs must do to enter the market conclusively. This case is suitable for postgraduate level courses, notably for MBAs, and for advanced undergraduates.
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