Opportunities arise for talent to return home as international F&B brands expand into Myanmar.
As Myanmar has been opening up to international business and we watch the major brands in shopping, lifestyle and dining slowly make their way into the country, a unique opportunity to return to the homeland presents itself to some talented workers abroad.
When two Rakhine youngsters from Kyaukpyu,at that time ages just 20 and 22, made the decision to leave their hometown, and indeed Myanmar, they were met with disapproval, doubt and worry.
“My family was very worried. Normally in Myanmar parents don’t let their kids go away from them,” said Khin Hnin Htet, Assistant Manager of Yangon’s Beer Factory outlet, “but they eventually realised they could trust me to take care and handle my own life.”
Khin Hnin Htet was joined by her childhood friend Mona in her desire to experience life outside of Myanmar. They had career ambitions that couldn’t be fulfilled and drive and energy that went wasted in their hometowns. Khin Hnin Htet initially had her eyes set on a stable government job but her applications were never accepted.
“I graduated with a degree in law and I was hoping to get a government job but the only jobs I could get were supermarket and sales works.”
On her decision to go abroad for work, Mona, Bar Manager at Beer Factory explained, “To be honest, I like to be challenged, and I believed that Malaysia would give me more knowledge and opportunities,”
In 2010, when a friend in Malaysia invited the childhood friends to come to KL in search of work, they took the opportunity. Khin Hnin Htet was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the Malaysian people towards her.
“Actually, they were really friendly and helpful. I could feel their kindness.”
After both of them worked in a couple of different restaurants, both were recruited by Beer Factory. Khin Hnin Htet was a ’runner’ (support staff to waiters) but her bosses quickly recognized her capability and she quickly moved up to ranks to be given the title of supervisor within two years.
Moving forward about seven years, Myanmar is attracting more and more brands from abroad and Beer Factory decided to make their place in bar and restaurant scene in Yangon. The bosses of the company couldn’t think of anyone more suitable than Mona and Khin Hnin Htet to help establish and run their first branch in Myanmar.
So how does life at home feel after all those years in Malaysia?
“I was so happy to come back to Myanmar. I could see my mom and dad and my family again. I know I don’t live right beside them now, but it’s still much easier to see them than before,” Mona explained.
But the transition wasn’t so east for Khin Hnin Htet: “To be honest I wasn’t too excited to come back here but my bosses trusted me to do this job and I didn’t want to disappoint them.”
Now back in Yangon, they are thriving in their respective positions at the top their game at Beer Factory. Both realise the stark difference in social culture between the two countries and are hoping to bring a little bit of the Malaysian service style to Myanmar. Khin Hnin Htet especially noticed staff members here lack confidence and are sometimes reluctant to be friendly and get to know the customers. Considering her variety of experiences and the highs and lows that has faced, the guidance she gives to her staff is simple:
“Love your job. Don’t think of yourself as low. Be proud of what you do.”