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Firm on a Burma mission
10:23am Wednesday 25th September 2013 in News
A FIRM from Stanford-le-Hope has become the first privately- owned business to set up in Burma.
Claridon, in London Road, is a logistics firm that celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.
It boasts NATO, Harley Davison and the Saudi Arabian National Guard among its clients but has now set up an office in Yangon, Burma’s commercial centre.
Until 2011, Burma – now formally known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar – was a communist dictatorship, run under military rule and dogged by civil war.
But after the 2010 general election, a civilian government was formed. Since then, the country’s militia have gradually handed over more control to the new government and, suddenly, Burma appears to be a land of opportunity.
In the last 14 months, the European Union and USA have lifted sanctions and as a result, the heads of Western businesses are being turned by Burma’s location in Asia – one of the largest growing economic regions.
Claridon announced on Monday it is taking on this emerging market, after months of hard work and hurdling obstacles such as the language and cultural barriers.
Eventually, the firm’s managing director Chris Scott was invited to Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, for talks with the Burmese transport minister.
Mr Scott said: “Burma is an emerging market. We believe, as do many, that it has the potential to be another China, albeit on a smaller scale.
“When you’ve got a country that’s been under communist dictatorship and then becomes a democracy and you see it needs modernising from the ground up, you see the potential there.
“Farmers have become millionaires overnight where big companies have gone into Burma and bought their land. People there are becoming more affluent and once they get the taste for things we have here, those things have to be shipped in and out. There will be opportunities for UK business.”
He added: “We’ve been helped along by our connections with the Burmese government.
"In March I met the minister for transport and we were the first British company to be invited by the government for business discussions.
"They were very excited a British company has seen opportunities in Burma and are willing to invest there.”
But this is no flash in the pan investment. Claridon, who established themselves during the Gulf War when they worked closely with the Saudi National Guard to supply US forces, have big plans for their operation in Burma.
As well as offering jobs and employment benefits to Burmese people, providing assistance and teaching authorities how to move goods around the country efficiently, the firm is to set up a charity that will focus on the poorest children living in Yangon.
Mr Scott added: “We believe you have to give something back to very poor countries.
“That’s not just putting a pile of cash on the table, it may be educational programmes or healthcare programmes.”
And it’s not just the development of Burma that Claridon wants to be involved with. The firm is keen to help other businesses expand into this emerging market.
Mr Scott said: “We want to be a vehicle to export companies, particularly in Essex to say, look, if you want to break into the market, use our experience because it’s a very difficult country to deal with.”
That has gone down well with the Government, who have worked closely with Claridon to set up in Burma.
Liz Basing, the East of England regional director for UK Trade and Investment, which has published a guide on ‘doing business in Burma’ said: “It’s exciting to see such a significant first from a company in the East of England.”
The message from Claridon is clear: it’s not just Burma for whom these opportunities now exist.
Mr Scott added: “If you don’t take risks you get nowhere in life. We’re proud to be the first and we’re excited to be getting into such a niche market.”
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