The difficulty of doing business in Myanmar really depends on the sector you’re interested in. Foreign investors involved in the manufacturing sector say the hardest part about doing business in Myanmar is the poor infrastructure, especially electricity. It can be frustratingly difficult to manage an efficient factory with frequent power cuts and other infrastructure issues.
Entrepreneurs involved in other industries often cite cultural differences in work ethic as being a difficult part of doing business in Myanmar. Many foreign investors arrive with high expectations about the work output of their staff, but many find that there are competency issues, and it can be difficult to motivate people to excel.
Another difficult part about doing business in Myanmar, is dealing with bureaucracy and red tape. For businesses that need to get permits and approval from particular ministries, it can be frustrating to wait weeks or months in order to receive a permit that would take hours and other countries.
Other entrepreneurs cite the lack of rule of law in Myanmar as a major difficulty. In many different sectors in Myanmar the law can be very ambiguous, and even where there are laws, the practical application of those laws can vary widely.
But this isn’t to say that there are no positives in Myanmar. Many entrepreneurs who have been in the country for 10 years or more cite the camaraderie they’ve built with a core group of employees as a major factor for staying in the country.
Foreign business owners are often delighted to find that Myanmar employees are very respectful in general and follow company protocols well.
Before making the decision to invest in the country it’s essential to spend some time on the ground looking at a particular sector. Some industries (for example oil and gas) are accustomed to dealing with foreign investors, so things tend to be standardized and relatively easy to understand. Other sectors are just starting to open up, and will require large reserves of patience from foreign investors. However, those willing to exercise this patience will find industries with low competition that could make for excellent investment opportunities.