Based in Yangon, the new office will open with anchor clients Hughes (Network Systems) and Bosch. Donna Garcia (pictured) comes from headquarters in Singapore to be the Myanmar GM.
Company founder and managing partner Sonya Madeira explained that the agency sees Myanmar as on the cusp of change and wants to be on the ground as the country "leapfrogs into the digital age".
"Myanmar is the last frontier in Southeast Asia," she told PRWeek "and we have been watching developments there closely. We support most of our clients across multiple markets, and early last year, a few conversations indicated the opportunity to provide regional standards of counsel and servicing for our multinational clients" in the country.
According to the Myanmar Investment Commission, the nation’s economy could grow 7.8 per cent this year, with foreign direct investment potentially reaching more than US$5 billion over 2014-15. Other reported figures Rice Communications sites as key to the move include almost a third (31 per cent) of incoming investments, as at end of August 2014, were in the telecommunications sector, indicating a strong infrastructure build out. Oil & gas, real estate and travel & hospitality are other top growing areas of the economy.
The agency also believes banking and finance firms are likely to see growth.
"Before the end of 2014, Myanmar granted licenses to nine foreign banks and plans are underway to launch the country’s first-ever stock exchange in Yangon in October," said Madeira. "We couldn’t have chosen a better location for our first overseas expansion. All eyes are on Myanmar and we’re raring to support companies that are as bullish as we are about the market".
Madeira also sees that the day is not far off when "Myanmar companies step out" and she sees Singapore, where Rice Communications has its headquarters, as a natural regional hub for those companies to reach the rest of Asia. The agency recently hosted two events in Yangon: a dialogue with bloggers and technology journalists on digital PR, and a training session for PR and marketing executives in the hospitality industry.
Garcia, as the local head, will still divide time between Singapore and Yangon, and will continue to lead several of the agency’s key accounts in Singapore.