Myanmar (population: approx. 55 million) covers a total area of 676,578 km2. It is a multi-religious nation with numerous indigenous languages. As Myanmar continues to open up to the outside world, more foreigners are venturing to this alluring country. The Aung San Suu Kyi–led National League for Democracy came to power in Myanmar in the historic general election of November 2015, and the country is embracing change. As a nation that has seen decades of harsh military rule, it conveys a sense of hopeful but cautious energy. We took a flight from neighboring Bangkok to Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, to visit Torsten Novack, the General Manager of Sika Myanmar.
What are your personal secrets for leading a team?
I don’t think there are any secrets. We are working with different people from different backgrounds and different cultures. Not everyone was lucky enough to go to university, but all my colleagues are curious, they like to explore new things, are willing to learn and are highly motivated. As Sika General Manager, it is my responsibility to identify my team’s strengths, so we can lead and guide them and give them an opportunity to develop, enabling them to become the backbone of our small organization and work together as part of the Sika family.
What is the first thing that springs to mind when someone asks you what it is like to work in Myanmar?
Well, when Sika sent me here in September 2012, I had a laptop and 5,000 US dollars in cash on me. Myanmar was one of the last frontier markets and it reminded me a bit of India. The country had just opened up and begun to implement a democratic system. I realized that Myanmar has huge potential for Sika because of its infrastructure needs and the fact that it’s located on the Indian Ocean, which creates good opportunities for foreign investors. The country is also rich in natural resources. Personally, it was a great opportunity for me to build something up from scratch for Sika. And so I did.
How about the construction market? Where exactly does the country need Sika?
The country has to invest heavily in infrastructure, especially in the energy sector, in bridges and airports, in hotels, as well as in the real estate market. This is where Sika can provide technology support, particularly in the concrete sector, in order to protect the environment and safeguard resources.
Any new trends in construction?
Right now, Myanmar is in the process of implementing building quality standards to ensure safe conditions by using technology instead of manpower.
Where is Sika Myanmar heading?
Sika Myanmar’s main focus now is to be the market leader and to build up brand awareness. I can see Sika Myanmar rapidly growing over the next decades to match our Thailand or Vietnam operations in terms of size.
What do you personally enjoy most about living in Myanmar?
I personally enjoy waking up every day to face new challenges and to work with my team and watch my little Sika Myanmar family grow daily.
What do you wish for your country for the future?
I wish Myanmar success both in establishing political stability to attract foreign investors and in increasing the level of education.