Scaling up and Giving Back

Proximity Designs
Oct 8 · 3 min read

New Head of Business Operations Thiri Yadana brings decades of brand building experience to Yetagon Irrigation.

When it comes to building a brand, few in Myanmar have as much experience as Thiri Yadana. Her list of achievements includes turning a little-known foreign toothpaste brand into a household name and establishing a telecoms company in a market where less than 20% of the population had access to a mobile phone.

In January, Thiri joined Yetagon Irrigation as our Head of Business Operations. Much like the commercial sector where Thiri carved out her career, Yetagon is subject to the same crests and troughs that come with doing business in the unique and rapidly changing Myanmar market. As a social enterprise, however, we distinguish ourselves in the lasting impact we leave on the lives of our customers.

“In the commercial sector you’re in the business of taking from your customers but at Proximity, we’re in the business of giving back to the customer. At the same time, we still have to strike a balance between impact and maintaining a sustainable business,” said Thiri.

This year, we aim to scale rapidly. Thiri’s two decades of experience in the commercial sector is already proving an asset as we expand our product portfolio and restructure our sales channels to reach new customers.

In August, we’re launching the new and improved Mister Pipe, the first of several new products and upgrades to be rolled out over the coming months, including a sprinkler with a wider spray radius, suited to onion farmers, and a new valve connector. All of these products emerged in response to feedback from our customers which showed ease of use and accessibility was of increasing importance when shopping for new products.

“Our products are already known in the market for being great quality but now we’re improving the user experience by simplifying them and making them easier for our customers to install themselves.”

We’re also changing the way we do sales. Firstly, we’re better integrating our two major sales channels, dealers and sales reps, so our networks and knowledge of our customers are shared across all of our frontline sales staff. The second change is on the digital front. We have begun targeting new customers through the Yetagon Facebook chatbot and will soon start equipping sales staff with a smartphone app that collects customer and sales data and sends it back to our data analysts in Yangon.

“With more comprehensive data we’re going to target sales more efficiently. Sometimes our sales reps visit customers who might not be in the financial position to buy a product that month. But with this app, that sort of data will be available to them all the time. We’ll know when a village has finished harvesting for example, so our sales reps will be able to visit them and know they can make the sale,” said Thiri.

“Our new products are designed to cater to the needs of both new and existing customers and now we have the sales structure in place to ensure we can get it to the right customers when they need it. In the business of impact, you really can’t have one without the other.”

Proximity Designs

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