By June Ramli
Devanandan Batumalai was on his usual route home from work when he received word that he was being headhunted for a senior position in Myanmar.
He remembers the day clearly as he got the call.
“I was stuck in a traffic jam in the Smart Tunnel in KL when the call came from a recruitment agency in Singapore,” he said.
“The line got cut off while I was entering a tunnel but they called me back.
“We organised for a Zoom interview a day later and the next day the terms of employment were negotiated,” said the Head of Professional Services of a leading financial institution in Myanmar during an interview with dailystraits.com recently.
The 42-year-old father of two said the whole hiring process was very fast – within a month.
“I actually didn’t want to leave my previous company as I have only been with them for six months,” he said.
Fearing the repercussions of having such a short work stint on his resume, Batumalai changed his mind about taking on the new role upon realising that he would be able to carry out “ground-breaking work.”
“I wanted the job because there was nothing in place (in Myanmar) and you will be able to create everything from scratch.
“You can’t do that in a matured market so that is why I decided to take the job,” he said.
Fast forward four years on, Batumalai said he has no regrets.
“When I first came here in 2017, there had just been 4G and I saw how the country grew at a rapid rate, even faster than what I have seen in Malaysia.
“I think that’s because the country was very open to new things.
Prior to the pandemic, Batumalai said Myanmar was fast becoming a choice for most expatriates, especially those from the ASEAN region.
He said the salary earned in Myanmar was way better than in Malaysia as many expatriates were paid in American dollars.
“It depends on the sort of package you negotiate for, some are paid in the local currency too,” he said.
However, Batumalai was quick to add that most salaries there did not include retirement payments like the CPF in Singapore or superannuation in Australia.
As such, expatriates in Myanmar would need to come up with their own solutions to ensure that their retirement funds were taken care of while they worked.
“For me I send money home to invest in mutual funds,” he said. Batumalai said his young family have also adjusted well to life in Yangon.
“This is a very honest country. My wife feels very safe here more than she does in Malaysia,” he said.
The best way to work in Myanmar according to Batumalai was to secure a job before entering the country.
Roles can be found in the local job market portals such as JobNet.com.mm or on LinkedIn.
However, he said the American site had lesser opportunities as not many Burmese hiring managers were on the platform.
On work-life balance, Batumalai said Burmese workers were a mixed bag.
‘There are people who work till late and some feel that they need to stop at five. But we find that a blend of both works the best,’ he said.
He also said the Burmese workers were motivated more when treated with love and kindness termed as metta in their language.
On language, Batumalai said despite not being able to speak any Burmese, expatriates such as himself had English translators organised for them by the hiring companies.
“Burmese is a hard language to learn and not everything translates well with a Google translator,” he added.
All in, Batumalai said he is very happy with his decision to have taken on the role in Myanmar and would gladly stay on working in the country for a long time.
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