CFI.co Meets the CEO of UMG: Kiwi Aliwarga

That is what Kiwi Aliwarga was taking into consideration during the early stages of UMG – founded in 1998. He struggled with limited capital in a country still closed to investments. Kiwi Aliwarga and cofounder Marlar Win took the initiative to open up a distribution company for spare parts of heavy machinery and power generators.

“We were not expecting UMG to stand out when we started the company; we just wanted to establish a presence in Myanmar. We neither had any business plans to be successful. We made the plan along the way when the opportunity arose,” says Kiwi.

UMG has today become one of Myanmar’s leading companies with nine different business units: distribution, education, media and leisure, financial services, food and beverages, property and infrastructure development, resources and mining, health care, and information and communication technology.

Kiwi Aliwarga, CEO of UMG, was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. He received his education as an industrial engineer at the Institute of Technology of Indonesia and holds a master degree in civil engineering from the Asia Institute of Technology in Thailand. Now, he is pursuing his doctorate at Gadjamada University, Indonesia, in agriculture. He began his career in the business development division of one of Indonesia’s largest trading companies – Astra International.

When Kiwi and Marlar started UMG in 1998, Myanmar was experiencing the effects of Asia’s financial crisis: “At that time, Myanmar was facing the crisis’ impact. Fortunately we arrived at the right time as we could build trust amongst our customers and partners. We were growing fast and soon became the preferred choice of our Myanmar machinery partners. We obtained a market share in excess of 50%. However, the ups and downs of the machinery business made us realise that we needed to stabilise our business by expanding overseas or investing in other businesses.”

Now, the CEO is assisted by seven board members for the day-to-day running of the business: Daw Thet Nwe (CEO assistant), Daw Mar Mar Kyi Maung (CFO and CTO), Putri Yanthi (Director of Food and Beverage and Leisure), Raymond G Wolff (Director of Retail Distribution and Media), Isshiki Hiroaki (Director of Capital Goods), U Thien Naing (Director of Mining and Construction), and U Aye Min Htoon (Director of Corporate Human Learning and Education).

When entering a new line of business, UMG always takes into consideration market conditions and behaviour, the advancement of technology, emerging market trends, and current resources. Kiwi Aliwarga: “We do not know exactly what UMG will become twenty to thirty years from now as many new technologies will arise that can change peoples’ behaviour and affect the way we conduct business. However, we have full confidence in UMG’s resilience and longevity. The company will remain true to its mission of encouraging people to be their best for the betterment of society and the nation.”


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