Flamingo launches ‘Ovaltine & Elephants: a Cultural Survey of Myanmar’
Ovaltine & Elephants: A Cultural Survey of Myanmar is a collection of essays, interviews and infographics by journalists, academics and researchers. With Myanmar’s November 8 general election imminent, the book provides meaningful context on the country’s political history and cultural heritage as well as insights into recent developments and its post-election future.
“If one had to single out one factor that is critical to understanding Myanmar’s policies and society, Burmese nationalism would be the choice,” writes David I. Steinberg, Distinguished Professor of Asian Studies Emeritus at Georgetown University, in his essay “Nascent State Nationalism”. “But what is Burmese nationalism? It is far more complex than in many other states.”
Ovaltine & Elephants delves into this complexity, outlining the cultural tensions that have plagued Myanmar for centuries, giving rise to unlikely phenomena such as military rulers with stables of white elephants. In “Sacred White Elephants”, journalist Daniel Otis argues that among Yangon’s youth, “the decadence that white elephants represent is bitterly chided by those who would like to see their country delivered from the shackles of government control and superstition.”
While a more open market and digital connectivity are creating new opportunities, Flamingo’s Bhavita Trivedi, Emma Gage and Regina Tan find that authority figures such as doctors, teachers and monks “occupy powerful positions as advisors to the population and linchpins of public information. What they say remains unquestioned. Brands too can benefit from this position, with distance and top down authority, helping to command both respect and credibility.” It’s their essay, “Mothers’ Ambitions”, that suggests legacy brand Ovaltine still enjoys the status of “elixir of life” established when Myanmar was largely closed to the outside world.
Myanmar is one of several new but rapidly developing markets that economists hesitate to call emerging. They are instead ‘pre-emerging’ or ‘frontier’ markets, and Ovaltine & Elephants is the first in Flamingo’s Frontier Market Series.
According to the World Bank, of the 4.6 billion people who have no access to the Internet, more than half live in just five countries, all of them in Asia. Many companies have already determined that it is imperative for them to reach this ‘next billion’, as they’ve been called, who will create a tidal wave of opportunity as they enter the global consuming class by 2025.
Flamingo’s founders and co-CEOs Maggie Collier and Kirsty Fuller say that “global brands are hurrying to enter Myanmar with limited insights and little, if any, equity in people’s minds. In this context, we believe that the businesses that will succeed are those that have a genuine understanding of not just Myanmar’s people but also the wider culture.”
Ovaltine & Elephants is a must read for cultural observers, brands, businesses and marketers interested in these new frontiers. To purchase a copy, click here.