New Delhi - Cyclone Nargis, which devastated an estimated 2.4 million lives, has left tell tale marks on businesses – particularly advertising industry - in Burma's former capital Rangoon.
The nascent advertising industry in Rangoon is among the many business ventures thrown into doldrums by the cyclone that left at least 138,000 dead and missing.
"About 80 per cent of the [advertising] billboards were blown away by the strong winds that the cyclone generated," an official from the Merry Myanmar Advertising Company in Rangoon told Mizzima.
Cyclone Nargis, in its wake, not only blew away roofs and private houses but also flung advertising billboards, leaving companies counting their losses on what they had heavily invested.
Zaw Lin, spokesperson of the Myanmar Ganad advertising company in Rangoon said they lost about 80 per cent of their advertising billboards in the cyclone. Putting them back in place has cost a huge sum of money.
"So far, we have spent more than 40 million Kyat (US$ 30769) in repairing and replacing the billboards," Zaw Lin told Mizzima, expressing concern that more needs to be spent.
Zaw Lin said his company owned about 35 large sized billboards, 20 by 60 feet each, and several smaller ones. The loss has been incurred by the company in the absence of billboards being insured.
Similarly, Aung Myat, Managing Director of the 21 Advertising Company said about 90 per cent of the billboards owned by his company in and around Rangoon has been destroyed.
"So far, we have spent over 20 million Kyat (US$ 15384) but we have to do a lot more repairing," Aung Myat told Mizzima.
Adding to the grief of the companies, Rangoon Municipals, also known as Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), ordered the advertising companies to complete repairing and reconstructing the billboards latest by the end of June.
"But since we could not do it, it seems they understood us. It is a big load for us," Aung Myat said.
Billboards and huge sign boards have lately sprung up as a new way of advertising in Burma's commercial hub, Rangoon.
Though television, newspaper and radio advertising are still the most popular forms of advertisement, billboards and other outdoor advertisement have slowly picked up, said Zaw Lin from Myanmar Ganad.
But in military-ruled Burma, where the junta keeps a tight control over any form of expression including restrictions on the press, companies are not free to post any writings on their advertisement billboards.
Zaw Lin said the difficulty in outdoor advertisement business in Burma is waiting for permission from the YCDC to approve the words in the advertisement text, the structure and even the size of the board.
A former marketing executive of the EYE advertisement company said, "Getting clients is not as tough as building a relationship with officials of the YCDC to get approvals for the advertisement."
The executive said, companies are required to bribe officials at the YCDC to get easier and faster approvals.
Relationships are built on how much you can give to the officials [at YCDC] and once you have a good relationship going, things work smoothly," she added.
Despite the hurdles, several companies have sprung up in the field of outdoor advertisement, she added.
But the bigger companies that have a good relationship with the YCDC and other government officials control the market share, she added.
According to her, EYE Corp., Myanmar Ganad, ATM, Youth Force, Merry Myanmar Advertising, IDEA, 21 Advertising, and Outdoor Advertising companies with their branch offices spread across the country are currently leading in the market.
Reporting by Mizzima correspondent, writing by Mungpi