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Insurance

Japan's Taiyo Life goes big on hiring in Myanmar's tiny insurance market

Company plans to mobilize as many as 5,000 for door-to-door sales

Street vendors sell vegetables in Yangon. Japanese insurer Taiyo Life sees door-to-door sales as the key to opening up the Myanmar market. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

YANGON -- Japan's Taiyo Life Insurance says it aims to have thousands of salespeople knocking on the doors of potential customers in Myanmar once it gets full approval in a country where the concept of insurance is new to most people.

The midsize insurer seeks to increase its sales force in Myanmar to 5,000 from 100 "in three years after launching operations," President Naoki Soejima said in a recent interview with Nikkei in the country's commercial capital, Yangon.

Myanmar's government now allows foreign insurers to enter the market through joint ventures with local businesses and is set to give formal approval as early as this month.

Taiyo Life, which has taken a 35% stake in local player Capital Life Insurance, is expected to receive the green light to run a joint venture, as are 10 other foreign companies granted provisional approval.

"The importance of having a life insurance policy is not well known in Myanmar, so we need to explain this thoroughly to customers face-to-face," Soejima said.

The unit of Tokyo-based T&D Holdings plans to focus on door-to-door sales in a country that is home to about 53 million people.

Myanmar's life insurance market is forecast to undergo a rapid expansion, with one estimate projecting growth from around $40 million in fiscal 2018 to roughly $1.4 billion in 10 years.

The current Myanmar insurance market "resembles how Japan's was after World War II," when life insurance took off, Soejima said.

Policies with a savings component that also feature medical coverage were popular at the time in Japan, he noted, and his company plans to develop similar products in Myanmar as well.

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