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Business trends

Myanmar transforms post boxes into money-making billboards

Japan lends hand to generate new revenue stream

YANGON -- Myanmar's state-owned postal service has begun renting out advertising space on public mailboxes in a Japanese-supported effort to cover the cost of setting up and maintaining the mail collection network.

This mailbox in Yangon features an ad by Japan's Fuji Xerox.

Myanma Posts and Telecommunications initially will place 250 ad-festooned mailboxes in Yangon, Naypyitaw and Mandalay -- the country's three largest cities. Installing one mailbox costs more than $5,000, a sum that will be recouped by five years of monthly ad payments.

Advertising Nagata, a Japan-based billboard business with a presence in Southeast Asia, will manage the enterprise. The company already has set up over 1,000 ad-ready trash receptacles and map signposts at tourist spots in Mandalay and the Bagan archaeological zone.

Modeled on Japan's ubiqutious red post boxes, Myanmar's new boxes are designed to keep out trash and other foreign objects while keeping letters dry even in a monsoon downpour. More than 100 of them have been placed so far, and Japan's Fuji Xerox became the first ad buyer. Advertising Nagata aims to install 1,000 around Myanmar.

The attention-grabbing mailboxes are also meant to highlight efforts to reform a state-run postal system that inspires little trust among the public.

Japan's communications ministry, together with Japan Post Holdings' mail delivery unit, is supporting the project as part of a new effort on international cooperation in postal services. Japanese postal workers have been sent to Myanmar to help with improving customer service and logistics efficiency.

Myanmar's postal network, which includes about 1,400 post offices, could be used to provide "services that are closely intertwined with people's lives," said Tateshi Higuchi, the Japanese ambassador to Myanmar.

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