Seating redux

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The supply chain of Myanmar’s buses is a more appropriate subject for a book than a blog entry, so I’ll refrain from describing each step in the process here (for now, at least). Consider, though, that because no buses are manufactured in Myanmar, they must all be imported.

As part of the restoration process that buses almost universally undergo upon entering the country, their interiors are removed and everything inside is reconfigured. In certain municipal buses, the original seats are not put back in, or are put in using a different setup, because the bus’s interior must be modified to fit the sizable compressed natural gas tanks that will power the bus (this is limited mostly to Yangon and Mandalay, the two largest cities and where CNG filling stations are located).

The process of shuffling around the seats to accommodate the compressed gas tanks creates a supply of surplus bus seats, which may be purchased either directly from bus restoration workshops or from a middleman at a market. Here, the blue vinyl seats queued up for reupholstery were actually purchased from a market in Mandalay by this bus repair shop after they deemed the seats the bus came with to be unfit for reinstallation.

Another source of demand for such “extra” seats comes from folks such as the owner of the Liteace truck in the included picture, who, when relegating passengers to the rear of the truck wants to appoint them in comfort and style. This adapted seating solution is far kinder to rear passengers than the usual standard, which consists of throwing a plastic or straw mat into the bed of the truck and hoping your passengers have enough upper-body strength to hang on for dear life when going around corners.

What opportunities exist here? Is there a need for more custom-designed, bespoke “aftermarket seating packages” to fit in the back of these Toyota Liteaces? Will we see the emergence of more theme packages such as those seen in the interior of many conventional passenger cars in Myanmar featuring doilies, soccer teams, and/or anime characters, only weatherproofed for rear truck seats? Which kind/brand of bus seat is best at accommodating passengers, being retrofitted to the rear bed, etc.?

As regulations change and purchasing a vehicle becomes more simple and affordable for the masses in Myanmar, which enterprise will recognize this opportunity first and extend into this potentially large market –  aluminum crafters who already excel at pre-designed packages for the rear bed of Liteaces (Apex Company has taken care of the bed cover for this truck – note the front of the rear bed cover acting as a roof), or the bus retrofitters, who already have experience installing/uninstalling seats and can extend that knowledge to smaller trucks without much additional effort?

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