I saw that she received Sayo Laos magazine, which I saw that they ran their ad in Koosang Koosom Thai magazine in the past issues, and there was an interview of the owner of Sayo Laos on the December 2007 issue. The article was written in Thai language, and I’ll be translating part of it so we will have some good ideas as to what goes behind this magazine, and the current project that she is working on.
Ardina Mahavong is the modern Lao woman, with high self-confident that is living in the digital world. She is a working “Laos” woman that’s juggling between import and export, magazine and television. She was born and raised in Vientiane, Laos, and is of mixed Lao-Pakistan descent, growing up in the modern society of Lao Muslim. Koosang Koosom interviewed her in Vientiane.
Question: What type of business are you currently doing?
Currently, I’m working on “Sayo Laos,” it is a monthly magazine issues, we publish 16,000 magazines per issue, and I also run a factory clothing apparel in Vientiane that we do import and export. I’m currently working with the Lao government on setting up Lao movie television, it will be a free TV, creating something such as this is a dream of mine. I want the world to know where Laos is, which we will stress tourism, health issues, and the beauty that Laos has to offer.
Question: How many channels does Lao television currently have?
We currently have 1 channel, and we also have satellite TV. The current one that we’re working on is going to be called MV (abbreviation from Movie Lao Television,) which the major source of income will come from sponsors, mainly commercials.
Question: Is there any magazine in Laos that is currently competing with Sayo Laos magazine?
I started doing Sayo Laos in 2004, and at that time there were very few magazines, the government allow us to write according to the best interest of the country but we have to send in our issue before each publication for approval, as far as them checking the contents, this we do not know, I guess it’s up to the individual that’s doing it. But to write in the style of attacking them is probably not good, we have our code of ethics that we go by, using the actual event as the core, the truth, the promotion of our culture that the government support, and we’re protected under the law, but not totally restricted in what we can write.
Question: Like Koosang Koosom magazine, we can publish without getting an approval, there is no government official that would come and review our magazine.
We can also do this, every publishing company in Laos can do this, that they don’t have to be inspected, or come and arrest us when we write, but there is a censorship there where we have to meet the requirement. As for us, we don’t have to wait because the government fully support in what we’re doing. There is no restriction because time is money, and we always have to race with time but we have to make sure that the magazine comes out good and not writing to attack anyone.
Question: Do you need a lot of capital investment in television production?
We are living in the digital world therefore we must be able to follow the new trends and when there is a new program we often times have to spend a lot of money, very much like Thailand and it also depends on who is the supporter at the time, when we signed the contract with the Lao government we have a budget of 2.5 million US dollars.
Question: Do you have enough skills and resources to do your job?
Yes, we have many that graduated from overseas, such as from Australia, and America; we’ve a lot of financial assistance but like everything else, there is no guaranteed, and it could change at any given time. As of right now, we could be doing it this way, or changing to something that’s completely different, therefore we constantly have to learn new things. We do our marketing in Bangkok, which we have someone there to help us.
Question: How many hours are you on air?
From 16 hours to 20 hours, but approximately 12 hours is considered great, we wrote the program for it already.
Question: There are approximately 6 million populations in Laos, how many television sets are there in all?
I can’t remember the exact number but we’ve a survey that estimated the actual number of household that would be able to receive the signal, how many television sets per household, but the actual marketing survey came from Thailand because we don’t have enough resource.
Question: What are some of the problems that you’ve encountered while making ‘Sayo Laos’ magazine?
There are some problems on a day-to-day basis, no matter what you do in life, you’ll always encounter some problems, and it’s up to you to handle that problem. But I want to stress again that we don’t have any problem with the government, they actually help us on a periodically basis. As of right now, ‘Sayo Laos’ magazine is mailed to 27 locations of the Laos Ambassador’s office across the world and I don’t have to pay for the shipping and handling cost. In the course of conducting our business, we are like the children where we’ve one father, and we’ve the Thai government as our godmother, this is the main goal for most of us that grow up in today society.
Question: Who is MTV target audience?
We are living in the digital world, and it is impossible to prevent people from watching MTV, but our strongest competitor is the Thai TV because they’ve been around a lot longer and are more experienced. They’re up to date with their technology, they’ve a good reception and signal strength; even though we’ve helped from the government but it’s not as easy as it appears.
When I was 21 years old, I was in charged of running factory-clothing apparel, which has about 500 employees. There were many problems that I faced and I asked myself then if it was the best that I could do at the time, and sometimes problem resolves itself in given time, but if we face a problem and feel discourage, then I think we’re tested by the lord, we can’t just throw our hands up in the air and give up, we’ve to move forward.
Question: Does advertising revenue cover ‘Sayo Laos’ magazine cost?
Is everything good? The answer is no, we’ve been doing it for 3 years now, and things take time. Lao society is going through a transformation, there is a lot of competition, and we’ve increasing number of foreign investors and every new products need introduction to the local markets, which we play a major role in helping them to become successful. Then we’ve to ask ourselves, can we survive by doing this? We’ve to examine ourselves, if you think we’re rich because of the income from the magazine, this is not true, I’m a bit better than an average person living in Laos that I have a car, I have a house, but I’ve invested a lot of time and money just like everyone else.
Question: Is there any International magazine in Laos? For example buying the brand name of certain well know magazine and publish in Lao language.
No we don’t have anything like that, but I’m not worry because no matter what kind of magazines out there, if written in Lao, people will read and this will help our younger readers to be able to pronounce and read Lao correctly because our language is a mixed language, just like why am I able to speak Thai clearly even though I’ve never learned the Thai language, it’s because I learned from Thai television, and the mixed language (pasa ga jai) is when we speak half Lao and half Thai, but cannot speak any language clearly or properly, and we’ve the tendency to combine the two languages together as one.