Next month, CNN’s special series ‘Road to ASEAN’ continues its journey to one of ASEAN’s smallest markets – Laos. CNN features an entertainment company that is growing across borders, and a homegrown coffee pioneer who is expanding throughout the region.

With just seven million people, Laos is one of the smallest economies in Southeast Asia. But what the country lacks in commercial and industrial might, it makes up for with its potential, especially when it comes to its growing middle class.  Thailand’s Major Cineplex Group sees its next door neighbour as a major business opportunity, opening what it says is Laos’ first multi-screen movie theatre, with plans in the works for two more by the end of next year. CNN examines Major’s strategy as it continues its expansion in Laos, and explores the challenges of growing an international business that is built around pop culture there. 

When Lao coffee producer Sinouk Sisombath started his coffee business two decades ago, most people in Vientiane, the sleepy capital of Laos, had no idea that Lao-grown coffee even existed. And when it came to exports, Sinouk says potential customers had a tough time even placing the country on the map. Today, the streets of Vientiane have their first semblance of traffic jams, and coffee culture is on the rise, with a new café opening practically every week. CNN explores the rise of Laos’ homegrown coffee industry and the unique challenges faced at home, as well as in tackling markets across ASEAN.

Airtimes: Singapore/ Kuala Lumpur/ Manila/ Hong Kong/ Taipei/ Beijing
‘Road to ASEAN’ airs on July 5 and July 19 within CNN Today at 6am, CNNMoney view with Nina Dos Santos at 6pm and News Stream at 8pm HKT.

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