Buying a SIM card in Myanmar was a matter of privilege just five years ago. People could pay up to $2500 USD for number, but couldn’t buy SIM cards even if they had the money. Instead, they had to participate and win a lucky draw.
Home to 53 million people, Myanmar had been in decline for decades. Political challenges inside the country and trade restrictions resulted in a low rate of economic growth. After international restrictions and sanctions were lifted, Myanmar’s wealth of natural resources became available for extraction and export. Traveling domestically and abroad is now easier for the population and this is fuelling economic as well as technological growth.
With a median age of 27 and 55% of the population under the age of 30, the majority of Myanmar is well-positioned to capitalize on the expansion of the economy. In the span of five years, Myanmar leapfrogged in terms of digital and smartphone penetration, from 10% to 85 %. The online population of Myanmar is growing at a rapid pace. 99% of smartphone users have an account on Facebook (which is used as a search engine), and 71% of the population are active Viber subscribers.
“Burmese people want to embrace technology to communicate locally and globally. They are aware of the capabilities their country has and they decided to be valuable citizens of the world. The same thing goes for me. I was always sure that Myanmar could grow fast, but we just need to recognize platforms that can give us that chance,” says Fiona Thu, Business Development Manager at Infobip Myanmar.
Having a user-friendly interface, that supports the Burmese language with font options and unique letters, gave users the chance to interact in a more personalized way through stickers and more. These capabilities were a crucial trigger that led to Viber being recognized and accepted as the leading OTT player in Myanmar. The ability to localize is why many businesses are considering this channel for their main point of interaction with customers.
“Oway is using Viber enabled by Infobip’s platform to engage customers for better user experience. For example, reaching out to customers regarding flight discounts boosting sales during low-peak seasons. Viber, used by over 71 percent of Myanmar's population, is already a trusted and preferred chat app where we can engage customers in a branded, rich content context to build long-term customer loyalty as part of our overall marketing strategy,” said Tun Tun Linn, Group CTO at Oway.
Businesses realized – to increase revenue, they needed to be where their customers were and follow modern trends of communication. From purchasing a flight ticket, checking deliveries, to buying groceries, customers expect to engage with a brand in a fast and effective way.
“Viber has the potential to bring rich media content to businesses in Myanmar and could help set the pace for two-way communication. With them opening up their Business API to our region and working with local brands on Burmese language translation, City Rewards and other CMHL businesses could look forward to better reach, great engagement,” said Sneha Kataria, CEO of M2P Pvt Ltd.
M2P is a joint venture between CMHL, Myanmar’s largest retail chain with more than 8,000 employees, and Thai fintech group T2P. M2P is building CMHL’s super app that ties in e-money initiatives and wallets alike to offer a range of services in the Myanmar market. City Rewards adds a layer of loyalty programs across this app. They foresee Viber assisting on many levels and the potential reach it will give them through Infobip’s platform.
Fiona Thu has seen how businesses faced the challenge of communicating, not only with their customers but also with their agents and local partners. Infobip entered the market at the right time, with the ability to quickly connect businesses to the channels they needed.
“Myanmar was not recognized as a future market, but that is changing. What makes me happy is seeing a huge number of international companies coming to my home country. I have always felt like a world citizen but felt sad that many Burmese people didn't have the chance to connect with the rest of the world. I cannot be happier to support Infobip with the development of local activities, cooperating with a worldwide platform like Viber. Wholesalers are now sending invoices to shop owners and restaurants send order information via Viber through Infobip’s integration. I am glad that Infobip can make a great contribution to businesses embracing the digital revolution,” said Fiona Thu, Business Development Manager at Infobip Myanmar.
Myanmar is poised to become a technology-first economy, and this is due to the median age and readiness of the people to become the most technologically conscious country in Asia. Technological evolution is happening around us every day, but the question is: how much can we recognize its potential and become an active participant? It seems like the Burmese people are well on their way already.