Myanmar used to be the last telco frontier. Not anymore. Internet penetration has doubled in over 1 year and the country counts now more than 14 million online users. Myanmar is truly embracing the digital lifestyle.
Main drivers of this growth, the mobile operators are fiercely fighting to gain market share. On the technology battlefield, they all launched 4G last year and recently benefited from a spectrum boost mostly welcome to get the best of their LTE network. Customer habits are also changing rapidly and the mobile operators are shaping new offers to stick to the new trends. For instance, video streaming is mainly driving the data growth and as such, every operator has built a segmented offer to address this new need.
In Myanmar, Internet does not mean Facebook anymore but Grab, Uber, Iflix, Pyone Play or Yangon Door2Door. Myanmar is rapidly catching up on the rest of the world.
It was about time we talk about Mobile Money. Wave Money was launched last year, baby born from a partnership between Telenor and Yoma Bank. We were looking forward to see MPT and Ooredoo backfire and it is the Qatar based operator that decided to pull the trigger first.
It all started with an app discreetly released on Google Play Store: Ooredoo M-Pitesan. Then, a new page on Ooredoo corporate website that went online and then disappeared. It is back live and we believe for good. It was high time we talk about this!
Before looking at the financials, we decided to test both apps. And the difference is striking.
On one hand, Wave Money app is easy to use and stylish. We really enjoy the sign-up experience. The verification process via SMS goes on automatically and you can quickly navigate through the app. The UX is colorful and intuitive. The app is very easy to use, with big pictures and text. Like an app for senior citizens. That is probably made on purpose.
In comparison, Ooredoo M-Pitesan sign-up was a living nightmare. The sign-up code is 6 alphanumeric characters and no: M-Pitesan will not screen for new SMS and extract the passcode. You need to remember it and input it manually. Then comes the SMS for the Pin that you will obviously need to change. When you finally get into the app, the overall design looks old and out of the ark. But we have to give them that: the app is simple to use and to navigate through.
Looking at the product itself, M-Pitesan and Wave Money are extremely similar.
Let’s start with the good news: opening an account, cashing in, checking your balance, generate a statement or changing your PIN are free of charge with both products.
When it comes to bill payment, M-Pitesan has no partnership yet whereas Wave Money customers can settle MPT and YESC bills directly from the app (500Ks fee per transaction).
As for the banking partnership, Wave Money obviously partner with Yoma bank whereas M-Pitesan has a deal with CB-Bank.
So where is the money?
M-Pitesan and Wave Money charge customers for the following transactions:
- Cash out
- Shop to shop transfer (also called non registered customer to non registered customer)
- Shop to customer transfer (also called non registered customer to registered customer)
- Customer to shop transfer (also called registered customer to non registered customer)
When it comes to comparing the costs of both products, the difference is tiny. Still, Ooredoo pricing is more attractive when it comes to small transaction.
The main reason is that Wave Money charges a flat fee of 700Ks for any transactions up to 25,000Ks. M-Pitesan increments are smaller starting at 5000Ks.
When it comes to bigger amount, Telenor fees are slightly more attractive but once again the difference is insignificant.
If we look at the fees in percentage of the transaction value, we can clearly see that mobile money transfer is quite expensive on small transactions.
As a comparison, mobile payment company OK Dollar charges 200Ks up to 100,000Ks and 3% beyond.
In conclusion, Ooredoo did not re-invent the wheel but basically align its prices on Wave Money. Main upside would be on small transactions where M-Pitesan will be significantly more competitive than the Telenor – Yoma Bank product.
As of MPT, the public operator has not launched a mobile money service yet but a simple look to its recruitment page can give a hint on what is cooking.
Looking at the Myanmar landscape, OK Dollar was one of the pioneers for money transfer in Myanmar and is now settled as a top-of-mind brand in the country. Fintech company Ronoc Asia launched a mobile money service last year called Ongo which mainly focus on business to business (B2B) transactions. As of True Money, the Thai company is specialized in money transfer between Thailand and Myanmar. Other mobile money services such as Mypay and the Cambodian company Wing are also expected to launch services soon in Myanmar.
There is definitely an appetite for mobile money in Myanmar. Let’s see if the market respond positively and adopt mobile banking massively.
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.