First of all, understand that we have the most profound respect for the job accomplished by the Internet Service Providers and Mobile Operators in Myanmar. Our objective is not to diminish their hard work but to provide views and reviews about the Internet market in Myanmar.
It is always easier said than done.
And we, humble bloggers, have the easy task to say where Internet providers have the tough task to do.
This article should not be seen as a lecture for the existing and incoming broadband providers but a portfolio of ideas that to our opinion will be key to success in Myanmar. Enjoy the read.
1. Wave annual fees
There is nothing more irritating than a hidden fee. You know the kind of bad surprise that come after the deal is closed, hands were shaken and you are about to sign the contract.
This is exactly what the annual fee is. Even if the practice tends to disappear, some ISP’s (hello Fortune, hello WeLink) charge customers every year a fee with no tangible explanation. If you need the money, why not simply laying this cost over the monthly recurring fee?
If you plan to build an ISP in Myanmar, make sure your pricing is simple and memorable. Find round figures, make it easy to understand and remember. Your price plans should be tax included (hello MPT) and please avoid hidden costs in tiny footnotes.
It would also be a good idea to set a fixed price for installation charges. Some ISP’s in Myanmar (hello AGB) will only communicate on the installation fees after surveying your location.
This practice tends to discourage potential customers. Take the risk to set a fixed price for installation. Sometimes it will cost you money and sometimes you will break-even but at the end of the day, you will get customers and this is all what matters.
2. Work on your marketing strategy
Pay a specific attention to your market positioning and ensure your marketing material translates this strategy.
Building a brand take time and money. Hire a team of professionals to build your image and develop the brand guidelines that will be the base for all your coming marketing material. Your brand is what makes your ISP unique and recognizable. Screen carefully every leaflet, flyer, poster that you plan to release in the market and make sure they comply with your guidelines. And of course avoid typos (hello AGB).
Building a successful brand can be a major differentiator for your new company. Most of the Internet Service Providers in Myanmar completely neglect this aspect, investing little money and energy into building their image. If you manage to build a strong brand with high end marketing material, you will certainly be remembered which is a first but important step on the way to customer consideration.
3. Customer Service is key
Your website is not only your showroom, it can also be an incredible customer portal. Customers should be able to easily contact you through your website or Facebook page. Incorporate a chat box on the website can be a good idea especially if you target foreigners that may be reluctant to communicate verbally with a local call center.
It can also be a good idea to create a signup form on your website. The signup process does not necessarily have to be automatic but a new signup could trigger a call back from a sales rep. Customers are more likely to subscribe to your services if it looks easy and straightforward. Most of the existing ISP websites miss a clear call to action.
You should also communicate on the areas where your service will be available in the near future. Create a pre-signup form so you can easily touch base with potential customers once you are ready for service in a new township.
4. Offer digital payment from scratch
It can be very tempting to start signing-up customers as soon as the network is ready and figure out payment methods later. But payment collection is rapidly going to become your biggest trouble as your customer base grows.
In a busy and crowded city like Yangon, relying on physical payment is a bad idea. Whether you request your customers to come and pay the bill or you organize payment collection door to door, it will get out of control and your bad debt will hit the roof.
Myanmar banks and FinTech companies are starting to offer digital payment solutions that can definitely make your life much easier. For example, CB Bank customers can directly pay their bill to 5BB Broadband and MyanmarNet from the bank mobile app.
Iflix has partnered with Red Dot and its 13,000 stores to ease bill settlements.
Wave Money also helps you settle your MPT bill with your mobile phone.
There are many options in the market and many more to come. Don’t limit yourself to one. Offering multiple way of payment will certainly be a solid selling point for your customers. But building these agreements takes time. If you want to launch an Internet Service Provider in Myanmar, you need to start working on these deals well in advance to get ready for your launch.
Don’t limit yourself to the dumb Internet pipe.
With so many providers in the market, we could think that customers are spoiled for choice but it is not really the case. All the providers are basically providing the sames offers with the same prices available on limited areas.
A good way to differentiate your Internet plans from competition is to offer value added services. These services will make a huge difference in today market where nobody is selling anything else than a dumb pipe.
5. Enable Internet Mobility:
You could look at deploying Wi-Fi hotspots in key locations such as malls, airports, popular restaurants. In these locations, give your customers free unlimited Internet with their home credentials. Keeping them loyal will worth the trouble!
It could also be a good idea to let the other visitors connect to your Wi-Fi network and enjoy free limited access in exchange for their contact details (that you can use later for marketing purposes)
6. Provide TV and VoD services
When it comes to home broadband, triple play is usually the norm all over the world. Not yet in Myanmar. But content providers are more and more interested by the country. For instance, Pyone Play offers live stream and VoD contents from local TV channel MRTV4. Iflix and Netflix entered the country recently and let you enjoy a wide catalogue of movies and TV shows.
Even if you don’t secure exclusivity, it could be a good idea to partner with content providers or at least associate their names to your name (co-branding). You can also explore the possibility to sell / rent a TV box with your Internet plans. The TV Box can be customized, and configured with your partner TV stream feeds or VoD platform.
7. Pick-up the phone
Fixed lines in Myanmar do not work well. That is a fact. It also means you have a unique opportunity to drive your sales using voice as a key selling point.
The Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD) allows Internet Service Providers to apply for telephone numbers. These numbers will give you the possibility to bundle your Internet plans with voice so that your customers can enjoy crystal clear quality calls via your Internet service.
It goes without saying that a telephone number is sticky. In a market where debt collection is still a challenge and customers volatile, earning your customer loyalty with a phone number can definitely be a good idea.
You don’t have numbers? You can still sell outbound calls! Give your customers the capability to call to international destinations for a cheap price.
8. Think about the kids
Internet penetration is on an impressive rise in Myanmar. Myanmar people are fully enjoying this new era of connectivity but also starting to see its downsides. False information, inappropriate contents, scams, phishing, Myanmar people are quickly learning that Internet is full of nasty stuff that can harm you and your family.
Keep in mind that Internet in Myanmar is essentially penetrated by mobile data as of today. People are slowly transiting their habits from a mobile-only Internet usage to a shared Internet service within the household.
One of the top concern of this transition is for parents to keep control over the internet usage inside the house.
Your value proposition could be to provide a all-in-one cyber-security solution for the family: antivirus, anti-malware, parental control… Design it as an optional service that your customer can add to his monthly subscription providing you an additional revenue stream. No need to build the solution yourself but simply team up with an IT security provider and agree on a revenue share.
9. Communicate on your network issues, compensate your customers
You can use the most high-end technology in the market, you can hire the A-Team to build your infrastructure but your network will go down at some point. There is nothing worst for a customer that a complete lack of visibility on what is going on with the internet and what is the estimated time for recovery. Home customers deserve the same level of communication than big companies.
Our recommendation would be to setup and maintain a CRM system that allows you to easily broadcast SMS/email notifications in case of network issue. Communicate on your outages but also on the planned maintenances.
It is also important to compensate your customers even if they don’t officially ask for it. Giving away thick rebate on monthly bill can seriously impact your revenue line. Instead, consider giving a bandwidth boost for limited time. You will potentially increase your cost but protect your revenue stream and it could eventually lead to upsell opportunities. Such commercial gesture will be definitely appreciated and allow you to gain your customer respect, trust and loyalty.
10. Design loyalty program and segmented offers
One solution to retain customers could be to work on a loyalty program. Team up with service companies so you can help each other with a loyalty program. For example, you can partner with a bank and offer a special deal to all their customers. The bank communicates broadly the deal to its customers and get money back on the bill payment fee. It is a win win deal.
In the other hand, you can partner with IT shops and negotiate with them to offer your faithful customers attractive deals on specific Internet related products (routers, Wi-Fi access points, laptops). In exchange, you will offer these IT shops free advertising across your customer base.
Another idea is to segment your offer. If you suffer from bad debt and get hard time collecting money, you may decide to launch exclusive offers that target a specific customer segment that have proven to be solvent. It can be parents of an expensive private school or employees of a large company. Company that can agree to act as a financial guarantee.
In general, customers are attracted by exclusive offers. Build a special offer for them and they will be more likely to sign up. Even if the deal compared to your listed price is not that great. It is all about packaging.
11. Know your customer
Yes, our headline says 10 ideas and this is the eleven point. But don’t miss it, this is probably the most important.
In 2017, Internet penetration in Myanmar reaches 26% (13% in 2016). And the large majority of these internet users are mobile.
Don’t look at the 74% remaining population. There is a high probability that the untapped market will not be interested by your broadband services.
Why? Because you are expensive compared to mobile Internet. Let them take a shot at mobile broadband. When they will be ready for more, they will come to you.
Sadly, your vision to bridge the digital divide in Myanmar fade away… You may need to refresh your investor deck.
So what is your market?
- The existing broadband customer base: a tiny piece of pie of 500K customers
- The mobile Internet users: a big piece of pie of nearly 14M customers
And you need to understand exactly their motivations.
Why are people transiting from mobile to broadband?
- Because it is unlimited
- Because you can share Internet easily
These two reasons should be your value proposition.
Unlimited come at cost and it may be difficult for you to provide true unlimited internet for a competitive price. It does not prevent you from advertising unlimited internet and implementing fair usage policy to control the worst offenders. If you want to come clean, put in your marketing material footnote that your unlimited plans are subject to fair usage policy and you are good to go.
- Share Internet
You can share Internet with your smartphone but it comes with some downsides. First, it will suck your battery out, second the Wi-Fi coverage will be limited and third it requires some extra configuration steps that can bother you on the long run.
Customers are interested in home broadband because they are looking for a fixed and permanent Internet solution available everywhere in their house/apartment for everyone in the family.
As such, don’t be cheap on the home Internet gateway, this will make the difference versus mobile broadband. Provide your customers a reliable and strong WiFi gateway that can provide Internet to multiple users on a wide range. This is what customers are looking for and what you shall advertise.
Surprisingly, you will not see any Internet service provider in the market talking about WiFi router. That is a missed opportunity that you could address right now. You can even ask the customer to pay a premium fee for a high-end Internet gateway. This is also common practice in markets all over the world.
Why are people afraid of moving from mobile to broadband?
First, barrier to entry is the main reason that keep customers away from fixed broadband.
Let’s take a step back:
Installation costs to get mobile Internet: 1$ for a SIM
Installation costs for a wireless broadband connection: 50-150$.
Installation costs for a fiber broadband connection: 250$.
This is why your brand image is key. You need to build a strong and reliable brand so that customers can trust you enough to put a few hundred dollars in installation charges.
As you build your brand, start by reducing the installation fees, that is a needed sacrifice to get your first customers on board.
The second reason is top-up and payment. Mobile operators run an immense network of direct and indirect distribution channels enabling customers to top up anywhere anytime. You need to make payment as easy and worry-free as possible. This is key to entice customers to give up mobile internet for your broadband services.
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.