According to We Are Social, Myanmar counts 18 million Internet users in 2018. Internet penetration in Myanmar continues to rise at an impressive pace.
This growth is driven by the massive adoption of new digital services that aim to make our life in Myanmar better. These digital services are not new. They are part of a global or at least regional phenomena. These tech companies step foot in Myanmar with the firm intention of replicating a successful business model with minor deviation (mostly localization). Some of these services have disrupted our daily life forever.
These are the top 7 digital services that change our life in Myanmar forever
In January 2016, Netflix extended its global footprint bringing its streaming services in 130 countries including Myanmar.
Because of licensing deals, movies and tv shows available on Netflix vary significantly between countries. Netflix Myanmar catalog is therefore quite limited compared to Netflix US.
According to Finder.com, 208 TV Shows & 546 Movies are available in Myanmar vs. 1,081 TV Shows & 4,579 Movies in United States.
The other major drawback is the payment methods. Netflix only accepts PayPal which is not available in Myanmar and international credit cards. Don’t even think of paying with MPU.
Netflix in the world is a huge deal. In the United States, Netflix Is No. 1 Choice for TV Viewing beating Broadcast, Cable and YouTube. According to a recent report from Sandvine, Netflix takes up 15% of total downstream traffic on the Internet worldwide.
Netflix phenomenal success is mainly attributed to its heavy investment in original programming. Netflix has produced a countless number of popular TV shows such as The Crown, Stranger Things, Narcos, BoJack Horseman or Black Mirror.
Netflix has become an essential piece of the millennial culture and as such a popular service in Myanmar.
Wave Money is a mobile financial service company born from the joint venture between Telenor and Yoma Bank. Launched in 2016, the technology company counts as of today 1.3 million customers and 25,000 shops across Myanmar.
In a country with a large part of the population completely unbanked, Wave Money is a game changer that help people transferring money across the country in a reliable and cost effective fashion.
According to a recent press release, the tech company is growing at an amazing pace (1,235% revenue growth and 2,765% increase transaction year on year).
Wave Money competes with TrueMoney and Ooredoo M-Pitesan that also enable users to deposit, withdraw and transfer cash through an agent or their mobile wallet.
Iflix is a video on demand service focusing on emerging markets. Headquartered in Malaysia, the company has often been called the “Asian Netflix”.
Iflix which is now available in 28 countries, landed in Myanmar in March 2017.
The streaming company has invested a lot of marketing effort in Myanmar to drive the service penetration and growth has been beyond expectation.
Iflix has partnered with mobile operators Telenor, Ooredoo and MPT in Myanmar to bundle content with their mobile and fixed broadband offering. Telenor broadband customers for instance can redeem month on month unlimited access to iflix, at no additional cost.
Iflix also put a a strong focus on payment gateways. It has partnered with Myanmar retail company, City Mart Holding Ltd, to provide a new offline payment method in nearly 150 outlets nationwide. Other payment method includes mobile banking, Red dot, VISA and Mastercard.
Grab is a Singapore based technology company that offers ride hailing, ride sharing and delivery services across Asia. The company is present in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and launched in Myanmar in March 2017. The company was competing with Uber and local companies Oway and Hellocab. In April 2018, Grab acquired Uber operations in South East Asia and the famous green vehicle become the market leader in Myanmar.
Grab has been very successful in Yangon due to the multiple promotions that are constantly ongoing and drive the service utilization. Customer feedback is that Grab standard rates are expensive but the promotions or coupons make it affordable. Grab can also count on a large fleet of taxis (more than 6,000) that make the wait time really limited. Finally, Grab offers a loyalty program that is very popular among the customers.
Grab is constantly innovating with new services.
In February 2018, the digital company launched Grab Corporate a free of charge service that allows companies to leverage on Grab fleet for their employee transportation with flexible payment options.
In May 2018, the firm launched in Mandalay its three-wheel ride-hailing service called Grab Thone Bane.
Then in July 2018, Grab launched Myanmar first car pool service that enables passengers to share a ride.
Youtube does not need an introduction. The video sharing website has been around for 13 years and is the second most popular website in the world according to Alexa.
Combined with Netflix, it represents a quarter of the global Internet traffic in 2018!
The most popular Youtube channels in Myanmar are DVB TV News, Eleven Broadcasting and 7 days TV which cumulate more than 450 million in total.
Viber is a messaging and Voice Over IP platform similar to WhatsApp, Line or Wechat. Viber is operated by a Japanese company called Rakuten and is without a doubt the most popular messenging application in Myanmar. The platform has more than 1 billion users worldwide and 18 million in Myanmar as of 2015.
One of the main reason Viber is so popular in Myanmar is the company focus to localize or to re-use the word of Anubhav Nayyar, Viber’s head of business development for Southeast and South Asia to “glocalize”.
In a recent interview for The Irrawady, Anubhav stated: “we have partnered with various organizations and various business groups inside Myanmar, ranging from partnerships with telcos, media, brands, etc. We also work with some of the local influencers such as Sai Sai and Phway Phway”.
The platform also develops localized stickers that are extremely popular among the young generation.
It would be hard not to name the largest social network in the world. With 2.23 billion monthly active users and 18 millions in Myanmar, Zuckerberg’s website has changed the face of the Internet and definitely had a huge impact in our life.
4 years ago, We Are Social released an interesting statistic: Facebook penetration in Myanmar was twice as high as Internet penetration.
Twice as high?
This is a common paradox in emerging markets where smartphones are the main medium to access Internet. Smartphones allow such a seamless access to the Internet content that the connectivity itself become completely forgettable. Customers are fully aware that they are using Facebook, Youtube or Viber not Internet.
Facebook has been for years the top contributor to the Internet growth in Myanmar. It is by far the most popular service in the country and for some, Internet means Facebook in Myanmar. Facebook is the unique gateway for photo and video sharing, dating, job hunting, gaming and even shopping.
The blue social network is so popular and central in Myanmar that some companies do not even bother to create and maintain a website and rather focus their efforts in developing their social presence.
Facebook in Myanmar has hit the news lately as the social network was accused of having very poor control over content in Myanmar language.
Facebook has always been the face of the Internet in Myanmar. But with the emergence of new services, Internet users are diversifying their connectivity usage. Internet is infiltrating our daily life, helping us to commute, to order food or to find a job.
And there is more to come… Mobile has been the key driver for the proliferation of digital services in Myanmar. Over the next few years, the growth of fixed broadband is inevitable and shall pave the way for a new breed of digital services: Smart Home and IoT.
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.