I had a casual conversation with my dad who is mostly knowledgeable in Myanmar politic. He told me and so we realized on that Myanmar has three years hurdle ahead from 2018. Main reason will be sanctions upon Myanmar by US government. This is the fact that we cannot avoid. Myanmar political situation was a bit complex under different propaganda. Religions and races related issues are main courses. In a way, somehow it relates to Myanmar business opportunities which directly work with other countries. We even estimate that inflation will be worse like one US dollar equaling 2000 Myanmar Kyat in near future. Who knows? Gold price, fuel price and kitchen foods’ price are rising too. But from the optimistic size of view, Myanmar internet is growing better. But if the economic is not growing well, the another question arise that will the internet businesses in need will be growing along? The following prediction on Myanmar internet 2018 is solely based on my personal point of view.
Online media hardship in Myanmar
We cannot defend on the fact that digital media is killing traditional media in whole world. Traditional media consumers are migrating to digital media. In Myanmar, most traditional media consumers just migrated to social media from 2014. In terms of the platforms, 7 Days News Journal, Eleven Media Groups, BBC Burmese, Irrawaddy, Mizzima, Kumudra, Thit Htoo Lwin, Duwun, Myanmar Time, Yoyarlay and Shwemon are top.
The online media shown above are authentic media. International news agency such as Xinhua and Fox sport Asia are also presenting in Myanmar with Myanmar content. Apart from media shown above, there are also some notable online media such as Akhayar, Pyi Myanmar, Myanmar Mobile App, Net Guide Myanmar, Mobile Guide Myanmar, Cele 7, Myanmar Celebrities, Frontier Myanmar, 7 Day TV, Digital Time, Inmya.com and Shwe Inlay Media. One difficulty will definitely come to local media. It is about using referring to international content. AFP, Daily Mail, CNN and many global media agencies are being referred for many local media for their international news categories. International media companies are not coming in yet and so that no copyright and digital pricing rule apply yet. Many local media still copy international media’s images. Another point of view will be what if local media does not do that way, how local readers will consume international content in international language. As internet bot translation is not a perfect one yet and as Myanmar readers are just very small amount by comparing with international media, I assume international media will not so much worried on copying their content issue. But of course, in future, if they aim to come into Myanmar, this will become an issue to think about. In the meanwhile, Fox News Asia start presenting in Myanmar and, for sure, they would not like local sport and other media copying their content. I’m seeing a turning point future that only big local as I shown above in the list will remain as an authentic if international content copyright rule applies in near future.
Rise of fake news media
Internationally, there are many fake news websites which aim to get traffic just to generate money from Ads. There are also now many fake news website and Facebook page in Myanmar today which fish audience for Ads. Rise of social media users is also rise of fake news broadcasters. In the social media age, everyone becomes content creators. As local people knowledge upon identifying correct news is still low, it becomes an advantage of fake news media. Myanmar internet literacy is one of the lowest in the south-east Asia region.
Business for online media
As I mentioned earlier in this article, Myanmar business is in hardship situation ahead in 2018. Marketing budget of every companies in Myanmar is shrinking ahead in 2018. Yearly, hundreds of millions are reduced. Spending on Television broadcasting media will still be on top, followed by outdoor advertising. Digital advertising budget will still be the at the lowest spending part of every companies. Estimating, total less than 10 Million USD will be spent digitally for companies. Half of that money will flow into Facebook and so we should wait and see how Myanmar government will tax on Facebook. 5 million will be spent on Display Ads, from which Google will take about 1.5 million USD. Local private display Ads and private ads on each website will take the rest 3.5 million. Facebook will still be on top taking money from local companies as long as Facebook is sitting on top of the most consumer using platform. Currently Facebook users is about 20 Million. There is the opportunity to grow to 35 Million in 2018. Viber follows second but Viber has hardship to monetize in Myanmar. Local companies spending on digital platform for marketing is small because of many reasons. One of the main reasons is insufficient platforms. There is not much platform to publish Ads in Myanmar yet. Only Facebook is most reliable since it keeps all the Myanmar internet user audience. Total Myanmar internet users will be 35 to 40 Million in 2018. It also means 80 percent of the population use internet. But still for the year 2018, all online media have to eat together a piece of cake which worths 5 Million.
E-Commerce of Myanmar 2018
Currently shop.com.mm is top e-commerce platform in Myanmar in terms of the user volume and content provided. Apart from Shop.com.mm, I do not see any other big competitor but Zawgyimart.com, Yangon Online Store and OMyanmar are notable. Agoda and Booking.com are still on top as a ticketing service platform but Flymya.com is the top Myanmar based company. E-commerce websites targeting local users will not have bright future yet in 2018 because online payment infrastructure is not a perfect one yet and Myanmar internet users will not change solely yet about their behavior. However online shopping pages based on Facebook pages which use COD (cash on delivery) will still be rising. Most of them do not have any company license but they basically sell variety kind of product on Facebook. We do not know how large that business but it is also a small eco-system with limited users in Yangon and Mandalay. Logistic service companies are now ready in Myanmar with their professional skill, but there are only few online shoppers yet in Myanmar. Even if we assume that the payment is not an issue as COD is accepted, Myanmar internet user behavior will not be changing yet to shop virtually. However, in terms of B2B commerce, Alibaba and some local B2B platform such as Bagan Trade are doing with their partner and dealers but the market is totally small. In0 listing content websites, work.com.mm is on top, followed by rocket internet’s ventures house.com.mm, ads.com.mm, motors.com.mm. Listing website compeition in Myanmar is also not small because there are also other local startups such as iMyanmarHouse, MyanmarCarsDB, Job Net Myanmar, etc.
Rise of mobile apps 2018
For the year 2017, Grab appears to be one of the rising app which collected many users in Yangon. Beside, Facebook, Viber, Instagram are still on top, Grab just began as a supportive app for people in main city. Grab has opportunity to get 1 Million active users in 2018. So what about Uber and others? Uber and Oway are also trying to get the market share but Grab’s investment is biggest for now and they will keep on investing in 2018. With the rise of petroleum price and personal car price, taxi will play as one of the important need for people living in the city. Assuming there are about 50K of taxi in the city, each taxi driver generates gross income 20 USD per day. Grab can possibly partner 50 percent of total taxi number in 2018. Even if we assume that amount, still Grab cannot generate gross income more than 100K USD per day. Therefore, Grab has the opportunity to win about 25 Millions USD gross in 2018. But Grab will aim double for sure.
However, information providing apps will still be difficult to get user pool and to generate income. I tested On Doctor App which provide health information and health service for users has very small user amount. I found the app very useful since the content provided are authentic and standardized by local and international health organization. But it is totally sad to see the app only has few users. Myanmar internet users are being poisoned to stay on Facebook all time. Apart from Facebook, there are now many useful local and international apps are out there but they have few users compared to Facebook. Mobile Legend is the top game app in Myanmar, possibly to grow up to 500K active users monthly in 2018. Advertising in Mobile Ads is also still limited for big companies from telecom, high value consumer products. It is not limited but small companies do not have further idea yet to expand their reach on mobile display ads. Some local music apps will be launched and boosted since Apple Music and Spotify are not famous here yet in 2018. Regional movie app called ‘iFlix’ will be wishing their market share ahead in 2018 because Netflix does not come yet. However total users of all those apps will be even just about 20 percent of Facebook users in Myanmar. Their total income generation will be less than 500K USD where Mobile Legend will be a main grabber. It means local and regional apps which aim to win in the country will not pass the break-even point yet, but Grab can possibly be exceptional.
Digital agencies in Myanmar 2018
There are only about two hand counting number of reliable digital agencies in Myanmar. Being reliable does not mean a full perfect. All of them has each flaws and weakness. Weakness occurs when international experts and local citizens work together to deliver a service. Myanmar has shortage of good people in digital agencies. It is not just in agencies. In Myanmar work market, shortage of good employees is happening everywhere because returnees stopped returning. From 2011 to 2015, countless number of those who worked in overseas came back to work in own country. But when it comes to talk about worker in digital field, it does not need much experiences from oversea. The most of the knowledge is also learnt from internet. But for software and programming are special subject to specialize. There are, of course, technical employees, are out there ready. But from the side of business development and marketing, shortage of human resources is unavoidable. For example, a foreign company want a marketing head who also have digital experience of over years but Myanmar digital space is just less than 10 years old. In this case, digital agencies do not have enough employees to deliver best service. Most of the local digital agencies are in same level in terms of creativity and innovation, because most of those idea are things which is already applied successfully oversea. The only difficulty for agencies is how to deliver best suitable idea for their serving companies which aim to win in Myanmar, a leap-frog country. However, KPIs promised by those agencies are still level 1 KPI such as engagement, reach, conversation, etc. I am hoping all agencies to be more on delivering impactful business outcome result for every companies. But companies also need to have a ground basic rule of setting up real impactful KPI. Of course, everybody wants eyeballs, reach and engagement. Then what is beyond those KPIs? From the side of the company, they also should have think about how they can take advantage on digital platforms in Myanmar. If is it just enough to get reach? Or will you be making real sale? All these are to be considered from both companies and agencies sides.
Notable big agencies in Myanmar include Today Ogilvy, River Orchid, Dentsu, Y&R, Starcom, Mango Media, Phibious and Vero. Local startup agencies are also trying to compete with such international companies. It is not difficult for the time being because the market itself is immature yet. Every idea and innovations are still possible. There will be about 20 digital agencies (both fully digital and hybrid digital). Notable local startup digital agencies include myOpenAds, Revo Tech, Blink and NEX. The whole total net income of all those agencies by their digital marketing service will be less than 15 Million USD.
Digital privacy and legal issue 2018
Digital privacy and legal related problems will be happening more in 2018. Internet scammers are now targeting Myanmar internet users by sending email and chats via various platforms. Everyone in Myanmar internet circle can become victim of those scammers. Information security of each of everyone are still lowest and will be lowest among SEA region. Myanmar is also regarded as one of the easiest country in the world which can be attacked by hackers. So the question again arises that when e-government can happen. Application of e-government is not that easy. To digitize every offline materials is the first priority now and no ministries in Myanmar has done it yet. MPT, Telenor and Ooredoo started cleaning unidentified phone number by forcing registration. Facebook also cleansed Myanmar internet users by removing fake accounts from 2014. Duplicating users are now being reduced but each of everyone’s digital identity are not established well yet in the country. Secure and safe internet should be one of the primary mission of the government in 2018 to help developing Myanmar internet. Infrastructure is now ready but things and supports to keep the infrastructure is still needed.
In summary, I’m optimistic to Myanmar internet future in 2018 because I believe it opens people eyes in Myanmar. The speed of information flow became quicker. The real democracy is happening online where freedom of speech is seem appearing online regardless there were some law suit against people who create misleading content about government and military. Myanmar policy makers should be more careful in setting up the law about Myanmar internet. The government should also consider thoroughly about how to tax local and international internet companies which take the money from consumers and small business. Taxing is even a big issue for the government in Europe when it comes to face with Facebook and google. Myanmar has a long way to go to make a fully operated and standardized internet eco-system. With the growth of e-commerce, online media and social media platforms, government’s governing and helping it growth in right way is also important. I hope to see more on the government’s involvement in the growth of Myanmar internet in 2018. One last thought is about utilizing data for companies. One big advantage of digital world is getting user data. Data driven marketing is the future of Myanmar digital marketing. Data driven marketing is already applied in some SEA countries which aim for consumer retention, for keeping current customer healthy and winning new customers. In Myanmar, there are only few companies yet which take this advantage to keep their consumer healthy and retention. 30 Million internet users will not be a small amount in 2018. It is more than 50 percent of Myanmar population. If companies can take the advantage on data driven marketing, it will be more cost saving and effective. 2018 Myanmar internet is real exciting.
Author: Aung Kham