Entrepreneurs in Myanmar aren’t interested in building startups just to flip or exit them within three to four years, a prominent Singapore-based entrepreneur from the emerging market told e27.
The idea of doing so would go against the country’s deep-set cultural roots which value nurturing and building businesses over many years, or even a lifetime.
“In Myanmar, when we build a business, it’s not for flipping. Here [in Singapore], I think entrepreneurs are flipping businesses. We try for three or four years and if it’s not working, we shut down,” said Kyaw Lin Oo, Founder, EventNook.
Kyaw has been based in Singapore since May 2005. EventNook is local event ticketing platform launched in 2012 that sees an average of 200-300 events per month. During big events like the Singapore Yacht Show in 2014, EventNook sold over 15,000 tickets.
Now that Kyaw has launched a new bus ticketing platform in Myanmar called ScapeTour, his attention is once again turned to his home market.
“In Myanmar, when you build a business, it is forever. It is for generations. There is a tradition of these businesses. There’s a difference [versus elsewhere]… It will not change very fast. When we build a business, we look at it like building a factory. When you build a factory, you look at the long-term perspective,” Kyaw said.
“I think fundamentally, people [in Myanmar] want to make the business work [long-term],” he added.
Myanmar has a population of over 53 million, according to 2013 data. In the same year, its GPD was US$221.479 billion (US$4,344.503 per capita).
Human resources remains a major challenge for startups operating in the local market going into 2015. This is partly due to high unemployment. Hiring mid-to-senior-level executives from the local talent pool also remains difficult. Many companies are forced to bring in expat executives and pay higher salaries.
Hiring locals often means training them for three to six months. High turnover rates are common.
Perhaps, surprisingly office prices are also quickly rising. Kyaw, who has experience in both markets, says that prices in some areas are on par with Singapore.
“These are our temporary challenges, but I think in the long term, office prices will go down. It doesn’t make sense [for them to remain high]. If the government cannot reduce office prices, international businesses will face a big challenge coming to Myanmar. They have to solve that problem,” he said.
Kyaw declined to comment on corruption in the local business environment.
He sees opportunities for startups in online classifieds, ticketing platforms, mobile apps that focus on providing information (transport, local news, etc.), social networks (localised for Myanmar and the language), and mobile payment solutions (P2P).
“Internet speeds are still pretty low, so if we don’t improve that productivity will be a problem. If productivity remains low, the economy will not improve,” Kyaw said. Infrastructure is also an issue.
Through it all, if what Kyaw says is correct, the Myanmar entrepreneur will be building long-term startups and creating new businesses to pass down the generations.
But will that remain the case in the digital, fast-paced era? Undoubtedly there will be some who disagree with Kyaw. What’s for certain is that despite the challenges, ever more headlines are coming out of Myanmar’s emerging tech ecosystem.
Expect that to continue.
Also Read: Starting up in Myanmar: A first guide
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