Gijs Verheijke, MD of Rocket Internet and Work.mm

Gijs Verheijke, MD of Rocket Internet and Work.com.mm

When it comes to developing markets, Rocket Internet has always been at the forefront, identifying opportunities early on and expanding its business. Myanmar has been one such market for this German Internet incubator, where it brought in many of its Internet businesses that include Work.com.mm, an online career platform that connects top employers with potential job seekers.

e27 spoke with Rocket Internet’s Gijs Verheijke, who is also Managing Director of Work.com.mm, to know more about the company, the Myanmar ecosystem, opportunities, and more…

Here are the edited excerpts:

Despite being a relatively smaller and slower market, what prompted Rocket Internet to launch Work.com.mm in Myanmar?

Work.com.mm was first launched in June 2012. Rocket Internet saw huge potential to start a career platform in Myanmar even back in 2012. This was coupled by our belief in the growth and potential of this country, especially with the rising Internet penetration. Rocket Internet wanted to gain a first-mover advantage in Myanmar and our strategy was and still is to create mass awareness, further build-out our leading position and grow with the country.

Can you explain your working model?

It is basically a job portal. All job opportunities listed on the website are paid listings which are posted by employers themselves. On the other hand, job seekers can upload their CVs and browse job opportunities for free. For companies, besides listing their jobs and receiving applications from job seekers, it is possible to search our CV database and take recruiting into their own hands.

The third pillar of our business model is providing companies with ‘employer branding’ by promoting their jobs and brand to our visitors. This includes for example having their logo on our front page and ads in our partner journals.

Who are your target customers? How has been the response so far?

Like other job platforms around the world, we target the masses. Considering the demography of Internet users currently in Myanmar, we are most used by professionals with 0 to 10 years of working experience, both male and female between the age of 20-34.

The response has been exceptionally good and we are very pleased. We experienced triple digit growth in traffic and applications in September 2015 in comparison to the past six months.

Below are some of our statistics over the years:

Number of job seekers registered on website per year (2015 is up till October): 900 (2013) vs 1000 (2014) vs 100,000 (2015)

Job applications per week: 500 (2013) vs 2000 (2014) vs 10,000 (2015)

Website visitor ship per month: 50,000 (2013) vs 100,000 (2014) vs 275,000 (2015)

How is the entrepreneurship scene in Myanmar? Is the government serious about the startup ecosystem?

The Myanmar entrepreneurship/e-commerce scene is incredibly active and a very exciting place to be in now. Many young local startups are springing up. It is just starting to boom; however, there is a lot of room for improvements. Many e-commerce companies are facing problems such as issues with online payments and the lack of stable and reliable Internet infrastructure. Up to this point, the government is focussed mostly on building large-scale infrastructure, so the startup scene is privately run.

It seems e-commerce is one of the fastest-growing segment. Why so? Which are the other verticals that are seeing good growth?

Ever since Ooredoo and Telenor were given license to operate as telecommunication providers in Myanmar, the market for SIM cards and data plan exploded, prices dropped tremendously and the people of Myanmar all had the equal opportunity to go online. This is backed by affordable smartphones from Huawei, etc. With such an incredible lure, many people in Myanmar started going online and are especially hooked onto social apps like Facebook.
Other verticals that are growing very rapidly are tourism, construction and consumer goods.

What is your expectation from the new government? Are you planning to approach it for easing rules and regulations?

At this point, there are not many rules and regulations on online businesses. We are involved in early talks with other stakeholders in the startup scene in Myanmar to see how we should approach this topic, but it is too early to comment on it now.

Given that there are no incubators/accelerators in the country, does Rocket Internet have plans to start one?myanmar-690x390

Work.com.mm is part of Everjobs, which is only one of more than a 100 Rocket Internet ventures active in the world. As a result, we are not able to comment on behalf of Rocket Internet.

How is the overall scene in the country — in terms of employability, market access, etc.

Although it is improving, Myanmar’s ranking on the ‘ease of doing business’ scale is still one of the lowest in the world. Businesses consistently cite the scarcity of talented employees as one of the main obstacles to doing business.

How is the corporate scene in the country? Do they support startup businesses?

There are no laws or incentives in place for startup businesses. In comparison to Singapore where startup grants are given almost freely, such a market does not exist in Myanmar. There are a number of co-working spaces that have sprung up over the recent years where they support budding entrepreneurs.

What are the big opportunities companies see there? What are the key challenges?

There are opportunities in nearly every imaginable field. As for beer producers, Myanmar’s beer consumption per person is still far below the average of neighbouring countries. Banks were hardly used by consumers until very recently so the entire consumer focussed financial sector is just starting up. As mentioned, Internet usage increased 10-fold in a year. Myanmar being a 51 million people country, all of these market opportunities are of a highly significant size.

How do you compare the market with the rest of SEA?

Myanmar is more challenging in terms of infrastructure, but there is also a buzzing excitement about the opportunities ahead.

We have learned that there are no good software coders. Is this true? How do companies overcome this challenge?

There is currently not enough supply of skilled employees in many fields in Myanmar as more and more international companies choose to set up here. Predominantly, a lot of skilled employees are hired through headhunters, agencies or word-of-mouth, making it seemingly impossible for SMBs to hire good people on demand. And this is one of the main reasons why Work.com.mm started in Myanmar — to expand the availability of the labour pool such as software coders and provide an ability to both employers and job seekers to find opportunities in a seamless manner.

In addition, many co-working spaces have sprung up. Hackathons are common and usually organised a few times in a month, thus increasing the youth’s interest in coding by encouraging participation.

How is the mobile app ecosystem growing?

The mobile app ecosystem is growing very quickly and is currently saturated with social apps and news aggregators. Myanmar is dominated by Internet usage through mobile, thus the only way that companies can reach consumers is through a mobile-friendly webpage or an app. Many companies see this potential and thus spend a lot of their effort in planning and building an app.

You said in a Quora post that government expects almost 80 per cent of the population will have access to mobile Internet. On the flip side, people still depend on retailers to get apps downloaded…

The prediction is that at some point in the near future, 80 per cent of the population will have access to Internet. However, the key here is that 1.5 years ago, it was still only one per cent of the population, and now it is around 10 per cent.

As a result, the way people interact with Internet is still developing. The same goes for the retail sector, which is also rapidly changing. Some of the interesting observations that are emerging related to Internet usage is that most people never access Internet from a laptop or computer, but only from mobile phones, and that email and browsers may not become the most important way of interacting with content online, in contrast with the rest of the world.