Myanmar is opening to business and creating a new generation of entrepreneurs. Challenges remain: the lack of a strong entrepreneurial culture and insufficient capital are hurdles especially for entrepreneurs leading startups.
The opening discussion of this year’s Global Entrepreneurship week Myanmar unlocked the behind-the-scenes stories of young Myanmar entrepreneurs and their startups. It told inspiring stories, the challenges, the hurdles, the successes and the expectations at an event at the Sule Shangrila Hotel entitled “True Tales from Myanmar Startups.”
Vice President of Myanmar Young Entrepreneurs Association and Managing Director of Information Matrix Thaung Su Nyein said: “We need to find ways to support young entrepreneurs who are starting up in Myanmar without any institutional support or guidance. We are working on a couple of initiatives to benefit entrepreneurship development in Myanmar, which includes an initiative to establish the first incubator and accelerator. We have also organized entrepreneurship talks, member day activities, seminars, caravans around the country, job fairs and international exchanges.”
Social enterprises, investment firms, international non-profits organisation have helped empower Myanmar entrepreneurs with workshops, networking session, social meetups and business matching sessions, especially since 2013.
“It’s been an exciting year for Blink and the dreams of its four founders,” said Steve Kyaw, co-founder and managing director of Blink Public Relations Agency.
“Last year we pitched our public relations startup Ideas to the investors at GEW 2013 at Project Hub Yangon. We hoped we would impress the foreign investors. … Independent investment and advisory group Anthem Asia liked us and invested. We believed that market demands and market size favoured in the research we made before the pitch and that is the key for starting up any business in Myanmar these days.”
Global names like Facebook, Google and Viber have grown swiftly in popularity in Myanmar. In 2014 there has been a wave of Myanmar tech startups. These have attracted international media interest. Many young Myanmar tech geeks are coming back to their native land to take a chance on creating internet ventures in a local style.
Rahul Batra, co-founder & CEO of Bindez Pte Ltd, a leading technology start-up, said: “Myanmar has many day-to-day business and consumer problems that need solving during this phase of economic and social transition. An entrepreneurial mind is bound to be excited by the chance of building value here.”
“The business environment is nascent and challenging. It’s not easy to see where long-term growth and success might come from. But the start-up community is very engaged and there’s a lot of interest from international investors to back an honest vision and genuine commitment.”
The four most popular start-up sectors are tech, SMEs, travel, and marketing and consultancy.
“Many new businesses in Myanmar require more support than just capital – they can often get funding from family and friends,” said Peter Witton, Director Anthem Asia.
“They need help with modernising their businesses and planning for growth. After the initial start up investment, small and medium-sized businesses sometimes struggle to get expansion capital.”
He said Anthem Asia see opportunities with local entrepreneurs working to build successful local brands capable of matching international competitors, and that requires investors with patient capital.
“We see good prospects in consumer goods and services, tourism and travel, manufacturing, distribution, logistics, agri-businesses and in the tech community,” said Witton.