Booking a bus ticket online is not very commonplace in Myanmar, a pre-emerging market that is on the threshold of recording many a first.
While bus ticketing apps in Asia and elsewhere may be a mature industry which has seen funding, consolidation and regional expansion, here in Myanmar, it is still untapped territory.
Enter Thet Mon Aye, managing director of Ignite Software Solutions, who took the early mover step with the Star Ticket project, that enables Myanmar passenger to book bus tickets on cross-country routes online.
The Rice Bowl “tech startup of the year” award nominee, the Ignite Software’s Star Ticket project, which is tailored to Myanmar market, allows users to order online and also purchase the tickets from convenient stores, hotels, travel agents, or get it delivered in the hands of the customers.
In an interview with DEALSTREETASIA, Thet Mon Aye, a computer science major from the UK, who chose to be an entrepreneur in Myanmar, talks about the challenges that a tech-enabled B2C firm faces in a country where people are still not very familiar with technology usage in their everyday lives.
What was the genesis of the online bus ticketing idea?
The idea came when a visiting friend from Singapore wanted to visit Bagan (a historic tourist place in Myanmar) before heading back to Singapore. It was really difficult to find a ticket at night. And, so, we ended up not going to Bagan.
That is when I thought of a gap in the bus ticketing market and started developing a software. We wanted to introduce the software system to bus companies to solve the problem. We also found that there was a need to create a network for bus ticket sales.
And, buses and convenient stores seemed to be different businesses. So, we tried to connect those two lines of businesses so that people can easily buy a ticket at these stores. Now the tickets are available at convenience stores like City Express, Sein Gay Har and abc.
Our software was introduced to highway bus lines like Elite and Mandalarmin by the end of 2014 followed later by another 15 highway bus operators. Payments can also be made by Myanmar Payment Union cards at www.starticket.com.mm.
What is your revenue stream?
We have fixed an agency fees from the bus lines. We have not started accepting advertisements on our website or app but later we are thinking of introducing promotions for users.
Tell us about the other web developments that Ignite is engaged in apart from StarTicket.
Some websites developed by Ignite are mmJunction where users can easily get information on events happening in Myanmar. Street Myanmar is also a site where people can view locations and specific places in major cities of Myanmar. We also develop customised web or applications. Start Ticket would be a separate project that is much more specific.
What are the challenges you face as a tech firm in Myanmar?
The challenges that technological companies like us are facing is that people in Myanmar are not familiar with technology as yet. Therefore, also for the users, we thought about connecting with the convenient stores. The idea is to get the bus ticket when they order either using cards or at the convenient stores or by delivering to the customers.
When you came back in 2012 as a fresh graduate, what were the ideas you wanted to put to work?
There are many ways we can contribute in Myanmar. Even in the export import or agricultural sector, there are many things to be done in terms of technological improvements for development. I got really interested in technology after finishing our final year project on “home surveillance” and I got to learn more and this made me want to create ideas back in the country.
Your new software could be useful for the tourists visiting Myanmar.
Most tourists pay online from air tickets to booking hotels. Some tourists would visit only for a week and it could be really difficult if they do not manage to get a seat for a highway bus. Through our analysis, we also found that most of the tourists are starting to choose the highway buses.
What do you think of the market potential and growth?
Though it will take some time, the market will see a boom in the technology sector.
How do you view competition?
We need to develop the industry or the market by collaboration. In a market that is not yet mature, I don’t think it is the time to compete with each other. We need to educate the people by supporting each other. For example, in the bus ticketing work that we are doing, by educating people on how the technology is beneficial, we all stand to gain.
In Yangon, there was a device introduced where people could electronically pay fares without collecting cash from the bus conductor. Why do you think that concept failed?
The interest of the bus conductor is to get as many people on board the bus and so he could not take time to help people out with the electronic device. If there is a network installed in the city and people can use the electronic device by themselves for paying the money, I think it will be successful.