Myanmar: the New Land of Opportunity for Online Travel


Pulling back the curtains on the Myanmar’s startup scene, Heang Chhor, founder and managing partner of Qualgro ASEAN Fund (pictured right) highlighted tourism, online travel, healthcare, financial services and education as prime opportunities in the emerging market during the Echelon Thailand 2015 conference.

Chorr, previously a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, whose study back in June 2013 reported on the landscape of Myanmar, notes the country has gone through massive transitions in all aspects from political and economic to social standpoints.

With good management, the country promises to see its GDP quadruple by 2030, 10 million more jobs in the non-agricultural sector, and a middle-consumer class comprised of at least 20 million.

“Those people will need daily consumer goods, they will need to travel, they will need financial services,” Chorr predicted. The McKinsey study anticipates Burmese people will spend US$100 billion by 2030, with sectors like travel, financial services, and consumers expected to grow 20% per year.

For Myanmar, Chorr assessed the biggest challenge as a lack of infrastructure. “Entrepreneurs getting into Myanmar will have to be agile. Marketplaces in Myanmar need a bit of creativity in terms of physical delivery and payment systems.”

He cited the price of a SIM card which has come down from US$300 four to five years ago to US$20-30 mere three years ago and to only US$1.50 today as evidence of Myanmar’s ability to “leapfrog” its development due to available technologies.

“We don’t look at Myanmar as it is today. We look at it as what it will become in the next five to ten years” – and with a number of online services already in Myanmar, many sectors are already speeding up their growth.

“Tourism is a huge opportunity, particularly online travel,” he said, and Qualgro, his ASEAN-based fund, has already invested in one such startup that is doing very well.

“We are quite confident that this country will really emerge in the next 10 to 20 years as the land of opportunity; its population now is 50-60 million people so it’s a bit like Thailand 20 years ago.”

His advice to those wanting to enter the Myanmar startup ecosystem as first movers in the market? The opportunity is there for the taking, but what the ecosystem today lacks is talent, “people who are able to face uncertainty.” And also for VCs who want to invest in emerging markets, they must be able to navigate uncertainty and volatile environments.

“It’s up to us to be agile, to have the right skills sets to navigate those environments, and seize those opportunities, which I truly believe are huge.”

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Founded by two travel and technology professionals with years of experience in Asia, Representasia specialises in sales & marketing representation throughout Southeast Asia for travel/hospitality technology providers and travel-related startups, as well as providing marketing consultancy services for hotels and travel businesses in the region.

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