Online shopping picks up momentum in Myanmar
Shop.com.mm, the Myanmar arm of China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group, generated sales of over US$90,000 (K143 million)in the first hour of its first-ever Singles Day online sale on November 11. The occasion, also known as 11.11, is the biggest shopping event in China.
Shop which is the largest online shopping platform in Myanmar, received more than 1500 orders in the first hour of the day, most of which were placed via mobile phones, the company said in a statement.
Over 150,000 shoppers accessed its app on the day after Shop offered discounts on some 50,000 items, including mobile phones from Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, make-up and cosmetics and sports gear from Nike and Adidas.
Alibaba Group, which hit a record US$1billion in 11.11 sales in 85 seconds and almost $US10 billion in the first hour of the 24-hour spree, placed its bets on the Myanmar e-commerce market when it acquired Shop from Daraz Group in May.
The strong response to Shop’s 11.11 online sale, its first such project under Alibaba, underscores the rising demand and potential for e-commerce in Myanmar.
“Myanmar has mostly leapfrogged the era of shopping malls and other modern trade platforms into the digital age. In Myanmar, the modern retail trade will expand according to GDP but e-commerce will grow exponentially,” Daw Win Win Tint, chair of the Myanmar Retailers Association, told The Myanmar Times in a recent interview.
In fact, the authorities are now racing to roll out proper legislation to govern the realm of e-commerce as more online users emerge. Myanmar has a mobile penetration rate of 105pc, while 80pc of people are accessing the internet via smart phones, according to Telenor.
Things could develop even faster if the forthcoming legislation is aligned with the ASEAN e-commerce agreement signed in Singapore on November 12. The agreement, finalised after nine rounds of negotiations which started last June, aims to facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions and foster greater regional growth, said Chan Chun Sing, Singapore Minister of Trade and Industry.
Despite inherent potential though, Myanmar has a long way to go in building up a thriving e-commerce marketplace. “We welcome online sales fairs like 11.11. But Shop has some weaknesses like delays in arrival of orders or incorrect orders. If they can fix these weaknesses and provide the best service for customers, e-commerce can become even more attractive in Myanmar,” said Ko Thet Moe who buys electronic devices through Shop, told The Myanmar Times last month.
Meanwhile, as only residents of Yangon and Mandalay are actively shopping online, the new law should include regulations that provides security and raises trust in online transactions.
In addition, reforming the national postal address system would make it easier for businesses to deliver products door-to-door.
The Myanmar Payment Union should also work on strengthening its card payment offerings. Local banks should extend its ATM services deeper into the rural areas.
Until those barriers are removed, it is unlikely that Alibaba will invest further in the Myanmar market, Ko Min Min, chief operating officer of online marketplace Barlolo.com.mm said last month.
“Currently, online purchase only accounts for 1pc of Myanmar’s retail sector. The potential is there but Alibaba still has a long way to go to reach the rest of the Myanmar market,” he added.
The way Ko Min Min sees it, “markets in Pakistan and Bangladesh are much bigger than Myanmar.” Until Myanmar improves its e-commerce ecosystem, “I think Alibaba will focus more on bigger markets in the meantime.”
Others are more optimistic about the prospects U Mike Than Tun Win, CEO of online travel site Flymya, expects that over the next two years, around 20-30 million people in Myanmar will become digitally savvy, paving the way for substantial opportunities in the e-commerce space.
“Myanmar people are very interested in online shopping as Myanmar was the last to digitalise in the region, so internet speed is better than in Cambodia and Thailand and people want to purchase online because it just takes a few minutes,” he said last month.