“Despite being left behind, 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,” said Daw Win Win Tint, chair of the Myanmar Retailers Association.
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.
By 2025, ASEAN’s Internet economyis expected to hit US$200 billion of which e-commerce is set to expected to expand to $88 billion, Mr Chan said.
Myanmar is among the ASEAN nations with the strongest potential for growth in e-commerce. “More and more people are seeking to start online shops on Facebook. They have become savvier with deliveries and payments. Meanwhile, people are gradually moving online for their shopping needs. I think we will see a high percentage of growth in e-commerce in 2019,” said U Min Min, CEO of Myanmar online marketplace Barlolo.com.
U Mike Than Tun Win, founder and CEO of travel portal Flymya, said demand for online shopping options has spiked along with Myanmar’s quick and sudden access to the internet. “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.”
U MIke Than Tun Win 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.
As such, traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlets like convenience stores and neighbourhood shopping centers must modernise now to capitalise on the new trend.
“The e-commerce market in Myanmar is now just 0.01 percent ofGDP at US$6 million. If that improves to just 0.1pc, the market would be worth $68 million. E-commerce is rising in dominance in Myanmar and if traditional stores do not ride this trend they will lose relevance in the digital age,” said Daw Win Nandar Thyke, managing director of rgo47, another online shopping platform.
“Myanmar should build on the strengths identified by our recent study: a competitive telecommunications sector, a growing tech-savvy youth population, innovative logistics solutions for the door-to-door delivery of e-commerce parcels and a fledgling tech start-up scene,” said Shamika Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which last week released its assessment, commissioned by Sweden, on Myanmar’s digital readiness.
The organisation said it will be working with its partners to increase financial inclusion in rural areas and help develop the digital business skills of college graduates.
Still, pushing through legislation will not be an easy feat. For one, the new law will require reforms and regulations on consumer protection and privacy, security of transactions, cybercrimes and other issues the government has little experience in but which have been part of Myanmar’s fledgling e-commerce industry, according to UNCTAD.
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.
“To fully realise the benefits of e-commerce, we need a national strategy that will align different stakeholders towards a common vision. The assessment provides a roadmap for what needs to be done, but we also need to coordinate on our policies and activities,”said U Aung Htoo, Deputy Minister of Commerce.