In April 2019, Forbes released its annual 30 Under 30 Asia list, which honours Asia’s top 30 entrepreneurs and game changers under the age of 30. The 2019 honourees feature the continent’s most brightest and innovative young leaders across 10 industries ranging from Manufacturing and Healthcare to E-commerce and Advertising. Altogether, represent 23 countries in the Asia Pacific region, like Myanmar entrepreneur Htet Akrkar Kyaw.
Since its inception in 2016, fourteen Myanmar entrepreneurs and innovators have made it to the List: eight in the inaugural year, two in 2017 and three in 2018. This year, only one Myanmar entrepreneur was named: Dinger Co-Founder Htet Arkar Kyaw, who was selected for the Finance and VC category.
ProspectsASEAN had the opportunity to conduct a close-up interview with Htet Arkar, along with Co-Founder Tint Htoo Naung, to discuss their startup and views on Myanmar’s financial ecosystem.
Streamlining Digital Payments
Dinger – formerly known as Giant Pay and Burmese for ‘coin’ – is a unified payment solution for e-commerce businesses, which allows them to accept all forms of digital payments (debit & credit cards and mobile money) on one convenient platform.
At a glance, the FinTech sector in Myanmar is far from market saturation. But it is highly fragmented. While only 5% of adults own a bank account, mobile penetration stands at 105% as of January 2019, offering an excellent market for digital wallets.
In Myanmar, telecoms appear to be leading the FinTech race – for now, at least.
WaveMoney, a joint venture between Norway’s telecom giant Telenor and Myanmar’s Yoma Bank, enables users to send and receive money using mobile phones across their 40,000 agents. It reportedly moved MMK2 trillion (USD1.3 billion) in remittance volume last year.
M-Pitesan, a joint venture between CB Bank and telecom company Ooredoo, is handling over 10,000 agents, whereas True Money, in local partnership with AGD Bank, targets 4 million Myanmar migrants in neighbouring Thailand.
Meanwhile, the largest private bank in the country KBZ recently launched their ambitious KBZ Pay mobile wallet app that surpassed 2 million users in 6 months.
With all these different players in the arena, Dinger is set to poise itself as the go-to payment solution to streamline payments and transactions, enhancing consumers’ shopping experience with consolidated API technology. E-commerce platforms can take advantage of Dinger’s payment solution, integrating different e-wallets and implementing a user interface similar to that of Stripe Billing’s model.
“20 years from now, we hope to be the Amazon of financial services in Myanmar,” says Htet Arkar.
The 24-year-old Co-Founder studied Civil Engineering before taking on responsibilities in the family business. His co-founder and longtime friend, Tint, has experience in creative agencies, content marketing and business IT.
Prior to seeking pre-seed funding, the duo kick-started their venture by offering various services including IT solutions, website design and digital marketing.
As with most startup ventures, it hasn’t been an easy journey. Before launching Dinger, the Myanmar entrepreneur worked with another co-founder, from his time at the Founder Institute in Yangon. His partner eventually dropped out, which set back efforts to secure investments. Htet Arkar also failed to make the final cut when he pitched for a local accelerator program.
However, earlier this year, Dinger entered a partnership with ConceptX, a leading EdTech platform providing online courses for high school students.
Always Looking Ahead
“We’re a startup, but our partners are giants!” says Htet Arkar, referring to the telecoms, banks and retail businesses that they are hoping to integrate onto their platform.
Their office in downtown Yangon houses 10 fresh faces, all of whom are motivated to shape Myanmar’s FinTech industry. Searching for the right talent pool in the country of 54 million however, can be tricky, and Tint recalls a few frustrating experiences.
“We’ve met self-proclaimed experts who failed to demonstrate their industry-related claims. On the other hand, we’ve met mid-career professionals who think it’s too late for them to start new ventures. What we lack is a mindset geared towards growth,” recalls the Myanmar entrepreneur
When it comes to other challenges for startups, the duo pointed out there are very few early stage VCs in the ecosystem and there is inadequate support from regulatory bodies and local investors. Plus, particularly for this FinTech sector, lack of data on market and user activities impose a huge burden.
However, the bigger picture points towards more promising prospects. In March 2019, Myanmar government gave permission to 7 out of 13 foreign banks operating in Myanmar to provide export-financing services. They are still prohibited from retail operations, but the policy change now enables local businesses to access credits at more competitive rates.
The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) is also encouraging local banks to promote online transactions in place of opening more physical branches. CBM’s Vice Chairman also stated earlier this year that foreign banks will be allowed to fully operate by 2020.
As for Htet Arkar, he’s just attended the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia Summit in Hong Kong, inspired to do more for Myanmar’s FinTech industry. The Summit brought together the 2019 honourees, as well as industry leaders & mentors, and investors across Asia.
“Being featured on Forbes is a validation of our vision to financially reform Myanmar.”
Dinger now aims to secure three partnerships by the end of 2019, having already received interest from other local startups to integrate their payment solutions. In the long term, they also envision to undergo credit scoring and loan disbursement schemes in rural areas.
We at ProspectsASEAN would like to congratulate Htet Arkar and his team for their achievements and wish them great success for their upcoming endeavors.