Viber sees triple-digit growth in Myanmar by 2017

Viber, one of the leading mobile communications platforms offering free messaging and HD-quality phone calls, expects to reach double-/triple-digit growth in Myanmar, a company official says.

Crystal Lee, Viber’s Country Manager in the Philippines, told Myanmar Eleven during a sideline of its first media event held in Yangon on Wednesday that Viber has reached 5 million registered users in the country and hopes to attract many more users thanks to its strong, reliable products.

She added that Viber expects more improvements and faster growth thanks to Viber’s activities in Myanmar such as partnerships, localised stickers, and working with global agencies.

“In terms of growth, I am quite confident that we are going to reach a double-/triple-digit growth within a couple of years, as long as we keep doing this,” said Crystal.

“Especially with the new technologies coming in, Myanmar is growing in terms of economy. Culturally, Myanmar has also been alive similar to other emerging markets. Usually, emerging markets such as Vietnam and even [the] Philippines, the growth rate is even faster than what we expected.”

Talmon Marco, chief executive officer of Viber, also considered Myanmar as a very important market to the firm.

“The growth rate is exceptional and we are thrilled that Myanmar mobile users have joined the Viber family,” said Marco.

Mark Hardy, Viber’s chief marketing officer, echoed Marco’s view.

“In February 2011, we had only three users. We love those three users_ they started it all. We have seen huge growth over the past three years. Our focus right now is to keep growing our user base, and to get more people to the Viber party,” said Hardy.

“Our long-term vision is to be the world’s No.1 communications platform. Myanmar is a big part of our plan as is the whole of Southeast Asia.”

Hardy added that Viber has planned a lot more localised contents for Myanmar this year as its approach is always to find great content that reflect the local market and culture.

With the entry of international telecom operators such as Telenor and Ooredoo, the mobile penetration rate in Myanmar is expected to grow 80 per cent by 2015, according to the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology. As a result of this, the number of internet users will significantly increase within a couple of years.

When asked if Viber has any plan to cooperate with the two telecom giants, Viber’s head of product Michael Shmilov said,”At the moment, there are no specific plans. Our first focus is to optimise the Viber experience for the local users. Based on our experience in other markets, we will make sure to talk with the telecos as well.”

“We believe the key to capturing the hearts and minds of Viber users in any particular market is by offering unique localized content that reflects the values and culture of its people,” said Shmilov.

“We are committed to delivering a great experience for Myanmar users and we’re looking forward to providing content that resonates locally.”

Viber’s popularity in Myanmar is also confirmed by independent research and a recent social media survey. According to OnDevice’s research published in June, Viber is the number one chat application in Myanmar with 79 per cent of Myanmar users actively engaging with the messaging and voice application. This data shows Viber overtaking Facebook and other mobile messaging competitors in the country.

A recent online survey conducted by Telenor in April this year on Facebook also revealed that almost two thirds of users chose Viber as their favorite messaging app, making it by far the most popular chat application in the Southeast Asian country.

Following these developments, Viber hopes to increase its presence in Myanmar. Viber is working on localisation plans and is in discussions with local brands to deliver quality content partnerships. Yet, Crystal said that Viber will be working with a local agency at the moment instead of opening an office in the country while Hardy insisted that it is on their radar.

“Opening an office in any market is a strategic global business decision. We look at countries, and observe which countries are over-indexing. We have seen from our data that Myanmar has embraced Viber. It is on our radar,” said Hardy.

Viber aims to offer a variety of sticker options from free to paid, licensed to their very own characters. Localised Myanmar characters will be launched within a few months.

“We have local stickers in most markets, e.g. Vietnam, India, even in Brazil. I am sure Myanmar will enjoy free [local] stickers as well,” said Crystal.

“Also for the sticker, we are working actively with the local partners and local agencies. So we want to make sure that the stickers are something that you can always use in your daily life. For the payment, they are free-of-charge at the moment. If we have pay stickers, for now, everyone has to go to Apps Store to get pay stickers.”

“We are going to open a partnership especially in this market. Hopefully, with the partnership, we can improve the way of payment for buying stickers, etc. Our aim is to make communication easier and more efficient for the public. For example, in the Philippines, when we cooperate with telecom companies, we offer more affordable data plan. I would like to initiate it in Myanmar,” said Crystal.

Asked about the solutions of payment outside credit cards, Shmilov said that Viber is working on alternative payment solutions as well as on direct payment. To him, Viber users should be able to charge their accounts with Viber credit using also cash.

On that issue, Hardy said, “Given the lowest credit card penetration in Myanmar, we plan to partner with local payment providers that will provide solutions to allow local users to get involved in our paid services.”

To him, one to one apps are growing in popularity all over the world, and peer to peer and personal networks will be popular in the future.

“We welcome competition. At this stage in our life, the market needs to be Viber-ant. We will focus on building our base, building our unique brand, localised content, marketing campaigns and activities which are unique and engaging. Remember that we have only just started actively marketing in Myanmar. So far, we have grown through word of mouth,” said Hardy.


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