This founder bet on Myanmar’s tourism. Now it’s exploding and he’s reaping the rewards

Myanmar is a tourism hot spot. This once isolated country is seeing a surge in tourist arrivals, with its Ministry of Hotels and Tourism expecting 4.5 million foreign visitors this year, 46 percent higher than last year’s 3.08 million. Add to that some 2.4 million Burmese who fly domestically at least once every year.

Yet booking flights in Myanmar is still a pain.

Myanmar-born entrepreneur Mike Than Tun Win tells Tech in Asia most travelers go through the hassle of having to locate travel agents, who charge hefty fees for arranging the bookings. In fact, up until this year, he says foreign visitors had to wait until they’d landed in Myanmar before they could book domestic flights.

When Mike returned to his homeland in 2010 after immigrating to Singapore with his family at age eight, he started conceptualizing a more convenient way of arranging travel plans in Myanmar.

His ideas came to life in June this year, when Flymya launched. Flymya claims to be the first one-stop site that allows travelers to compare flight schedules and fares of the country’s 10 domestic airlines, and make bookings with just a few mouse clicks.

Going the extra mile
Flymya accepts all major credit cards, along with Myanmar’s only card payment system, the Myanmar Payment Union. Payments can also be made via Paypal. Air tickets are delivered to customers via email.

Those with only cash at their disposal can pay in person at Flymya’s office in Latha township in Yangon.

Mike says they go the extra mile by offering advice to customers such as information on how domestic airlines operate, how to apply for a visa, or even what vaccinations to take.

“They can communicate with our english-proficient employees, who answer their emails within 24 hours. Customer support is a big problem in Myanmar because many of the travel agents do not work online and even if they have a website, they may take a week or two to reply to you. We pride ourselves on our service,” Mike says.

Flymya will soon offer travelers hotel and tour packages, as well as car rentals.

Mike says two other platforms, Oway and VisitMM, are dealing with online domestic flight bookings in Myanmar, but Flymya provides “more comprehensive” information and “lower prices.” In the meantime, Flymya is onboarding offline tour operators on its site, effectively reducing indirect competition from them.

Since Myanmar opened up its economy in 2010, after one of the most brutal dictatorships in Asia, business and tourism have been on the rise. The country’s abundant natural resources, strategic location between Asia’s powers India and China, and its largely untapped market of over 51 million people (or about 60 million based on other estimates) have caught the interest of foreigners.

International tourist arrivals in the country have grown nearly four times from only around 792,000 in 2010. Along with this, demand for domestic travel has increased almost five times, according to Mike.

It’s a boon for everyone in the travel business. Flymya alone processes over a thousand airline tickets per month. Customers are coming from all over the world – Europe, US, and neighbors in Asia. The startup charges airlines a fee that ranges between 5-10 percent of the ticket price.

A month after its launch, Flymya was raking in revenue of US$80,000 a month. “We expect to reach US$1.5 million revenue during the first year of our operation, and we aim to achieve a yearly revenue of US$15 million in five years’ time,” he tells Tech in Asia.

Flymya has raised US$1 million in funding from angel investors from both Myanmar and Singapore. It will use the money to increase its headcount for 24/7 customer support, exclusive travel programs, and budget for marketing.

“A major portion of the funding will also go to boosting the size and technical capability of Flymya’s IT team so that our website can better synchronize with the flights database of various airlines, and we can provide strong backend ERP (enterprise resource planning) system for our partner airlines and tour operators,” adds Mike.

A growing portfolio
Mike was enterprising even at a young age. While at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, where he received his bachelor degree in business, he started an online store on eBay, selling Myanmar gems and jewelry. He pursued a corporate career after school though, and worked for Swiss firm Bank Julius Beer.

He returned in Myanmar in 2010 to bring vigor and global perspective to trading and distribution company Eternal, where he closed million-dollar deals. With him at the helm, Eternal saw explosive revenue growth to US$30 million, up from under US$2 million, in just three years.

With Flymya taking off fast, Mike has moved on to co-founding other online platforms such as luxury shopping site Shopmyar and consumer deals aggregator Inmya. He says the products have a common denominator: helping consumers access a world of possibilities through the internet.

Mike also co-founded IT solutions firm BOD (Business Optimized Data) with his best friend Jonathan Lee. BOD marries business consulting expertise with programming to serve some of Myanmar’s leading enterprises across a range of industries, including manufacturing, travel, insurance, and logistics.

“Advances in technology are driven by a desire to connect people around the world and to make our lives easier so that we can spend more time doing the things we love – like traveling,” Mike says. “This is why my investment heavily revolves around mobile connectivity that always has the experience of the end-user in mind.”

Source: Techin Asia

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