Wave Money Set for Ambitious Growth in Myanmar

WAVE MONEY, the first company to be awarded a licence under Myanmar’s mobile financial services regulations, is planning for ambitious growth in the country, according to Vibeke Siljan Krohn, the firm’s head of sales, marketing and distribution.

Krohn said the company was focused on the mass market with the goal of providing mobile financial services to everyone in Myanmar. As a joint venture between Telenor Myanmar, First Myanmar Investment and Yoma Bank, it currently offers money transfers and airtime top-ups, and will launch bill payments before Christmas and merchant payments by early next year.

“We have launched a nationwide distribution network with over 4,000 points of sales across the country. We will grow to around 7,000 by the end of this year and more than 15,000 by the end of next year,” she said.

In Myanmar, where about 80 per cent of the population has very limited access to banks, the firm has acquired around 100,000 customers in two months after the launch. It started was launching in major cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, and then expanded to other parts of the country. Now, its services are available across Myanmar except Chin and Kayah states, where it is slated for launch in the first quarter of 2017.

Additionally, the provider has a very ambitious target of having around one million customers by the end of this year. Achieving 10-fold growth is not an easy job, Krohn admitted. “It is going to be absolutely challenging,” she said.

“But we will go much deeper. We will go deeper into border areas, Kayah, Kayin, and Tanintharyi. In a year time, our rural distribution will be very, very strong. So we expect a very strong customer growth in the months to come.”

According to Krohn, understanding customers’ needs, delivering the right products at affordable prices, easy access and convenience play a crucial role in market success.

“Eighty per cent of the market is currently not served very well yet. We have a mass market approach that is very strong. We try to deliver very simple products that are easily understood and easily used. We try to think about what is the real needs of our customers, how can we help them, and make their life easier. And we use very customer-friendly interfaces, eg, Facebook, to bring down the barriers for registration, which is one of the biggest barriers in financial inclusion,” she said.

Krohn said that Telenor’s extensive network and Yoma Bank’s reputation mean a lot to Wave Money’s growth in the country. She hinted to cooperate with more banks in the future, as the business grows.

The executive added that the provider’s marketing strategy included advertisements on TV, radio, newspapers, periodicals, as well as an outreach programme to improve customer awareness called Yellow Wave, a roadshow held in 28 locations to engage with customers. It also used a digital channel, which acquired 500,000 followers in a short time.

“I would not have known how powerful Facebook is as a marketing tool and a digital tool before coming to Myanmar. Facebook here is used seriously by everyone. I think 10 per cent of the population use Facebook actively. Many Telenor users use Facebook as the only browser. For many users in Myanmar, Facebook is Internet. So we use Facebook remarkably and engage with customers. And we have a 24/7 call centre, a strong social media team and a strong digital platform,” she said.

Myanmar is obviously a cash-dominated society but thanks to 78 per cent smart phone penetration and 70 per cent of the population being active data users, Wave Money sees a very bright future in the country. Its first strategy is the launch of an easy-to-use mobile application in a human design-centred way. It also provides over-the-counter services through agents. As the app gets more exciting with new products, 70 per cent of the users prefer the application while others prefer the over-the-counter opportunities, she said.

Krohn considers cash domination as a challenge for the expansion of the digital payment platform in Myanmar.

“Obviously, changing customer behaviour takes time. Changing going from cash to using digital payments takes time. One of my biggest challenges now is the trust factor. We need to be able to get the customers to trust digital payments and trust our system. In the Myanmar context, the banking sector has not been very trustworthy, to be honest, because it has gone through three bankrupts, in which many people lost their savings. So generally, trust in the banking sector is very low. There is very little trust in credit products and banking institutions. We still need to overcome that trust,” she said.

Krohn said that education is the most important thing to address the challenges. In this regard, the firm has been educating both its customers and agents.

“Investing in the agents is very, very important. And I am sure we can do that even better as it is a real focused area for us … We are in the process of really developing strong agents,” she said.

Currently, the provider focuses on domestic purposes, mainly on sending money within the country. Yet, it also has a plan to expand its services internationally.

“There are a lot of Burmese in Thailand and Malaysia and around the region. One of the key economic corridors we are looking at is actually the Thailand-Myanmar corridor. That means our Thai customers can send money home. And Burmese living in Thailand can send money home through a partner of us in Thailand, and then the recipients can receive the money into their accounts,” she said.

Krohn foresees more intense market competition in the near future, due to multinational and local players.

“One of the most important things is how we will go into the market and how we are planning to win this market. We have some real advantages. Obviously, building on the capability of our partners Telenor Myanmar and Yoma Bank, we have a very strong base … Obviously, we will be coming out very strong, as we have the strongest distribution, and the easiest-to-understand products. And we have strong capital,” she said.

 

Source: Eleven Myanmar

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