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Ex-Oway Director’s e-commerce app Ezay makes life easy for rural woman retailers in Myanmar

Ezay connects ‘mom-and-pop’ shops with wholesalers in Myanmar, and products delivered the same day or the next day

Kyaw Min Swe’s sister runs a small retail shop in Nattalin in the rural Bago region in Myanmar. Seeing her struggles in getting stock to the shop and having to constantly ask her spouse for help, Min Swe decided to use his business acumen to solve her problem.

“I opened a wholesale shop nearby but quickly realised that it could’t scale,” he told e27. “After learning more about the problem, which is the same across the nation, I later launched Ezay to help my sister and other shopkeepers to access more choice and better prices conveniently.”

Launched in August 2019, Ezay is a mobile platform that connects ‘mom-and-pop’ shops in rural Myanmar with wholesalers. Retailers can buy online for the regular shop stock needs and get the products delivered the same day or the next day.

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“We put technology into the hands of the most rural shopkeepers in the country and works with wholesalers in each geography to list a full range of available items,” said Min Swe, who previously led the ride-sharing business of Oway. “Before our entry, no company dared to serve these remote areas. We at Ezay have been able to serve customers while generating returns.”

The customers are currently spread across several townships in Bago, which is not far from the capital city of Yangon. Ezay currently has over 1,600 retailers. The startup has plans to expand this year.

According to Min Swe, it is not hard to do same-day or next-day delivery in rural Myanmar, where traffic is less although infrastructure is not the best.

Until recently, Ezay operated three-wheeled trucks for delivery but the poor condition of the roads forced it to switch to motorcycles. Ezay then rigged up its own carrying frames to help motorcycles carry enough stock to meet delivery efficiencies.

This means that rural shopkeepers, mostly women, no longer need to ask their spouse to go to the town several times each week, or to go themselves.

Recently, Ezay partnered with several micro-financial institutions (MFIs) in the country to provide credit on its app, which allows shopkeepers to expand their inventory and, in turn, increase income.

“We all know that women already share an unequal amount of unpaid work, so reducing their need to run errands is hugely valuable. And now, with Ezay Credit, they will begin to learn about and gain access to financial products,” remarked Min Swe, who had also previously worked as COO of Hello Cabs.

“Accessing finance means these shopkeepers can expand their inventory and increase their incomes. Later, we plan to help shops sell digital products, further improving their overall income,” he revealed.

As for the business model, Ezay takes a margin on the transaction and charges for delivery.

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Is there competition in this space?

“Ezay is the first to market and we don’t see any direct competitors at the moment. Of course, wholesalers who manage their own delivery may be seen as competitors, but they quickly see the value in using Ezay. While there’s a huge market for the taking, this business requires expert execution and knowledge of rural Myanmar,” he elaborated, claiming that his background and drive for this business give him an edge.

Challenges are galore, admits Min Swe. Building own fleet of motorcycles, with a logistics component is challenging.

“When Ezay started with three-wheelers, one journey could take a lot of stock and make a lot of deliveries. Motorcycles can carry less but they are also cheaper and can make more journeys. We need to solve these types of logistical challenges as we grow,” he said.

Just yesterday, Ezay announced a US$200,000 investment round led by Seiji Kurokoshi, an impact investor from Japan who pioneered upside social impact bonds for single mothers and who has a background in direct to consumer models. This comes less than four months after securing an investment from EME Myanmar.

“The new funds will comfortably carry us through the coming 12 months and help us reach our target of 8,000 retailers by March 2021,” Min Swe exuded confidence. “With this network, we’re expecting to see significant network effects and ever increasing opportunities for Ezay to bring more value to its customers.”

The startup is now planning to scale across Myanmar. To achieve this goal, it plans to begin fundraising efforts toward the end of 2020.

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Source : E27

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