Last week I highlighted that the recent relaxing of political and social restrictions are opening up once-closed Myanmar as a possible tech market, and already that opportunity is being exploited by none other than Rocket Internet, the German-headquartered Internet business factory.
Rocket is no stranger to anyone with a passing interest in Southeast Asia’s Web space since they officially launched five services in multiple markets in the region in March, so it is perhaps of little surprise to see the tech industry’s copycats-in-chief among the first to make a land grab in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.
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German website Gruenderszene reports that the Samwer brothers — Rocket’s three founders — have launched two services in Myanmar — auto trading site motors.com.mm and general ecommerce site ads.com.mm — while a job board — the imaginatively named jobs.com.mm — is coming soon.
As I wrote in the Myanmar editorial last week, the Internet is not yet widely used in the country — with as few as 110,000 users among the 60 million population — and therefore it is not a massive surprise to see that the goods on sale target affluent consumers.
iPhones and high-end technology dominates ad.com.mm while the cars on show in motors.com.mm include Porsches, Ferraris and Bentleys.
Most significantly, Rocket has got its hands on three prime URLs with massive SEO potential. Jobs, automobiles and general e-commerce are big areas of interest and spending for consumers there, and those with Web access in the country are not likely to be short on cash, or desire for such material goods.
The firm’s mantra is to enter emerging markets and promising product niches early, and then scale up and sell its business and, in the case of Myanmar, Gruenderszene speculates that South African investment firm Naspers — an investor in China’s Tencent and Russia’s mail.ru — is already eyeing the three services.
Hints that Rocket is in Myanmar have emerged in the past after the firm upset its rivals in Myanmar with its bullish and aggressive approach. One e-commerce startup owner — ‘Ed’ — wrote in a comment following a Tech In Asia post:
I don’t know about you guys, but as a founder of ecommerce businesses in Myanmar, I face a great battle there. They splash money like nobody’s business, hiring a large number of management crew. Unfortunately for them, the human capital in Myanmar is not as developed as other parts of the world, hence, hindering their growth. Well, perhaps, that’s a fortunate buffer for us to survive. When there are no investors interested in high-tech, small businesses like us are badly handicapped.
The only thing I can compete (and had success) is in thoroughly localized services, nurturing what people actually need/want, and agility to adapt to ever-changing business landscape of the country. Remember, we change laws and regulations as many times as you change your socks!
Happy bullying local entrepreneurs, Rocket.
We’ve reached out to Rocket Internet for further details of its plans for Myanmar.
Rocket is active outside of Asia and Europe, and this excellent GigaOm article puts its reach of its operations at a very impressive 58 countries worldwide. However, a few months have passed since it was published and Myanmar is at least one new addition to that list.