After years of dealing with slow and expensive broadband connections, many Myanmar Internet users finally got access to affordable 3G thanks to recent service rollouts by telecoms Telenor and Ooredoo. A Yangon-based mobile app company called Revo Tech hopes to take advantage of the country’s speedier Internet by becoming a “first mover” in its startup ecosystem.
Founder Myo Myint Kyaw studied computer science at Middlesex University in London and worked in the city for three years before returning to Myanmar in 2012 to found Revo Tech. The company started out as a creative agency in 2012, but as support for startups in Myanmar increased, thanks to incubators like Ideabox and Founder Institute), the company began working on its own apps, including Phew, which helps teach children the Burmese alphabet.
Revo Tech’s success hinges in large part on the development of fast and affordable mobile Internet access in Myanmar. Norway-based Telenor launched 3G service in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, on Oct. 27, claiming that it had released one million SIM cards in just one day. Previously, the telecom launched in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, and Nay Pyi Taw,. Its goal is to cover 90 percent of Myanmar within five years.
Telenor’s service rollout follows rival telecom Ooredoo’s in August. Before Telenor and Ooredoo’s launches, tech entrepreneurs had to deal with slow and pricey broadband connections from Myanmar Teleport, Information Technology Central Services, and state-owned MPT . In comparison, Telenor’s SIM cards are priced at $1.50, offer two affordable pay-as-you-go rates, and can be topped up at retail stores.
Thanks to the launches, “Myanmar’s 60 million population is going to get access to the Internet very easily, so we wanted to be the first mover in order to become the market leader,” says Kyaw.
As part of its plan to seize a large portion of Myanmar’s Internet users, Revo Tech is creating a wide array of products. Back in August, it launched Phew, which helps teach students the Burmese alphabet. The iPad app makes money with a freemium model, charging users $1.99 to unlock the full version for iOS. But the Android version is free because of the lack of mobile payment systems available in Myanmar and the fact that Google Wallet is not currently available for the Google Play store there.
It took three months to get 3,000 downloads for the iPad version of Phew, says Kyaw, but more than 500 users downloaded the Android version in the first few days after its launch on Oct. 27. Kyaw says that Revo Tech launched Phew’s iOS app first because although 80 percent to 90 percent of Myanmar’s smartphone users have an Android device, tablet owners still prefer iPads. In order to gain further traction for Phew, Revo Tech will work with local schools to get the app into classrooms.
Now Revo Tech is focused on creating a music app that Kyaw describes as a combination of Shazam and Spotify for Myanmar music, for which the startup is currently seeking angel funding.
“There is no Myanmar sound identification system, so we are working on a Shazam-like application for Myanmar sounds,” says Kyaw. “If you take a taxi and listen to a Myanmar song and want to know what it is, Shazam can’t help, so we created this app to solve our own problem.”