Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The social network: ‘We Myanmar’

What's in a name? For DoeMyanmar, quite a bit – as the Myanmar-targeted social network’s founder explains, Myanmar’s past, present and potential is wrapped up in the moniker, which means “We Myanmar”.

The DoeMyanmar team poses before a meeting. Photo: SuppliedThe DoeMyanmar team poses before a meeting. Photo: Supplied

“DoeMyanmar is … where we are now, where we were in the past,” said Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein, the startup’s CEO. “We want to change the way of things in Myanmar.”

Decades could separate Myanmar from its international competitors, but the country has succeeded before, he said. Now, the nation is evolving into something new, and DoeMyanmar hastens to follow suit, adapting and changing tack to serve a burgeoning crowd of mobile users.

Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein didn’t always want to work in technology. As a child, he wanted to be a soldier. When it came time to pick a course direction at Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore, he considered engineering, but changed his mind when others urged him to pursue IT.

After school and a Master’s, Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein worked for a Japanese company. His tenure coincided with Myanmar’s transition toward openness and democracy. An increasing number of international companies arrived in his home country, and technology ventures were springing up. Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein says he considered building a web portal focused on real estate or cars.

But other enterprises had these areas covered – so he switched his focus from the “what” behind his business to the “who”. “No matter what we do, we need to have the user base,” he said.

Today, users remain central to the company’s strategy, as DoeMyanmar seeks to offer Myanmar’s people a unique platform, and changes its social media property from a species of Facebook into its own animal.

Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein describes DoeMyanmar as a company with two products – the DoeMyanmar social network and Daily Deals for online shopping – that work together. The former app, which debuted in February, has just under 100,000 users.

Users will find the setup familiar, as currently DoeMyanmar’s services line up with that of other social networks. People can add friends, put up photos, blog and post content, much in the same way they do on Facebook.

But DoeMyanmar aspires to become more than the place where users post smiley selfies. DoeMyanmar’s next pivot will turn the social platform into one for sharing and spreading knowledge – into a spot where, for example, users can read articles in Myanmar language, he says.

While online users head to Instagram to snap photos, and to Twitter to share pithy thoughts, they can go to DoeMyanmar for what Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein called its “pool of knowledge”. The startup founder says by the end of the month, users will be able to access information on subjects including health, education and technology.

DoeMyanmar’s user-centric ethos emphasises education as well as community-building through online commerce. Users get points for their participation on the social network, which can be used for making buys via its separate app, Daily Deals, and shared with other users.

“Whatever revenue [Facebook is] generating, it’s going to Mark Zuckerberg or major stakeholder[s],” Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein said. “What we’re going to do is different [since we] want to contribute to society.”

Revenue will come from advertising as well as making mobile apps for business owners. “They have to create a business page in DoeMyanmar and we charge for it to create the mobile app,” he said. The company is also backed by investors that provided funding in the six figures of Singapore dollars.

Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein said he believes in investing in his country through DoeMyanmar, which could potentially share 10 percent of revenues with the Myanmar community, claiming actions for the good of society are good business. “Whatever we give, we’ll get back for sure one day,” he said.

The firm has big aspirations for the platform – over the next 5 to 10 years, he reckons more than half the population, or 30 million people, could join.

DoeMyanmar also plans to list on a Myanmar stock exchange in the future.

Though Ko Arthur Aung Kyaw Hein has travelled far from home, he says he identifies firmly as Myanmar. He is part of the collective “We” that makes up the DoeMyanmar community. The firm’s logo is red with green and yellow stripes on the edge, evoking the Myanmar flag.

In Myanmar culture, people have three responsibilities, he adds: to work hard for themselves, to work hard for their families, and then to affect their environment. A company like DoeMyanmar, which could provide services for millions of Myanmar people, should fit that last bill.