SPURRED on by increased data consumption in line with rising sales of smartphones in Myanmar, e-commerce operator Barlolo.com is planning nationwide expansion this year, its top executives say.
Min Min, chief operating officer of 3KO Ventures Co, which operates Barlolo.com, said in an exclusive interview that more than 50,000 people typically visit the website each month to buy the goods showcased by more than 1,000 merchants. He also takes pride in the growth of the platform over the past 13 months.
“Since our launch in mid-2017, we have seen a significant rise in Myanmar people’s interest to buy things online,” Min Min said.
“Digitalisation is everywhere, and it has big impacts on market dynamics. Now people here have changed their mindset. They go to check online when they think of buying something.”
In the beginning, the platform started with a classified model. Now it mainly focuses on transactions by encouraging people to register as its members so that they can buy and sell things easily, he added.
“Actually, it does not matter how many people visit our website if nobody buys anything. Our aim is to link small merchants with buyers across the nation,” Min Min said.
“We believe in creating a platform that caters to the needs of local communities, improving livelihoods by offering technology which empowers merchants to sell products across Myanmar, especially for second and third-tier cities.”
The firm has a team of 33, and aims to expand its workforce outside Yangon region. To date, half of its sales come from Yangon, the nation’s commercial hub, but in the long term, the company foresees the rising demand from other parts of the country. The best sellers on the platform are products in the health and beauty, and fashion and cosmetics categories. It also focuses on electronics, mobile accessories and books, Min Min said.
Yu Sett Naing, operational lead of the platform, said Barlolo aims to be No.1 online marketplace that enables merchants to manage and showcase its products nationwide, along with facilitation of logistics and payment solutions. She said most merchants in Myanmar are middle-class people who do not own a shop, and are constrained by excessive rents, lack of logistics and poor payment collection.
“Starting a business is really difficult here. Even if you have a shop, you cannot predict how many people will visit your shop,” she said.
“It will be more difficult in the rainy season. So we expect to benefit the local community by offering a marketplace for them.
“What we aim to achieve is that when people think about general products, our [brand] name instantly comes to their mind.”
The firm is focusing on identifying the right logistics partners and improving payment solutions including mobile banking options.
It is also working to ensure that digital payment solutions such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted on the platform by September. Additionally, discussions are under way to partner with MPT and Myanmar Post to leverage on incumbent institutions and their existing reach, Yu Sett Naing said.
As an online marketplace, the firm hopes to promote accessibility to small merchants across the country.
“Our team is reaching out to local merchants to educate them on general usage of Internet and assist them in showcasing their products on our platform. We encourage entrepreneurship and job creation by leading the trend in online transactions, allowing anyone to open their own shop,” Yu Sett Naing said.
“Currently, shops and buyers in outer regional townships are limited to whatever is available or offered to them by distributor visits,” she said.
“This restricts the offerings available to regional consumers who often have to pay a premium due to lack of access. Our platform provides regional buyers and wholesalers with transparency on pricing and product selection available across the country.”