AS MYANMAR has enjoyed a dramatic increase in the number of data users over the past three years, its leading retailer City Mart Holding Ltd plans to launch its first e-wallet service in mid-2017 with the support of T2P, a Thai FinTech company belonging to Benchachinda Holding.
Win Win Tint, founder and managing director of CMHL, said in an exclusive interview that the firms recently signed a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture. According to the pact, T2P will share its experience in developing both fintech and customer-loyalty programmes of the retailer by providing the technology to run its loyalty and online wallet platform.
She said the joint venture’s first product would be City Rewards, a loyalty programme that will give customers various rewards when they shop at the retailer’s stores. Bundled together is an online wallet which users can use to make payments at its online and offline stores.
According to Win Win Tint, the retailer picked the Thai firm as its partner because only a few players have expertise in both fintech |and loyalty programmes, which fits with its plans.
“We will be launching our online store by the middle of this year to give customers more options for their shopping … We will start with our consumers first to make their shopping experience in our stores more convenient,” she said.
She promised to continue exploring ways to make consumers’ shopping experience as seamless and convenient as possible by ensuring they get the best value and variety.
“Our efforts with T2P will enable us to introduce new services such as online shopping and self check-out,” she said.
According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the number of data users in Myanmar has risen 20 fold – from 2 per cent to more than 40 per cent – since the nation allowed foreign telecom operators to enter in 2014.
But the World Bank estimates that less than 20 per cent of the population uses formal financial services.
Yet, as one of the 50th most powerful business women in Asia ranked by Forbes in 2015, Win Win Tint is pretty bullish about the transformation from a cash-dominated society to a cashless one.
“More than 99 per cent of our store transactions are in cash. We do not expect a quick change in the short run but remain ambitious about the mobile wallet,” she said.
“To the general consumer, cash is very convenient and ubiquitous, hence it will take time for the usage of e-wallets to grow. Therefore, we are bundling it with the rewards programme for that to gain faster traction,” she added.
Founded in 1996, the retailer has more than 200 outlets across the nation, including fast-food restaurants, bookstores, convenience stores and supermarkets.
Recently, the retailer opened its 22nd supermarket in Insein township in Yangon.
According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Myanmar’s US$12-billion (Bt420 billion) retail sector is currently predominantly informal, with formal retailers holding less than 10 per cent of the market. However, economic growth and the opening up of the market after years of isolation have boosted demand for consumer goods.
Last year, CMHL received a $25-million loan from the IFC to support its expansion plans, which aim to increase its purchases from domestic suppliers by six fold, reaching around $150 million by 2021, and create nearly 4,000 new jobs – half of which will be for women. The retailer currently employs more than 8,000 staff.