I have been procrastinating and not producing a single blog during past few weeks. Hope this sequels of blogs on telecom sector would serve as an excuse for my procrastination.
TELECOM: The Past of the Future
In 1884, just 8 years after Sir Graham Bell (allegedly) invented telephone, Myanmar is already providing service to over 1,800 landline phones. After years of mishaps and mismanagement, the telecom industry of Myanmar slided. Only after a century and a decade later, state-owned telecom provider Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) introduced its first cellular mobile phone in 1993. As everybody aware, it comes with a unbelievable price tag: 1,500 USD per SIM cards officially.
Back in early 90s, the idea of carrying around a telephone is not a very exciting idea to Myanmar people. Then, to make things more interesting, the government changed the pricing plan to hire-purchase system and business savvy people started renting mobile phones with 8 to 10 USD per month. Later, the government switched back to 1,500 USD per mobile phone system, by then people are already used to the idea of “mobile phones” and affluent people started buying it. This was the era of mobile phones as big as my shoes and the price tag as big as a common person’s annual pay.
In 2008, Myanmar emerged again to the World’s telecom arena by providing first 3G service to limited number of phones. In 2014, the year when we could call a revolutionary time for Myanmar telecom industry, MPT introduced 1.5 USD SIM cards with limited availability and the government welcomed two international telecom operators; Qatar based Ooredoo and Norway based Telenor.
TELECOM: The Fastest Marketing Growing Market
The changes this market experience is excruciatingly speedy that it is hard for one to keep track of what is happening and which one is the latest figure. Currently, according to the sales figures of the three telecom companies; estimated 15% of country’s population (adjusted to the last national population census) owns a SIM card. Note that, it has been reported that a considerable amount of SIM cards are bought and discarded afterwards so the actual usership of mobile phone is currently unknown.
60% of mobile phones are smartphones – One of the interesting facts about this market is that out of those people who owns a mobile phone; 60% owns a smartphone. The underlying reason behind this unusually large number of smartphone ownership may be contributed by two factors; the unequal distribution of SIM cards and the Myanmar cultural perception towards mobile phone.
Firstly, mobile phones for years are unequally distributed to more affluent social classes either through putting the higher price tag or only making it available to elites of the government. Those elitists of Myanmar can easily afford smartphones and the highest ends of the mobiles.
Secondly, due to the fact that mobile phones are expensive and only in the possession of wealthier classes; they are perceived as luxury products in Myanmar. Hence, those who recently bought mobile phones are actually seeking “social status” as one of their purchase criteria, and thus, they buy smartphones which appear more “classy” and “modern”.
58% of smartphone users are male – Another interesting fact about Myanmar mobile market is that it is very male skewed. This is because inherently mobile phones are viewed as technological devices that is only related to males. The female counterparts viewed mobile phones, especially high-tech mobile phones are irrelevant to them. In fact, it has been found that Myanmar women are likely to spend less money on mobile phone purchase comparing to men.
TELECOM: Getting closer to the customers
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves” – Steve Jobs
Now, let’s go micro. To look closely, dissect and segment the customers of Myanmar telecom industry, we could categorise the customers into 5 different categories; Techno-enthusiasts; the nerds and the geeks, Pragmatic Professionals, the business savvy people, Classic Users; the moms and the common users, Dream Chasers; those who dream to own a mobile phone and Tech Laggards; the tech conservatives.
They have different views towards mobile phones, they use mobile phones in different way, they have different purchase criteria and they have different aspirations towards mobile phones. Mapping on the two spectrums of how much they value their mobile and their location; it would basically look like this.
I will continue the detail look of each segment in next blog: Taking pulse of the fastest growing industry in Myanmar: Telecom (Part 2)