Lahore startup Bookme ready to enter booming Myanmar market

Myanmar is at the edge of a new era – politically and economically.  Since major liberal reforms in 2011, it has recorded a sustained GDP growth at 8.5 per cent. And this November, it completed its first openly contested democratic election in 25 years. It’s an exciting time for, both, international and Burmese business. With the National League for Democracy’s promise to cut down on “extravagant spending”, speed up liberalisation and privatise state-owned enterprises, Myanmar is ready for a startup boom. Already, mobile penetration has crossed 50 per cent of the population, signalling drastic improvement in connectivity and access. The nation even has demography on its side: the median age in Myanmar is now 27.9 making it a young country.

This growth has attracted two-year old ticketing platform Bookme, a Lahore-based startup founded by Faizan Aslam (Macro Pak Solutions) and incubated at Plan9. The first of its kind in Pakistan – arguably the largest, too – it now wants to dominate online cinema and bus ticketing in Myanmar.

Bookme hopes to make it easier for cinema and bus operators to efficiently manage off-site ticket sales through cloud-based enterprise management helping not just inventory monetisation, but reducing operational costs. To enter into Burmese market, Bookme has partnered with Yangon’s Lychee Ventures, whose biggest project is the MYANMORE Digital & Print Publishing (Weekly Guide, InDepth, & etc.), which includes entertainment and travel guides. The venture firm is itself three years old, and focussed on taking up projects in the telecom, Internet, media & content and entertainment sectors. This makes its partnership with Bookme perfect for both parties.

Aslam says,

‘We are very excited to be signing up cinema and bus partners in Myanmar, and see this as a first step towards expansion in frontier and emerging markets. Myanmar is on the cusp of major change and we want to be part of this process of growth. Mobile telephony is showing explosive growth and that is fertile territory for e-ticketing. In Lychee Ventures we have found the perfect partner to strongly and aggressively develop this market.’

CEO of Lychee Ventures, Andreas Sigurdsson, is justifiably excited to enter the online ticketing market for cinema and buses in Myanmar. He’s been witness to the country’s economic boom. Over the last three years, SIM card prices have dropped from a whopping USD 150 to USD 1.5. This access to mobile Internet is fertile ground for startup hatchlings. He adds, ‘With the recent addition of electronic payment methods making online purchases possible, we are excited to be the first player to offer cinema tickets online and through mobiles, and this is just the beginning.’

Rapidly changing economies and increased access to connectivity naturally present diverse growing opportunities for e-commerce startups. Considering media, entertainment and travel are perennial industries, e-ticketing is not just a sign of “progress”, but an inevitability. That makes Bookme’s entry into the market critical. As online payments and e-wallets change the way Burmese consumers buy, it’ll be interesting to see how fast and how well Bookme develops a foothold in a market projected for colossal growth.

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