Bus Ticketing In Myanmar Goes Digital, Thanks To This Brother-Sister Team

Myanmar has undergone significant transformations since allowing foreign telecoms to set up shop in the country in 2014. The costs of SIM cards dropped, mobile phone ownership skyrocketed and a startup ecosystem emerged in Yangon and other major cities.

But not every industry has been quick to evolve — the travel industry, for one. Although bus trips are considered more efficient than train travel for getting around the country, booking bus tickets can be a bit of a headache. Thet Mon Aye and Zarni Nway Oo, a sibling entrepreneur duo, launched Star Ticket as a way to bring Myanmar’s bus system from an analog era into the digital age.

“In 2014, we got the idea when a friend wanted to travel from Yangon to Bagan and wanted to buy a ticket. But we [couldn’t] find it anywhere and all the ticket shops were already closed,” Aye said via email. “So, we were thinking, why don’t we just build a ticketing website?” The siblings launched Star Ticket under the banner of their company, Ignite, which they founded in 2013.

Users can purchase tickets through Star Ticket’s website or app, or through its agency partners (such as convenience stores). The company offers an agent app that allows enterprising individuals to generate side income by selling to consumers as well. People can also buy from in-person agents, paying cash for the tickets while the agents use the purchasing software.

“We want to grow the business by having more agents and direct users of bus tickets in the future,” Aye said. “Currently we are encouraging [people to use the] agent app, as it is helping women and men … to earn extra money.”

In some cases, Star Ticket staff will deliver tickets to consumers and advise them on other aspects of their trips. Along with making it easier for locals to buy tickets and organize bus trips, Star Ticket is helping foreign tourists as well. Those who want to travel to key tourist sites throughout the country may find themselves overwhelmed by the number of bus operators — not to mention struggling to secure tickets in a timely manner.

“Most tourists pay online from air tickets to booking hotels. Some tourists would visit only for a week and it could be really difficult if they do not manage to get a seat for a highway bus,” Aye told Deal Street Asia. “Through our analysis, we also found that most of the tourists are starting to choose the highway buses.”

Star Ticket partners with a range of bus services, and it currently focuses on long-distance travel (for instance, trips from Yangon to Mandalay). As of 2016, it worked with more than 500 vendors and was selling more than 2,200 tickets each month.

Acclimating consumers to online ticketing is part of Ignite’s broader mission to help Myanmar embrace new technologies and digital solutions. “The challenges that technological companies like us are facing is that people in Myanmar are not familiar with technology as yet,” Aye also said in the Deal Street Asia interview.

Star Ticket was honored with an industry award at the inaugural Rice Bowl Startup Awards at the 1 Asean Entrepreneurship Summit in 2015, and received $200,000 in funding from BOD Tech in late 2016.

“We are hoping to become the core infrastructure of Bus Ticketing in Myanmar in the next two years, and to move into to other ticketing verticals in the future,” Aye said at the time, according to Yahoo. She and Oo were also named to Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 in 2016.

Source: Forbes

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