NearMe expands digital reach during pandemic

Myanmar start-up NearMe, which provides a digital purchase and payments platform for retailers, has attracted financial help from Sumitomo Corp, a Japane Fortune 500 global trading and business investment company.

The funds will enable NearMe to offer more digital solutions to its retail partners, which comprise mainly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeking technology to help them grow in the post-COVID-19 period.

“We are seeing the accelerated digitisation of the Myanmar economy. The pandemic is spurring many SMEs to adopt technology much more readily to expand and serve their customers better,” said U Lynn Htaik Aung, chief executive officer of NearMe.

As part of the investment, affiliates of Sumitomo will help NearMe’s retail partner network accept digital payments and business-to-business transactions.

“Sumitomo believes the investment will help NearMe’s growth as well as Sumitomo affiliates and other shareholders,” said Mr. Shuji Fukuda, general manager of media and digital business for Sumitomo in Asia and Oceania.

Launched in 2015, NearMe enables retailers to sell digital goods and tickets, collect bill payments, process personal loan applications, and accept electronic payments.

What is Near Me and what is its purpose?

It started in January 2015 with the aim of providing a digital platform for local retailers and SMEs. There was no such service in Myanmar then, and no over-thecounter payments. We sought to fill this gap.
electricity bills.

What challenges did you face at first?

At first, people only knew our physical top-up card when we started digital top-ups. About one year later, we attained people’s trust and they gradually began using digital services such as mobile top-up and paying

What is the target market of Near Me?

Some people think that our business is mobile money. That’s not totally true. We mainly handle business-to-business transactions. Our customers are agents and retailers. We provide business services for retail shops.

What is your company’s long-term strategy?

We do not attract partners by making a lot of short-term profits. We consider how we can serve them in the long term. Customers decide to work with us again because of our service and reliable technology. We make sure to offer multiple products so that the customers prefer our business-to-business service. We make sure to serve them well and quickly respond to any complaints.

How much progress has Near Me made?

Around 5000 to 6000 grocers join Near Me each year. We started our services by selling prepaid cards to about three operators, and there are over 100 digital services now. We have added new ones like online payment, paying taxes and debt repayment.

What effect has the pandemic had on your business?

As NearMe is a digital business, we haven’t had many losses. Some shops connected with NearMe have had to close because of the virus.

What new services have you introduced as part of the ‘new normal’?

People are still going to retail shops and paying in cash, so we started a digital e-payment system between sellers and buyers. Actually, it was already planned but we rushed through the project as people are getting more worried about using cash because of the pandemic. Now any wallet customer can pay by showing their QR at the partner stores.”

Will Near Me offer new services in the future?

We will extend B2B solutions to link partner retail stores and their physical goods suppliers.

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Source : Myanmar Times

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