12,000 Micro-Entrepreneurs

This month ONOW hosted 30 Microfinance (MFI) Loan officers for a 2 day event to train them how to best support their organization’s borrowers. We wanted to take what we’ve learned in supporting Base of the Pyramid entrepreneurs and share it with the wider financing community. Each of these loan officers supports on average 400 borrowers. The ability to make a tangible impact for many micro-entrepreneurs across Myanmar is exciting!

Read the whole story here.

Learn Financial Inclusion!

To engage with Financial Literacy needs at the Base of the Pyramid, an innovative tool should be emotionally engaging, contain simple and effective messaging, and nudge the user at timely intervals. Any digital tool being built today should take advantage of the capabilities readily available: it should leverage notifications, AI, interactive content, and include an intuitive UX. Anything else will fall shallow of the deep impact necessary to make progress on the issue of Financial Literacy.

Read the full post here.

Donate to ONOW’s Social Innovation Fund

Rise of the Bots

Have you ever had a conversation with a robot?  This month we have been experimenting with a new tool for entrepreneurs in Myanmar that allows them to talk to a friend about business.  Only this friend is not real, he is a Bot.  Maung Sa Yin Kaing (Mr. Finance), as he has been named, talks to young people interested in learning about business and finances, and he teaches them about loans, savings, budgets and more.

This month we had a chance to create the basic bot, as well as to test it out with a group of students from Singapore University of Technology and Design.  These students took Mr. Finance out in the real world and tested it with some of our entrepreneurs and a random sampling of people in the local markets.  We learned a lot through the experience and are excited to continue developing the tool.  It is exciting to take what we’ve learned over the last several years and turn it into tools that can scale in size.  This Bot can be accessed by anyone with Facebook, and allows them to learn even if they can’t leave a shop to come to a meeting or event. 

With the huge popularity of Facebook in Myanmar, we are hopeful that this new Bot can make a real difference.  Now we just have to make sure it doesn’t become self-aware and try to kill all humanity. (Kidding.)

Microfinance institutions care about financial education, but they can’t do much about it. MFIs rely on volume. They operate on a shoe-string budget. Margins are tight. This means anything they do needs to involve few staff with lots of customers. Their financial bottom line is key.

But entrepreneurship doesn’t really work that way. It requires critical thinking and the ability to respond to a multitude of potential problems. It cannot be reduced to a series of lectures. Financial Literacy involves abstract concepts, and is usually future-centric — not a problem that can be solved with a flip chart and one-way communication.

This approach simply will not work for Myanmar. Millions of people are coming online for the first time, having never seen a laptop or desktop computer in their lives. Mobile phones, and especially smart phones, are most often the first interaction Myanmar people are having with the Internet. And in most cases, Facebook is the Internet.

Maung Sa Yin Kaing can tell stories. He can nudge individual users with well-timed reminders. He can learn user behavior and prompt the user with suggestions for problems they are facing in their businesses. And he is on your phone!

Read more of Matt’s article on Mr. Finance here.

Lecture Must Die

GEW Myanmar 2016

Putting “Lecture” in the grave.

Every year in November, 160 countries participate in Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). This year marked the 5th year of GEW in Myanmar, and Opportunities NOWis thrilled that we’ve gotten to participate every year.  This year we were involved in 3 separate events to promote entrepreneurship in Myanmar.

One of the most memorable events was focused on influencing the industry to think of new ways of providing support for entrepreneurs.  Many people provide lectures, but lecturing about getting a bank account is not enough to truly help people make better financial and business decisions.   We knew that to teach this concept we obviously couldn’t use lecture, so we hosted a simulation to engage people in conversations.  For our simulation we met with 40 people who are leaders in the entrepreneurship and financial services sector.  We broke them into groups and tested our in-development financial literacy tool that is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style tool that uses local stories, with decision points that lead towards a business either succeeding or failing.   We were so thrilled when our respondents really got into the activity.  One tweeted:

Highly engaging event – better than any lecture or panel discussion!

We are so glad that we get to be part of the changing Myanmar ecosystem around entrepreneurship, and we are excited to see that our influence in the industry is growing.

Where did My Money Go?

The first creation of the ONOW Lab is released!

The “kyat” is Myanmar’s currency. Our new mobile app, “Kyat Manager”, is the first Myanmar-language small business financial management app. It helps entrepreneurs record transactions and really understand their financial position. The data we collect and the innovative way we use it allows small businesses to make informed and proactive decisions for business success. They can respond to and avoid the shocks that can ruin a business and throw a family into poverty.
ONOW recently presented Kyat Manager at the “Harnessing the Data Revolution for Resilience” Summit. Experts on data collection and international development from around Southeast Asia discussed how collecting and analyzing data in the new age of connectivity can help build resilience in poor and vulnerable populations.

From 75 submissions, Kyat Manager was one of 10 finalists chosen in two categories. We didn’t win 🙁 but we were a Top 5 finalist in the Early Stage Innovations category! Besides a cool Finalist trophy, the real reward is seeing our work making a tangible impact on poverty through financial literacy.