ONOW was fortunate to be well-positioned for a strong response to COVID-19, and rapid growth during 2020.

Making Sense of a Strange Year

To make sense of a strange year, ONOW is looking back at seven developments and achievements from 2020. Efforts to support underserved business owners to grow their businesses continued throughout the year.

The common thread of the year was clearly the importance of combining tech with touch for building capacity in entrepreneurship, financial capabilities, and access to finance. In a country like Myanmar, touch still plays an important role in building trust and closing finance gaps.

1: Supporting 58,000 Business Owners during COVID-19

This gave way to ONOW’s involvement with Youth Business International’s Rapid Response Recovery Programme, funded by Google.org, …

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The program, led by Youth Business International (YBI) and funded by Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, will support underserved micro, small and medium businesses to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. ONOW Myanmar has been appointed as a delivery partner of YBI in Myanmar. ONOW will now work with YBI to develop and deliver an urgent package of support to struggling local businesses.

Download the Press Release from our Website

The global economy is suffering from an unprecedented shock as a result of COVID-19. With typically tight margins, micro, small and medium businesses are vulnerable to economic downturn. The current pandemic is having a particularly serious impact on business owners and entrepreneurs from underserved communities, including young people (aged 18–35 years), women, and refugees and other migrants. …

A glance at Debt, Capacity to service pre-existing debt, and How emergency debt is being used differently by MSME-owners and households during the current economic crisis

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A wood-working small enterprise in Bago targeting the tourism sector employs more than 20


From April 12–15, ONOW conducted a second round of digital surveys across Myanmar with our various consumer-focused digital platforms through ubiquitous Facebook Messenger channels. ONOW sought to understand:

  • Debt Taken Prior to the Crisis
  • Debt Servicing Capacity
  • Emergency Debt

2,333 respondents completed the full survey, which has been disaggregated by gender, MSME ownership, urban/rural contexts, and ten urban centers (Hpa An, Kalay, Mandalay, Mawlamyaing, Monywa, Myitkyina, Pathein, Taunggyi, Yangon, Hlaingthayar). …

ONOW ran digital surveys across the country from April 2 to April 5, 2020, looking for how households and MSMEs are affected by and responding to the rapidly shifting economy

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Garment factory workers sign up for group credit from a leading microfinance institution in Myanmar


Following up on our phone-based surveys of our portfolio companies, from April 2 to April 5, ONOW conducted digital surveys in six urban areas in Myanmar with our various consumer-focused digital platforms through ubiquitous Facebook Messenger channels. …

Myanmar’s factories are rapidly closing. MSMEs in factory zones have shared the constraints their businesses are currently facing.

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The effect of the closure of Myanmar’s factory zones is not yet fully understood, and is only now is the necessary response of the government, development agencies, financial institutions and key stakeholders on-the-ground being considered.

ONOW works directly with nearly 300 businesses; regularly providing coaching services, surveys, and guidance in formal financial management, digital economy, and business management.

From March 23 to March 25, ONOW spoke by phone with 158 of these entrepreneurs by phone. The object of the calls were to:

  • provide important COVID-19 health information,
  • provide important short term survival tips to reduce the economic impact on MSMEs…

Bad leaders fail to examine themselves, but their followers are good at it. Examining their leaders, that is.

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I live and work cross-culturally, and it can be a challenge to understand the emotions of people around me. Emotion is something filtered through culture, so we don’t always agree on what emotions are, or the value they have, or even what they mean.

Working in Asia, I’m often reminded of my limitations, especially the limits of my own understanding of what is going on around me. If I’m not conscious of how my leadership is affected by my own emotions, I can undermine my team and my work.

To illustrate: many find my co-worker difficult to read. When you first meet him, you’re not sure what he thinks about you. You’re not sure if he is angry, or smoldering, or does he just not care? A few years ago I conducted a 360º evaluation of him for our work. I interviewed everyone around him; his colleagues and direct reports and indirect reports, foreigners and nationals. I found that a large percentage of the Asians who evaluated found him to be “emotional”. …

Everyone agrees mentors help. How can the mentoring relationship work virtually?

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Pamela from the Miller Center, and Matt and Thinzar from ONOW hold their very first (grainy) video call!

The idea of a mentoring program for incubators presented a unique value proposition to us at ONOW Myanmar. We were placed in the virtual cohort of Frontier Incubators, an Australian Aid initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s innovationXchange, and I wasn’t sure how useful the experience could be. A close mentor-mentee relationship is a difficult one to manufacture, but the creation of a virtual cohort added an additional challenge to forming a strong mentoring relationship.

But we were in luck. Frontier Incubators paired us with Pamela Roussos from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, an accelerator program which specialises in virtual mentoring. …

Social enterprise ONOW and Visa invest in storytelling and short messaging as key to leveraging Myanmar’s smartphone revolution for leap to e-money.

Yangon, Myanmar, January 16, 2019ONOW Myanmar has partnered with Visa and USAID to break new ground in combining financial education and entertainment to introduce Myanmar consumers to the benefits of digital financial services (DFS).

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Series Title: Lu Mite Nae Ngwe Ah Tu Ma Nay” (Fools and their money soon part)

Monthly Animated Episodes

The series of eight animated shorts, called “Lu Mite Nae Ngwe Ah Tu Ma Nay” (Fools and their money soon part), is featured in ONOW’s financial health chatbot “Maung Sa Yin Kaing”, which has been used by 35,000 people to learn financial management and entrepreneurship. New episodes will be released every month through June 2019 on m.me/MrFinanceBot.

Joining a virtual cohort of 10 members in early to emerging stages of development

Global leaders in the entrepreneurship incubation field will train and mentor Frontier Incubators participants.

We’re pleased to announce that ONOW has been accepted into the Frontier Incubators Virtual Cohort, launched by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This program has been described as an incubator for incubators, and we’ll receive regular personalized guidance from expert mentors who have been there before!

The question of scale is one we’re going to wrestle with as part of the Frontier Incubators program. …

E-money is moving, but financial incapability is undermining mobile wallets in Myanmar

  • Myanmar isn’t using mobile wallets.
  • Consumers use mobile money to send remittances through agents. Money is cashed in to send, and immediately cashed out upon receipt.
  • Few e-wallet providers are investing in improving financial capability.
  • The future digital financial service reality looks like a fragmented marketplace and little reason for people to ever cash in.
  • Investing in financial capabilities creatively can build trust, increase signups, and reduce account dormancy.

As mobile money providers seem to explode, e-wallets are failing

Myanmar’s mobile money providers are in a sprint to dominate a potentially lucrative market. Wave. OKDollar. M-Pitesan. Ongo. True. KBZ Pay. MPT Money. Grab Money. Alipay. …


Matt Wallace

Leading @ONOWMyanmar to help entrepreneurs startup and succeed to reduce impact of poverty. 12 years experience in Myanmar.

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