Okka Phyo Maung is the Co-founder and CFO of RecyGlo – the first ever innovative recycling service solution in Myanmar.
Human Asia had the chance to interview Okka recently.
Please provide a brief overview of RecyGlo.
Okka: Recyglo is the first ever innovative recycling service solution in Myanmar. Started by three founders who are passionate about social impact and sustainability, our mission is to process recyclable materials in a safe and responsible manner. We provide recyclable waste pick-up and recycling services to responsible corporations and organizations, in addition to waste audit and secure document disposal services. Currently, Recyglo provides recycling services to two high-end office towers, one international school, and a few INGO offices and companies.
What inspired you to build RecyGlo?
Okka: I worked in the non-profit sector before I studied abroad in the U.S. and I studied sustainable energy engineering and later went to business school in Belgium. Basically, I was into the green business since the beginning.
I was inspired by the many environmental consortium and sustainable businesses that were happening in the developed world where I studied and worked before. Right now Myanmar is full of opportunities. You could be the first in anything and I want to be the first in green business. Since I came back to Myanmar, I have been learning a lot from others and have a steep learning curve for starting a startup business.
What is the customer segment that you will target?
Okka: The service for now is for businesses in Yangon and later we plan to go into both downstream and upstream markets of waste management and international and domestic waste trading. The market size for Yangon alone for recyclable waste is 23 million USD in one year, and this is only for private recyclable pick up service alone. This is calculated based on the the size of the recyclable waste that are dumped in the dump site.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey until now?
Okka: Persuading potential investors to believe that sustainable business can be profitable. More often than not, they see us as more of a CSR (corporate social responsibility) program or a social impact business rather than a profitable and scalable business. We are now proving that we are a profitable business with significant revenue and profit.
What are the direct environmental benefits attached to RecyGlo?
Okka: We offer direct sustainable business-to-business services in Yangon. These businesses never had the opportunity to segregate their waste and recycle. Now, they are enjoying the practice of recycling the way it should be. Our aim is not to drive out business away from the scavengers, but rather to do a systematic job of recycling waste.
Okka, please tell us briefly about yourself, educational and professional experience before starting RecyGlo.
Okka: I am from the northern part of Myanmar and was born in the city of Kyaingtong close to the infamous Golden Triangle area. I went to high school in Yangon and later went to the local college there. Later, I won several scholarships to study and work abroad in the U.S., Europe and East Asian countries. I came back in 2017 and got a job as an consultant for Ernst & Young before I co-founded RecyGlo.
How did you meet your co-founders and how do you manage to unify everyone’s mission and vision?
Okka: I met my co-founders in a startup challenge. Initially there were five of us, and we won the challenge in the most competitive industry and we decided to start the company in Myanmar and while having the holding company in Singapore. As time went by, two co-founders decided to move on and now there are three of us.
One interesting fact is that one of our ex co-founders came back to work for the company. We accommodated him to the fullest and he is enjoying working working with us now.
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How important is education on sustainability?
Okka: I think it is very important especially for emerging economies. These economies are growing and developing fast and they need to understand about sustainability.
Where do you see yourself a few years from now?
Okka: I see myself a leading downstream and upstream waste management platforms in Myanmar where people benefit from. The medium term plan is to expand it into other South East Asian market.
What advice would you like to convey to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Okka: Being an entrepreneur is not an easy job and it involves many risks such as your career, financial risk, reputation risk, et cetera. It is difficult when you start the whole thing from scratch and even more difficult when you are raising a family.
However, if you like what you are doing, you believe in your business and the business model, this is a challenge that you should take. The ROI will be higher than you expect. Our previous generation of entrepreneurs started today’s businesses. We should now be building up modern businesses for our coming generations.
You can visit RecyGlo at https://www.recyglo.com/
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