Lei Ye Soe won the Startup Israel 2016 Competition last month in Yangon, organised by the Myanmar Computer Federation and in collaboration with the Embassy of Israel in Yangon.
In this interview with Mizzima’s Hong Sar just ahead of her trip to Israel September 24-29 to join other startup developers from around the world, Lei Ye Soe talks about her product and the opportunities for women and youth in terms of innovation and product development.
How do you feel after winning the Israeli embassy’s startup contest?
I feel happy. I know I will get much knowledge from this DLD conference (in Israel), which will be the first time for me. And Israel is the country which promotes and encourages startups and it is well known for that. And as a startup, I feel very happy when I know they will help me in promoting my business.
Can you tell us about your project?
We developed customised software, especially for the garment industry. Most of the workers in the garment industry are female workers. So I developed this software as a Product Management System in this industry and for the benefit of other manufacturing industries though they are not my own garment industry.
How will the software help your industry?
In the manufacturing industry, the main input is raw materials. There is much wastage and damage in the processing of these raw materials until they turn into finished products. And most of the industries in Myanmar have not yet used computerised systems. All of the data is recorded by hand in books. So when you want to retrieve the information you need, you have to find the data you want in these books by hand too. And it is very difficult for checking for damage and wastage.
Can you explain the software and provide an example?
Our software records all raw materials as soon as they reach the manufacturing plant. And then the raw materials are taken out for processing. For instance, in the garment industry, they are cut. At this stage, a number of raw materials will be reduced in stocks recorded in the software too. After cutting, these raw materials are put on the processing line. And then there will be shortages and damages. You cannot get back a 100 percent finished product from raw materials. The percentage may be 50 or sometimes maybe 20 percent. There will be damage and shortages at this stage. Sometimes cutters make wrong cutting and sometimes inadvertently damage the fabric. If we cannot systematically control this stage, we cannot know who caused these shortages and damage, the cutters or sewing line workers. Our Production Management System was developed to trace all these stages in ascertaining the damages and wastage in production.
Can you tell me your background and how you entered this field?
I attended the Computer University in 2003 and I met my teacher in 2004. After two years with my teacher, my course was completed and I lost contact with her. One year after my graduation, I joined Total Kids School as a teacher. I met my teacher again after two and half years in this school. And then we started a computer training school together. After running this training school for about two years, we started Customized Software Solution. We founded this business in 2015. My teacher is one of the founders.
What are the main challenges in Myanmar garment industry and industrial zones?
The main challenges in our garment industry and industrial zones are the management of workers in their performance and product management from raw material to finished products because a lot of raw materials are received in the production units every day. Many workers are used in the handling of these raw materials. This way, there is a huge shortage of manpower in another sector of the production. If we can do proper management by better monitoring each stage of the production line from raw materials to finished products, we can give more assignments to workers in other areas.
Do you think your software solution can solve and ease problems being faced in manufacturing industries?
Yes, we can reduce these problems. As I said to you before, they recorded their work in books by hand for the entire process of the production, from raw material to finished products. So it is very difficult and troublesome to retrieve required data and information. This work is painstaking and laborious for them. In the processing line also, they don’t know how much finished product was manufactured in which line and what the delivery date for this and that processing line is easily and quickly. By using our software solution, they can know instantly the period of one day, two days or one month, how much they could manufacture in that period and how much they have to deliver in a certain period.
Can you tell us about the innovation programme in Israel?
This will be the first ever such event in Israel. It can be said the first ever event especially conducted for the promotion of women entrepreneurs. I am the first ever woman participant in this event. Many women participated in other events but this is the first ever event for Myanmar women. We did our best in developing our products as a startup but could not yet develop so much as we cannot yet get the investment we want. But I believe we can do much better if they can find us investors. We will meet nearly 30 women entrepreneurs coming from thirty countries, maybe more than that. We will gather at a camp. We will do pitching together, attending workshops together. In this way, we will get better networking in our business. And we can meet with well-established companies there. So they will be very helpful to our development work.
Which companies are also taking part in this contest?
About 9 teams participated in this contest. Some of them are students and some are startups like us. Some of them are from the education field and some are from the food industry.
How will this Startup 2016 Contest help you, in personal development and as a company?
It is very helpful to us because this contest gave me a good opportunity to visit Israel and study there. It will be very helpful in my personal development. And then I must do pitching (presentation) on stage. I must attend seminars and workshops. This will be very helpful to me and for my company, the event will be very helpful for products and marketing.
What message would you like to convey to other youth who are studying in Myanmar and who are working in this field?
Before this contest, I participated in another five or six contests and I got a lot of experience from them. One should not give in after failing in one contest. They need to continue their efforts and studies. If one stops and gives in after failing in a contest, he or she will be left at this point. So I’d like to urge my fellow youth to continue their work and effort with a firm belief (they will succeed).