Japanese firm launches AI-assisted restaurant search app in Myanmar

YANGON, NNA - A Japanese information technology venture in Myanmar has launched a gourmet information app assisted by artificial intelligence technology to cater to growing numbers of smartphone users in the country.

World Street Myanmar Yathar Co., established by Japan's Aichi Prefecture-based advertising agency Nagata Co. as a major shareholder, says it recently kicked off "Yathar," an app meaning taste in the Myanmar language, to offer personalized recommendations at local eateries and exchange customer feedbacks.

Shunsuke Ichikawa, CEO of the local venture, told NNA that his firm is introducing the dining experience platform in Myanmar because it is good timing to invest in the emerging Southeast Asian economy in light of recent telecommunications infrastructure development.

The nation's telecom market liberalization in 2013 has sharply boosted the smartphone penetration rate from 2 percent in 2011 to 95.6 percent in 2016, according to the International Telecommunication Union's data as cited by the IT venture.

Ichikawa said Yathar will provide users with fair and supportive information based on reviews for various food services ranging from high-end restaurants to stall vendors.

Ichikawa said, "Things in Myanmar have dramatically changed, especially in the food industry" since his arrival five years ago, adding his firm expects the number of Yathar users to reach more than 18 million or around 35 percent of the entire population.

The app functions include interactive exchanges of restaurant information such as word-of-mouth reviews among users with profiles and images and efficient online searches with the help of AI, according to Ichikawa.

The app is available in Yangon, the country's commercial capital, in three languages -- Myanmar, English and Japanese -- and will cover the entire country by the end of the year.

About 400 food services in the city are now connected to the app. World Street Myanmar Yathar aims to attract 1 million users mainly in Yangon with a population of 5 million in the first year, Ichikawa added.

The Japanese IT venture, founded in Yangon in February this year with a registered capital of $500,000, plans to extend the service to two more Southeast Asian countries next year and the entire region by 2020.

Nagata, which handles outdoor signage and transportation ads in Japan, tapped Myanmar as its first overseas market by setting up a local arm in 2014 and entered Malaysia in the same year in a bid to expand its business operations in the region. (NNA/Kyodo)

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