Seeing Problems as Golden Bite-sized Opportunities
Through his experience participating in the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program, Moe Htet Kyaw gained a radically different perspective on the purpose of a business. Instead of focusing on profit and personal enrichment, he’s witnessing firsthand the potential for a social enterprise to make a positive impact on the community.
Shwe Bite, Lunch Box CEO
Managing Partner, Hotel Duo Swan
When Moe Htet Kyaw returned to his native Myanmar in spring 2017—after participating in the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program—he starting working in an office again. After the experience he had gained, he found that he was hungry not only for lunch, but also for social change.
Two problems soon became apparent: there were office workers like him who needed better options for lunch in the city, and there was a lack of job opportunities for Myanmar’s women. The former software developer decided to address both issues at once with a completely new concept, a door-to-door lunch delivery startup called Shwe Bite.
―Simple, Healthy Solution
Shwe Bite literally means “golden bite,” and the concept is simple. Office workers in Myanmar’s city of Yangon use the company’s app to order lunch and have it delivered to their workplace. Instead of offering food prepared by a restaurant, Shwe Bite partners with local housewives to provide healthy and delicious home-cooked meals for little more than the cost of typical street food.
Moe knows all too well how busy office workers in Yangon may have neither the time nor the ability to cook for themselves. This leaves them with the option of either purchasing food on the street, where they run the risk of being exposed to poor hygiene, or going to a restaurant, where prices are high. That’s where Shwe Bite found its niche—offering low-cost choices from a range of foods across Myanmar’s diverse ethnic groups.
Meanwhile, the nearly 20 housewives who cook for Shwe Bite earn extra income for their children’s education and family’s wellbeing, all from the comfort of their own home. This is especially important in a country where half of women don’t have jobs, and those who do earn less than men for the same work.
Being a cook is sometimes about more than just a paycheck. Moe recounts one retired woman who wanted to make the meals her own children used to enjoy. “It’s not like we are selling the food, we’re passing the passion from one person to another,” he says. “We are not just sharing the food, we are sharing the love with each other. That’s why we always say Shwe Bite is food with passion.”
Having taken an MBA course and run his own company before, Moe was no stranger to the importance of leadership in business. Yet, he feels that the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program framed leadership in a whole new dimension. “My mindset of a leader changed,” he says. “A leader is someone who shows the possibilities for the people around them.”
In addition to leadership, Moe cites a different perspective on business as another key takeaway from the program. “I used to be a little selfish,” he reflects. “My focus was only on profit and not on the community. Now I feel like the program has helped me become a better version of myself. I feel very secure to live in this world by contributing to other people.”
He goes on to explain, “After I returned to Myanmar, I started thinking about the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Goals.” Indeed, Shwe Bite manages to fulfill three of those goals by ensuring that people have access to healthy meals, empowering women with employment, and fostering sustainable economic growth.
The benefit of knowledge-sharing is also something Moe has witnessed with Shwe Bite. He and his team initially created an online community for the home cooks to provide a basic accounting model and help them understand how to profitably prepare meals. Not only was that effective, it had other unanticipated effects, such as allowing cooks to share ideas and support each other with family issues.
Students in the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program also learn about the importance of gemba, or going into the field to better understand business issues. Moe took this to heart. In addition to visiting the homes of cooks, he says, “we visited office workers during lunch and saw what they really wanted.”
This yielded valuable feedback and led Shwe Bite to prepare lunchboxes that are specifically attuned to the needs of office workers, such as using smaller pieces of chicken that are easier to pick up with a spoon. It also helped the company innovate, adding traditional side dishes of pickled green tea leaves to the lunchboxes, something competitors were not doing. “It’s a small innovation, but we’re seeing what customers really want,” he says.
―Room to Grow
Shwe Bite is still a young company, and Moe hopes to improve the scalability of his business as well as its profitability. “If we don’t empower ourselves, we won’t be able to empower women,” he notes.
Currently, the business operates under a 20% profit margin, but Moe knows he needs to increase that if the business is to grow and become a truly sustainable social enterprise. Nevertheless, he and his team have set forth the goal of making Shwe Bite the biggest food catering platform in Myanmar.
While also considering other business activities based on the Shwe Bite model, Moe says that, in the long term, he’d like to apply both his skills and vision to the public sector. “In the future, I hope to become a more thoughtful leader and make a bigger impact on people’s lives.” He says he hopes to use technology and Big Data to enable municipal governments to make decisions that create more opportunities and better the lives of citizens.
Shwe Bite has served more than 21,000 lunch boxes and, as demand is on the rise, Moe and his team continue to push Shwe Bite towards sustainability—both of the business and society—one lunch at a time.
①Summary of what was learned, changes in leadership
“My mindset of a leader changed. A leader is someone who shows the possibilities for the people around them and shows them how to better their lives.”
②Scenes or situations to apply what was learned during the program
“I’ve really been able to apply the concepts of seeing the situation in the field by visiting office workers and learning about their lunchbox needs. Knowledge-sharing has also strengthened our community of home cooks.”
③One sentence summary of the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program
“It’s a leadership program to change yourself to become a better leader: to do more, be more considerate, and inspire others.”