This project was initiated by: Ko Shwe Ventures Pte. Ltd.

We are a social enterprise with a commercially viable business model that develops and sells affordable, tested oral care products to betel addicts, most earning under US$10 per day. Our business aims to serve the 22 million betel chewers in Myanmar, and more than 600 million chewers across the Region. Regular chewers suffer from multiple short and longer term oral diseases. We invested two-years of R&D to develop the most effective, appealing products at the lowest price point. The products are the first to directly target betel chewers. In addition, we developed a powerful distribution network, having mapped more than 6,000 betel shops. Our products are targeted to the needs of customers and affordable for betel users. We have developed extensive and relevant distribution channels to counter competition. We are aiming to improve the incomes of our network of betel sellers by 30% within 3 years. Currently we are in test market phase, with our full-scale launch planned for Q2 2018.

Ko Shwe Ventures Pte. Ltd. has been endorsed by:

Targeted Oral Care Solutions for Betel Chewers


Project Summary

Developed the first targeted oral care products, designed to improve the oral health of low-income betel chewers in Myanmar and across Asia

Problem

Betel addicts suffer from severe short and longer term negative health impacts as a result of their chewing. In the short term chewers suffer from severe sensitivity and inflammation of the mouth. Chewers report being unable to eat sour or spicy foods. Betel chewing causes intense teeth staining, which chewers report makes it harder to find jobs, or meet partners. Longer term, 1-2% of chewers per year develop oral sub mucous fibrosis, a pre cancerous condition that causes severely restricted movement of the jaw. 7% of oral sub mucous fibrosis sufferers develop oral cancer per year. Around 95% of oral cancer cases in Myanmar are the direct result of betel chewing, and it is the third highest cancer across the entire population. Betel sellers are often totally reliant upon the sale of betel nut for their income. The betel leaf, a key component of this preparation, is a volatile crop, and sometimes rapidly increases in price diminishing sellers' income.

Solution

Our solution is to sell oral care products that minimise the short term impacts of betel chewing, and promote the longer term oral health of chewers. Our products are designed for low income betel chewers, and prices range from US$0.075 to US$0.24 per unit (sufficient for 1 day). To date we have developed and tested a unique chewing gum formula, a mouthwash and toothpaste. We will sell our products at the same shops that sell betel nut, thereby being easily available for even the lowest income betel addicts, and improving the businesses of betel sellers, rather than threatening their livelihoods. In phase 1, our products are designed to reduce the negative impacts of betel chewing, not as addiction cessation therapies. We are working on an addiction cessation therapy as a second phase, and have filed for a patent with our partner at the University of Florida, a world leading addiction expert. Our products are designed to be scaled across the region.

Ask

We are seeking USD600,000 to be used for scaling quickly to reach the 23 million betel chewers in Myanmar. We are currently in the proof of concept stage, and will launch in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city in May 2018. By October we intend to scale up and target countrywide distribution. We are seeking USD200,000-USD300,000 of equity investment to fund our countrywide scale up. Funds will primarily go towards marketing, further product development and improvements and scale up cash flow requirements. We are seeking another USD100,000-USD200,000 of loans to support our cash flow requirements. We are seeking a grant of USD200,000-USD300,000 for education/marketing purposes, to educate betel chewers of the dangers of betel addiction, to support partnerships with leading public health organisations and to fund our research and development and clinical trials for an addiction cessation product.
 
 
 

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