Khmer Enterprise (KE) yesterday signed grant agreements with 27 startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for the first and second Khmer Enterprise Assistance Package programme, responding to the challenges and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Cambodian entrepreneurs.
The two rounds of assistance packages amount to approximately $400,000 and a single fund ranges from $5,000 to $20,000 with a maximum period of one year.
KE has received 278 applications from various sectors across 19 provinces and the capital for financial assistance. After going through a thorough evaluation process by KE and 19 private judges, 12 startups and SMEs from the first round and 15 from the second round were selected to receive the grant.
Those selected startups and SMEs are operating in various sectors such as agriculture/agro-processing, handicraft, services and information communication technology (ICT).
It is envisioned KE, a unit under the Ministry of Economy and Finance, is to become the national platform for promoting entrepreneurial activities through leveraging public-private-partnerships. The key prioritised sectors, including tech startups, services, agro-processing and agriculture for export, and manufacturing for import substitution. These are focused on supporting economic diversification, innovation, increasing productivity and job creation.
KE believes that its Assistance Package Programme is an effective strategic response to support potential startups and SMEs in resuming their business operations during and after COVID-19, said Chhieng Vanmunin, CEO of KE. “This is a targeted and strategic solution in response to the current challenges arising from COVID-19, which has made SMEs and startups in Cambodia struggle operationally and financially,” he added. He said KE will continue designing and working with relevant partners to build and foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cambodia. “While the COVID-19 crisis presents a unique and unprecedented challenge, active involvement and engagement from all stakeholders is key to economic recovery,” Vanmunin said.
He added that KE continues to play a significant role to be part of the coping mechanism for startups and SMEs to get through this crisis together. KE will roll out a Khmer Enterprise Assistance Package 3 next year.
Thaung Thyda, the founder of Thaung Enterprise, a salt supplier in Kampot and one of the successful award-recipients said the grant will help her business during the tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thaung Enterprise receives a grant of around $20,000 from the government. “We will use this grant to continue daily operations and improve production. We will use it to develop our marketing development, business development and renovation,” Thyda added. “Our product is not only sold locally, but also internationally, which is why, we need the grant so we can do more marketing,” she added.
Vongsey Vissoth, Permanent Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, stated the grants will help SMEs and startups to survive and grow during the pandemic because they are the engine to boost the economy by creating jobs and added-value, while supporting the Kingdom’s economic growth. “Many SMEs have suffered during this pandemic, especially those who started their businesses on a small scale. Therefore, Khmer Enterprise will play a significant role as new leverage to push entrepreneurs from startups and SMEs to become agents to enhance economic growth and value-added creation in the economy. Also, these agents will become the key to addressing challenges in business and value chains and to create new business models in the country,” he added.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought about a joint-investment with SMEs, but we are now giving them grants initially to help them to survive in COVID-19 times. They are companies with potential. If we allow them die, they will not able to re-grow, but if we support them now to help them stay alive, they will expand in the future,” Vissoth said. He added this shows that the governance model and agile programme-implementation approach has started to create synergy in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, ensuring a balance between the demands of business owners and the goal of the programme – and especially these tasks have provided the confidence and trust in relevant stakeholders that the Entrepreneurship Development Fund will be able to achieve its goal to build a vibrant entrepreneurial system in Cambodia in terms of both quantity and quality in the long-run.