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Smile Shop founder reveals motivation behind start-up

Marie Lamy / Khmer Times Share:
Mr Lee flanked by Smile Shop staffers. KT/Siv Channa

Technology has created unprecedented markets for potential investors by changing daily consumer habits. An example of this is the rise of well-known e-commerce sites such as Khmer24, Last2Tickets and Phsar that have quickly become popular in The Kingdom. Khmer Times’ Marie Lamy spoke to Jack Lee founder of “Smile Shop”, a mobile e-commerce application entering the market.

Before stepping foot in Cambodia, Jack Lee lived in Qingdao city in China, where he spent a decade as Haier’s market director.

Mr Lee had spent years working in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam until he finally decided to settle in Phnom Penh, where he decided to found Smile Shop.

He says he understands the Southeast Asian market well, and his mobile app aims to compete against other e-commerce sites in the Kingdom.

“Leaving my former job was not an easy decision because I had learned a lot,” Mr Lee says. “However, it was time for me to start my own company.”

“Today, Smile Shop is making a difference in the e-commerce sector in Cambodia,” he adds.

Mr Lee says Smile Shop released in October 2018, and it is available for download on iOS and Android devices.

He says the company aspires to be Cambodia’s largest online marketplace, offering curated high-quality products to its customers.

“The focus has consistently remained [providing] the highest quality standards to customers,” Mr Lee says, adding his site offers competitive prices.

A user browses Smile Shop on her device. The app is available for iOS and Android. KT/Siv Channa

Smile Shop targets young Cambodians who are never far from their mobile devices. In the Kingdom, data rates are among the cheapest in the world with $1 per ten-gigabyte download.

Mr Lee says competitors want to be like Alibaba founder Jack Ma, but Mr Lee said the market in China is not the same as in Cambodia.

However, this does not stop him from striving to learn about locals and their daily habits.

While some cultural barriers are more apparent than others, lack of trust between customers and companies remains a glaring issue.

A woman who only goes by Lekna says she once bought cream from online and the product irritated her skin.

“The price was cheap for the brand, but after using the cream for some days, I realised it was fake because my skin was damaged,” Ms Lekna says.

Mr Lee says Lekna’s case will not happen under his company.

He says many of his competitors in the Kingdom utilise social media to promote products, but they do not deter him from going forward with Smile Shop.

“Using social media sites like Facebook is free – anyone can do it,” he says. “Yet, many people are scammed with fake products every day.”

“Smile Shop protects customer rights with its company policy,” Mr Lee adds.

However, the real challenge is on the consumer side where 78 percent of the population in the Kingdom remains unbanked and predominately have little trust in online transactions.

Still, Mr Lee persists to create a simple user interface with an accessible payments method. He says paying for Smile Shop products can be made online or when an item is delivered.

Smile Shop founder Jack Lee.
KT/Siv Channa

He says service centres are open to feedback, returns can be done within seven days and exchanges can be made within 14.

Mr Lee says Smile Shop is aiming to outgun other sites by prioritising customer service.

He recently partnered with Grab and this year other brands will collaborate as well.

E-commerce is boosting small and medium businesses and Mr Lee wants his company to do the same.

E-commerce companies tend to make more profit than traditional retailers.

According to MangoTango Asia’s e-commerce report in 2017, awareness of cashless transactions is advantageous, but professionals need to be well educated.

The government has actively been supporting e-businesses.

In November it introduced the Law on Electronic Commerce and the Law on Consumer Protection.

These always are aimed to attract more investors and curb counterfeit products harmful to consumers.

The number of start-ups in the Kingdom is expected to double over the next three years.

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