With the increase of the affluence and with more Cambodians embracing online buying, e-commerce revenue is expected to jump around 30 percent to $168 million in 2020 compared with last year, according to a research report from Statista, an analytics company. The number of shoppers online is expected to increase 20 percent to 4.8 million this year. Khmer Times’ reporter Sok Chan spoke to Chea Ratha, founder of Khmum Technology, on the trends of technology in Cambodia, challenges to the micro-small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital era and tech-startup businesses in the wake of COVID-19. Finally, how MSMEs can embrace technology to promote their products.
KT: Could you give us a brief talk about Khmum Technology?
Ratha: Khmum Technology is an IT [information technology] startup that connects consumers and vendors on one marketplace platform. The reason that our team created the Khmum-eShop app, was because we want to feature all the Cambodian products that are of good quality but haven’t yet been discovered by many people or been given a chance to sell in the big supermarkets because they are still micro in size.
Therefore, we want to help those quality local products and give their ceators a chance to showcase themselves to our own Cambodian people as well as the international community to enjoy and support the growth of our local products and our communities.
We handpicked these products ourselves. We test all the products ourselves before we sell them on our Khmum-eShop app. We are growing new categories every day and we are also expanding to have some international products as well. This is because we want the people to enjoy the convenience of one-stop shopping.
Our vision is to take our local products to the global market, as well as provide a platform for MSMEs to be in control of their businesses and capability upgrades toward the digital economy. Khmum-eShop gives vendors the ability to grow their businesses and be in control of their inventory, orders, staff and profit analysis.
KT: What are the mission and activities of the Khmum-eShop?
Ratha: Every month we meet our vendors and feature their products on Khmum-eShop’s. Khmum-eShop is an open mobile application platform for sellers – either business owners or sellers – to collaborate on behalf of businesses that have difficulties accessing the digital market. This month we met our first and loyal vendor from our Khmum-eshop, Madam Peng Sohka, who is the owner of Watthan Artisans Cambodia and IKAT Cafe and homestay. Watthan Artisans Cambodia is a local social enterprise that has been established since 2004 as a showcase of talents for Cambodian disabled artisans (weavers, woodcarvers, tailors…) as well as an opportunity of socio-economic development for vulnerable groups.
Watthan has now grown as a sustainable independent enterprise run by and for Cambodian artisans. The brand is also regarded as a leading player in the recent rebirth of Khmer fine craftsmanship, with its unique and premium designs that combine ancestral savoir-faire and modernity. Also, buyers can buy very delicious foods such as roasted chicken, natural dry fish, dry beef and many other yummy foods and fruits, including organic vegetables from her IKAT Cafe and homestay.
Madam Sohka is currently collaborating with Khmum eShop to help our local artisans, local producers who find it difficult to create their own brand or go online by themself. It is her passion to help sell products from small producers in her shop. Now with a Khmum-eShop we will make their products visible beyond physical shops in Cambodia. She is very proud that thr Khmum eShop is allowing all artisans to list their products free.
KT: What are the other initiatives that Khmum Tech will support the small and medium enterprises locally?
Ratha: Besides helping MSMEs in general we also collaborate with Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA) capacity building committee on some donor proposals for e-commerce platforms where we need to raise the awareness of women entrepreneurs about technology.
We want to enable the capacity of CWEA to help its Cambodia women entrepreneurs to qualify to join the e-market based on international or global standards. Through the revival of the Capacity Building under the Business Clinic Platform such as: A. Educating the SMEs [small and medium enterprises] on how to use the technology and follow the processes. Because they are very new to technology, it will take some time to teach them to be able to manage their virtual store. B. Provide easy access for startups because they don’t need to have a lot of funding to rent a storefront: They can easily create a virtual store and test out their ideas. C. A cheaper business approach to market the product. D. The catalyst between managing a brick and mortar retailing operation and that of a digital shop front. In the digital world, they need to deliver the product to the customer, the packaging needs to be good, accurate data pertaining to delivery addresses, email addresses, accurate product data and accurate inventory systems.
KT: What do you think about e-commerce platforms in Cambodia in the wake of COVID-19?
Ratha: The pandemic has highlighted the glaring need to bridge the digital divide, both within and across countries, given the central role the digital economy has played during the crisis. Many traditional obstacles have been accentuated and have continued to hamper greater participation in e-commerce activities by small producers, sellers and consumers.
This has underscored the need for efficient and affordable information and communications technology (ICT) services, such as telecommunication, computer and other IT services and emerging technologies. The governments has adopted new measures and the private sector has also acted, to respond to and ensure that e-commerce can help to alleviate some of the challenges faced in combating the virus. The global nature of COVID-19 and its impact on e-commerce may encourage strengthened international cooperation and the further development of policies for online purchases and supply. The pandemic has made it clear that e-commerce can be an important tool/solution for consumers.
E-commerce can also support small businesses and, by making economies more competitive, be an economic driver for both domestic growth and international trade. I think when It comes to e-commerce , we need to alert and educate our entrepreneurs on the choices they make between joining an international or global e-commerce platform, how is the economic support to the country to compare with when it comes to joining the local e-commerce platform and resources. COVID-19 has accelerated industry 4.0 [the fourth Industrial Revolution] and if they don’t go with the trend, their businesses will be left out.
KT: How can the technology help the local MSMEs to overcome the challenges especially during the hard-hit situation of the COVID-19?
Ratha: Free listing of no charge for local products. With the Khmum eShop app, vendors can increase their sales via digital marketing that Khmum helps support during COVID-19. They can manage sales reports, inventory, order management and customer support right on my smartphone. Vendors find these features very handy and important when making business plans.
Sales reports can be used in the future if they want to borrow a loan from the bank because it can show a good financial report. Inventory is in one place and easy to manage. Stock is automatically cut when an order is placed and will show “Message out of stock” when the items are sold out.
Order management is a system that helps manage all the orders in one place that will save time and labour. For example, instead of writing down the order one-by-one from multiple customers, everything is stored in the app.
Customer support is coming in handy for maintaining relationships and building brand visibility because customers can chat directly with the vendors. Vendors are very excited that their products are featured in both the Khmum eShop app and Khmum Facebook page where thousands of customers and fans can see and buy their products.
KT: How do the local SMEs take advantage of the technology? What is their awareness? What should you do to embed this knowledge and bring the know-how technology to the SMEs in Cambodia, especially the SMEs in the rural areas and provinces?
Ratha: SMEs can take advantage of the technology by joining the Khmum-eShop because Khmum will take care of the technology side of the business while business owners only need to worry about business as usual or expanding their businesses. A lot of business owners don’t understand how much it costs and what it takes to build a technology infrastructure to serve mobile or web applications. In addition there is also the maintenance cost. This is when a single platform providing services to many SMEs can save costs.
KT: What is your future plan?
Ratha: To collaborate with CWEA’s project proposal that provides training to local SMEs in how to take advantage of the technology in order to survive during COVID-19 and strive post-COVID-19.We as a country should collaborate on our common goal, which is to take our local products to the international market.