With a focus on up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Cambodia’s first boutique office and retail
development Raintree is proving a hit in the Kingdom’s progressive business circles
WHILE the idea of shared office pantries, shower rooms for cyclists and pre and post work yoga classes may seem more fitting for the offices and retail spaces of Silicon Valley and Brooklyn, for Zoe Ng, the director and manager of the recently-completed Raintree retail and office development, it’s what helps develop a more communal and collaborative approach to work and sustain young Cambodian businesses and entrepreneurs.
“I think people are starting to realize organic brands that are born and bred in Cambodia are maybe more rooted in consumer preferences or local context. So I think to develop those, you need to collaborate,” she says.
Born in Malaysia and educated in the UK and the US, Ng has been hopping back and forth to Cambodia over the past 10 years working with McKinsey & Company as a consultant before moving to Google.
“When I joined Google, which was in the business organization, we just moved into a new building, which kind of sets the bar for a creative and collaborative office in London.”
It was her time in Google’s offices that inspired Ng to collaborate with Cambodian architect Hok Kang, designer and co-founder of the Brown coffee franchise, to develop a retail and office space in the heart of Cambodia’s central business district. She describes Raintree as having an international standard with a Khmer soul.
“I think Cambodian organizations are changing their working culture. I see more open-plan office space and working space,” she says.
“It used to be all my manager’s officers were here and director’s offices there, but now they realize you have to be a little bit more collaborative to be more productive in the 21st century, and that’s what we are trying to introduce here.”
Ng explains that Raintree’s focus is rooted in flexibility and community, terms not often bandied about in Phnom Penh’s business culture, with the development differentiating itself in its low-density, open plan, industrial aesthetic.
Its business ethos is proving to be popular with local residents and expats alike. Their retail space is at full capacity and their office occupancy is at 60 percent, with a number of international businesses, including Microsoft’s first office in the country, as well as Cambodian non-profits like Teach for Cambodia and Happy Football filling its halls.
“It matters who your neighbors are and who works upstairs and whether those organizations support your organizations, so it’s a bit more of an ecosystem,” she says.
Their focus on young Cambodian businesses is a key feature of the development, with Ng eager to provide support.
“We basically look at each organization on an individual basis, it’s the same way we work with our retail tenants and ask where they are in terms of growth, how can we support that on a very bespoke one-on-one-basis,” Ng says.
While the rent is not cheap, set at around $20 per-square-meter, Raintree can alleviate this with progressive policies such as discounted or exchange-for-services for start-up tenants, as well as providing corporate training and event space in the Canopy loft event space on the top floor which hosted Raintree’s launch party last week.
For Australian-Cambodian Sophi Vann, owner of Poise Mera florists, who has opened up her second outlet at Raintree with plans for a third in the future, Raintree’s communal approach to retail and office space as well as opportunities for capacity building and growth proved an attractive space to invest in.
“Raintree’s management team had been extremely supportive from the start, through design, consultation and marketing plans,” she says.
“Poise will flourish with Raintreee through it’s sense of community and professional support.”
As Cambodia’s business and retail culture continues to develop, Ng says she looks forward to helping develop and grow young Cambodian businesses and watch them blossom with Raintree’s help.
“For those organizations that have a bit more of a progressive approach to work and understand that if you’re in a really boring office, your staff may not be as happy and they may not be as inspired,” she says.
“I think it’s about supporting their businesses as a whole, not just by giving them quality space and the right community but also supporting them in terms of marketing, how they think about their business and business development.”