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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A chance to build on expectations

SC Capital CEO Jackie Eng talks to the Post from his office in Phnom Penh earlier this month.
SC Capital CEO Jackie Eng talks to the Post from his office in Phnom Penh earlier this month. Pha Lina

A chance to build on expectations

Recently launched SC Capital – whose subsidiaries are engaged in real estate, interior design, marketing and property management – aims to leverage Singaporean expertise to find a niche in Cambodia’s rapidly growing property market. The Post’s Cam McGrath sat down with Jackie Eng, CEO of SC Capital, to discuss the company’s plans and expectations.

How did SC Capital come about?

I arrived in Cambodia about two year ago and started off in Siem Reap, where it was my dream to build a resort. Our plan is to build a second or third tourism spot for Siem Reap with an investment value of about $10 million that includes things like a container hotel, paintball, go-carts and motocross. We have some local partners and land and this is still in the planning process.

After that, I focused on Phnom Penh where we started off a project for sales and marketing of Bodaiju Residences. Operating as SC Alliance, we did the branding and marketing, and formed a sales team. We sold 65 per cent of the 372 units in two months.

We came to understand the whole market after this development, and decided to stand up and be independent, so that’s why I created SC Capital. It is a fully local company managed by Singaporeans that serves as a platform for international projects to come to Cambodia, and for locals to invest out of the country. Our vision is to merge local and international ideas.

You were behind the Bodaiju Card, a membership card that offers privileges at merchant outlets. What’s the story behind this card?

Yes, that’s my baby. We used a strategy concept that we call “curiosity awareness”. I used it in Myanmar and China, and when I brought it to Cambodia I changed the concept a little. Our first full-page ads in newspapers came only with the words, “Bodaiju” and “coming soon”. This created a strong impression and fuelled the public’s curiosity. Nobody could tell you what it was.

We launched the Bodaiju card in June 2015. We tied up with 140 merchants at that time to promote the Bodaiju brand name and collected close to 6,000 users. From that database we got our contacts – about 95 per cent of these were new contacts.

So when we launched the Bodaiju property in August our agents worked from this contact database. Based on a magic number of 30 per cent of the 6,000, close to 500 wanted to buy and became our customers. Some of our merchants also became our buyers too.

You recently restructured the company and moved into a new five-storey building. What are your plans?

We’ve invested close to $1.5 million and have renovated the building, and taken minority shares in some smaller international developments. We used to just act like an agency or a branding marketing company, taking a monetary rate, but when you go into development as a minor shareholder you can enjoy a higher return through market shares, instead of just taking a fee.

So SC Capital is the parent company, which is in charge of presenting the projects and sending them down to its four subsidiaries. We have already tied up with Singaporean, Australian and British firms, and are close to dealing with two property investments right now. They are presenting new concepts not seen before in Cambodia.

Does coming from a developed market like Singapore present more opportunities to experiment?

We want to create something different – things that you don’t have in Cambodia. In my grandfather’s era you could do that in Singapore. So I’m thankful for the opportunity here in Cambodia to allow our generation to do what we can’t do in Singapore.

What can you tell us about your plans for Cambodia’s first pop-up container market? Will it be something like the BoxPark container mall in London?

Edgemark is working on the project. The idea is to create a place for locals to relax with many choices of food and beverage, and retail. They are looking for land between the airport and Tuol Kork and have purchased close to 40 shipping containers of different sizes. The container concept can be very creative – the containers can be stacked up and at different angles with colour coding like Lego.

How much are you investing in the project?

It will cost less than $5 million to build, in terms of running cost. The shipping containers are not expensive, about $2,000 to $4,000 each.

With so many new developments, do you see a bubble forming in the local property market?

There are many people speculating that with all the developments right now there’s going to be an oversupply, but we don’t see that. Right now, there is a question mark on the affordability of the current developments as locals can’t afford them, which is the reason they are buying borey housing. But five years to 10 years from now when all these locals become professionals, they will be able to afford these current developments with their pay. So it’s just about timing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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