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A drive to start her own business

10 Soth Chantha Scott Howes

Higher education, good relationships and a little bit of luck helped businesswoman Soth Chantha to gain a foothold in Phnom Penh’s prospering car rental sector, she told the Post in an interview on Monday.

The 27-year-old businesswoman, who is also a member of the Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association, is managing director of the Daily Transportation Car Rental Service, which she set up in late 2007 after studying at the well-known CamED Business School.  

Besides the Daily Transportation Car Rental Service, the dynamic businesswoman also formerly managed a food and beverage unit as well as several other projects.

“At first, my parents helped me with financial assistance, but with management and communication with clients, I had to learn that by myself,” she said.

Besides her education and the support of her parents, Phnom Penh-born Chantha’s contact network served as a crucial foundation for her success.

A friend who had worked for NGOs came up with the idea to set up a car rental service when his boss needed to rent a car.

“I bought a car [for] $4,000, and then I rent it out for 10 days per month. I still made profit . . . and I had 20 days for driving it by myself,” she said, adding that her business improved gradually.

“At that time, I learned there was [minimal] service for this sector, and I made profit easily,” she said.

However, it was sometimes difficult for Chantha as she took charge of her new business.

“At first, it was hard to make anyone trust us, until a friend helped us to introduce our car rental service [to others].”

Gradually, her company became profitable, and she decided to a second rental car three months later.

According to Chantha, her business continues to expand due largely to strong networks with local NGOs who rent her cars. So far, most of her clients are foreigners working in Cambodia.

She also tries to keep her costs to a minimum, she says.

“When the [company] was small, services such as insurance or maintenance were not included because we had no time to do it. Now, that we extended our services, it is necessary to buy those products.”

At the outset, Daily Transportation Car Rental Service charged $40 for 12 hours around Phnom Penh, including a driver. Now, the company has added a $5 service charge for insurance, maintenance and better-quality cars.

Chantha also charges more than many similar rental companies, because “I have drivers who know the time and directions clearly, and they know where most of the traffic jams are,” she said.

So far, the company employs 20 drivers for 20 cars, as well as four support staff.

As about 80 per cent of her clients work for Japanese companies, the company’s fleet is mostly made in Japan.

According to Chantha, competition in the market is not a challenge, but can be helpful. “Sometimes we also co-operate with other companies in case we don’t have enough cars for our customers.”

She said that due to her young age, troubles at the company upset her easily at the beginning. However, workshops and training courses on management and marketing helped her to better deal with such situations.

“They stopped me from failures. I need to learn from other successful business people,” she said, adding that most of her initial difficulties were due to poor management systems.

“For the next three or five years, I plan to extend my services to provide transport services at the Special Economic Zone in which Japanese companies [are] located.”

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