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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - RMA invests $3 million in Sihanoukville

RMA invests $3 million in Sihanoukville

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Rami B Sharaf, CEO of RMA, speaks to the Post in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

RMA, a specialist provider of system solutions in automotive, power generation and heavy equipment, began operations in Cambodia in the mid-1980s, when it was a transitional, post-conflict market. In the early 1990s, RMA began to represent major world-class brands including Ingersoll-Rand, 3M, SDMO, JCB and Ford. Almost 1,000 people work for RMA in Cambodia, alongside its sister company, Express Food.

Rami B Sharaf, the chief executive officer of RMA Group Cambodia, dealing with the automotive sector, infrastructure, agriculture and food franchising, talked to the Post’s May Kunmakara about the company’s progress.

Why did you decide to operate in Cambodia?

The reasons we are in Cambodia is that, first, this was where the genesis of the company’s origins took place, as we were supporting the development of infrastructure in the country using our products, services and contract support at a very early stage.

Second, we believe that we are in the right place at the right time: Cambodia is entering a new era and will be playing a key role in ASEAN. We believe that the private sector has a crucial role to play in the future economic development of Cambodia.  

What types of vehicle do you produce?

There is no production as such, but conversions which enable manufacturer’s vehicles to become fit for purpose. The vehicles include Ford, Land Rover, TATA, Nissan, Mazda and General Motors products. The solutions we apply to these vehicles are designed and manufactured in-house by RMA. We have a very sophisticated engineering facility that designs, fits and tests the appropriate solution to a vehicle.

This spans everything from an air filter that keeps even very tiny particles out of the engine intake, up to full-scale conversions. So, for example, the facility in Sihanoukville was initially to build ambulances on Ford Ranger vehicles. We exported 1,000 of these; then we decided to upgrade the facility and equip it and man it to be ready to assemble Ford Everest SUVs.

The conversions are bespoke, so it depends entirely on the client’s requirements and to where the vehicle will be dispatched. RMA supplies pickups, SUVs, LCV [light commercial vehicles], vans, and medium to heavy trucks.

What is special about the Cambodian market?

Cambodians are quick learners and very eager to catch up with neighbouring developed countries; they want to start where others ended. So they are always in catch-up mode, which puts us on an accelerated growth curve right now. We are seeing the country’s new leaders beginning to emerge.

I also think Cambodia is one of the most welcoming countries in ASEAN for investors. There is zero discrimination between a local investor and a foreign investor.

Once approved, the right project can enjoy an atmosphere to develop, and that is encouraged by the Ministry of Commerce, Cambodian Development Council and Ministry of Finance, all of which are very welcoming.

Who are your customers?

Typically, they comprise the government, retailers, the military and commercial enterprises. These four types of client basically form the platform for commercial growth, both now and in the future.

What we would like to see is a greater level of engagement between ourselves and smaller private enterprises that would like to become involved with NGO work.

We are a proven partner to the United Nations, the Red Cross and many NGOs, and we have the infrastructure and support mechanisms in place to enable our partners to enjoy commercial growth in developing sectors, including in emerging markets.

Where does RMA build vehicles and how much did you invest?  

We have been modifying Ford Everest vehicles and engineering our own bespoke solutions at RMA’s Sihanoukville factory since the end of 2011. RMA has invested over $3 million into the facility and in training the local population.

What range of vehicles do you produce?

There is no production but a full conversion capability. The vehicles we produce are purpose-built vehicles for all manner of operations in difficult and challenging terrains, everything from armoured vehicles for use in areas of conflict to mobile medical and strategic command platforms. The assembly plant has a production capacity of 1,000 vehicles assembled locally per year.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at kunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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