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SIM cards as status symbols

The rich people, they need something special to show they have money and power.

CELL phone numbers are becoming a sign of social status in Cambodia, and a new firm aims to collect on the trend by offering SIM cards for up to thousands of dollars.

KhmerSim.com’s Managing Director Kong Piseth said demand for SIM cards with  “lucky” or “VIP” numbers was coming primarily from the Kingdom’s businessmen, who were keen to portray their wealth.

“The rich people, they need something special to show they have money and power,” he said.

What constitutes a “VIP” or “lucky” number depends on the customer. Some prefer numbers that are easy to remember, but it is repeating digits in particular that often demand serious cash.

Its website offered several Star-Cell numbers – such as 098 79 7777 – for US$2,830, and a selection of Mobitel numbers for $1,530, including 017 43 7777.

On the other end of the spectrum, Smart’s 010 82 0003 was on offer from KhmerSim.com for $10.

“So far we have not sold any in the thousands, but we have sold some that cost $200 or $300,” he said late last week.

Although the company is only a few months old, it claims to have already sold “hundreds” of SIM cards.With five employees, it is planning to begin contacting high-powered businessmen directly to expand sales.

KhmerSim.com acts as a middleman for “dealers” who obtain the SIMs, said Kong Piseth – though he declined to reveal the identity of the dealers, calling it a company secret.

Gary Foo, marketing manager at mobile provider Hello, said some SIMs sell for considerable amounts of money.

“The price to pay for special numbers does go sky-high sometimes,” he wrote last week.

Consumers have come to see certain numbers as a means to demonstrate their individual social status, with the more expensive the number conferring the owner’s social standing.

Repeating numbers or easy to remember digits are very popular, he said, but added there was also a cultural component to what constituted special numbers, particularly with Chinese influence.

The number eight represents prosperity in Chinese culture, and often shows up in “lucky” numbers, according to Gary Foo.

Some numbers also have meanings attached to them in Chinese languages, such as 118, which combines to mean “everyday prosperity” in Cantonese.

Piseth Kong said there were another two or three Cambodian websites in the same business as KhmerSim.com, but competition was likely to grow further over time.

He claimed Metfone was the most popular SIM requested from the company, with Mobitel coming in second and Beeline rounding out at a close third.

The most expensive number on rival site KhmerSimCard.com displayed yesterday was 015 888 848, which was on offer for $980.

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