Olivia Wided, executive director of BritCham (British Chamber of Commerce) Cambodia has all the facts on British business in the Kingdom. She sat down with the Post’s Moeun Nhean to give a concise overview.
Could you tell me briefly about BritCham’s background in Cambodia? What was the purpose in creating a British Chamber of Commerce here?
The British Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (BritCham) was founded as the British Business Association of Cambodia in 1995 by Senaka Fernando MBE. In 2013, it was officially registered as a Chamber of Commerce with the Cambodian government.
At its core, the British Chamber provides a forum for businesspeople with an interest in Cambodia and the UK. It is important to underscore that it is not exclusive to British businessmen and women. We welcome all individuals with an interest in the UK and Cambodia.
Our mission is to assist our members in building their business networks, to connect them to each other and to others, to create business opportunities for them, and last but not least, to help them grow their business. Moreover, for British companies in market, a national chamber like BritCham can strengthen their brand image as a British company and consequently, can allow them to distinguish themselves for having a standard of doing business.
We do this through a number of different ways, including the provision of full-time support available through a permanent secretariat, organising regular business events, and by facilitating our members with a channel to a strong network of British Chambers in Southeast Asia (BiSEA). Additionally, we also promote trade and investment between the UK and Cambodia, focusing particularly on encouraging business-to-business (B2B) links between the two countries.
In fact, the British Chamber is working closely with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the British Embassy to assist in strengthening the capability of the UK’s global B2B support network. This comes as part of a wider effort by the British Government to increase the number of UK exporters among small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Research has found that SMEs are more likely to seek information and advice from their business peers. As such, business networks like a Chamber of Commerce can offer an effective route to providing business with support to export.
With this in mind, from next year, the Chamber will begin to develop core services to UK SMEs interested in the Cambodian market, thereby providing them with a soft landing to begin exporting to the country.
On a broader level and reiterating the ambassador’s remarks in his introduction to this supplement, as the UK recognises the potential for economic development in Cambodia, the British Chamber and UKTI are working towards a shared objective. This comprises of encouraging more British companies in general to explore opportunities here, providing a more joined-up network for existing British businesses here, and working together on regulatory or other issues which need to be discussed with the
Cambodian Government. On this last point in particular, our close partnership with UKTI and the British Embassy provides a medium where our members can lobby their concerns and challenges to the Cambodian Government.
How many UK companies have already entered the Cambodian market and what is their main interest in the country?
It is difficult to give a precise figure on the number of British companies entering Cambodia. There is, however, a strong presence of British companies operating in a number of key sectors. They include companies like Jardines, Quantum Clothing, Hongkong Land, Prudential, Standard Chartered Bank, Marks & Spencer, Dewhirst, Bruntys Cider, Land Rover and Jaguar, to name a few. The accounting sector for example, is well-represented in the market, with five big British accounting firms present in Cambodia: PwC, KPMG, E&Y, Deloitte and Grant Thornton.
In Cambodia, UK companies are finding opportunities in education, construction, retail, automotive, agribusiness, tourism and financial services. However, the UK is also leading in other sectors. As Cambodia’s economy continues to develop, we could see the entry into the market of UK companies in the legal and creative services for example. Moreover, with a rapidly growing consumer class, there may be an increasing demand for UK luxury goods.
British architects are also well sought out globally and have made their mark here in Cambodia. The emblematic Vattanac Tower was designed by the architectural firm TFP Farrells, which is one of the UK’s leading architects, with offices in London and Hong Kong.
What was the value of trade and investment between UK and Cambodia in the past few years?
By the end of 2013, two-way trade between the UK and Cambodia surpassed US$1 billion in 2013 for the first time, which marked a significant milestone. During the first quarter of 2014, bilateral trade has increased by 24.1 per cent ($358 million).
What are the largest investment projects from UK companies in Cambodia and how has the Cambodian government been helping UK businesses?
To-date, large investment projects in Cambodia from British companies have been made by British American Tobacco (BAT), Quantum Clothing, Bruntys Cider and Prudential, to name a few. Hongkong Land is the latest British company to invest in Cambodia. It is currently at the forefront of developing the capital’s latest Grade A building, a mixed-use development in the centre of Phnom Penh’s financial district. I believe BAT was one of the first large investments into the country by a British company.
Generally, there are strong government relations between Cambodia and the UK, with the most recent visit to Cambodia by the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Representative, Lord Puttnam. Moreover, the British Embassy and UKTI are working closely with the Royal Government of Cambodia in a number of key areas that support the country’s economic development.
What do you think of the Cambodian market in the context of the ASEAN integration?
Cambodia’s membership to ASEAN is a crucial part of the country’s development, especially with its immersion into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. With ASEAN becoming the 4th largest economy by 2050 and with 67 million ASEAN households currently in the consuming class, Cambodia’s attractiveness to investors and exporters is only set to escalate.
Economic integration to the region, with the free flow of goods, services, investment, capital and skilled labour, is certainly a crucial aspect here and something that UK companies are weighing as a potential benefit when considering where to do business. Critical to Cambodia and ASEAN will be in ensuring that regional economic integration take place in a timely and uniform manner.