In 2007, when Sabay Digital Corporation began as a startup company, resources for the digital industry were almost non-existent. With the internet being a new concept in Cambodia, the company had to build create their own resources.
“Seven or eight years ago, there wasn’t much in the market,” Sila Chy Thmor, chief executive officer for Sabay Digital Corporation.
“When we wanted to build any content online, we had to educate people on how to use the Internet. A lot of people would think it was a stupid business.”
Due to the nearly non-existent digital market in Cambodia, the company had to build some of its own infrastructure such as investing in their own ISP, fiber optics, dial-up service and cables. They even had to set up landlines in order to connect with customers. In order to generate revenue, they created their own payment gateway, partnering with internet cafes for their customers, which are mostly Cambodian youths, to be able to pay for games and services despite the lack of e-commerce in Cambodia.
“Anything that was missing, we just had to build ourselves and invest in,” Sila said. “But after three or four years, we realized that was a very unique way to build because, in the end, we now own our own infrastructure. And we have all our customers because we provide the Internet as well…Whatever we provide them through the Internet services, they will use.”
Eight years later, Sabay Digital Corporation has managed to become a leader in the digital industry in Cambodia and is now in the beginning stages of expanding to Myanmar and Singapore with the same business model that built their company in Cambodia.
In preparation of the coming ASEAN integration, Sila has researched the potential pros and cons in terms of the impact that it will have on the digital industry in Cambodia.
“On the positive side […] we are going to have a lot of potential to work with new people,” said Sila. “You know, [the people] have never been experienced in Cambodia. They are looking for partners,” he explained.
However, as Sila expects the ASEAN integration to come into full view by the end of this year, the company braces itself for the new competition as well.
“Competition will also be coming,” he said. “The people who work in the same industry will probably have a better practice as far as technology, experience and human resources go. The countries that are already established and more mature in terms of technology might take some of the portion from us, maybe. That’s why, for us, we have to be ready as a local company and expand into other, new territories.”
To prevent being swallowed up by more advanced digital companies Sabay plans to register its holding company in Singapore to reach other countries. Moreover the company has already invested in building a mobile gaming studio in China and gone into business in Myanmar, where they have launched their first game and payment gateway.
“We have already started to develop our business there and we have already become a very advanced company moving into Myanmar,” he said.
Other than setting up IT and e-commerce infrastructure, Sabay has also successfully developed their content creation segment, feeding more and more movies, music and written content into TV and digital channels. They plan to continue to grow as a company that can offer more products, such as tangible goods from food to movie tickets. In addition, they aim to provide services allowing customers to be able to buy Google cash, Facebook credit, iTunes giftcard and other online credit.
“At the end of the day, our vision, like our company name, Sabay, is to offer happiness to our nation of Cambodia,” said Sila. “That’s why we started the company.