After first venturing into Cambodia 14 years ago, world-leading multinational engineering and electronics company Bosch has established itself as one of the Kingdom’s leading technological and engineering suppliers, particularly in the automotive industry.
Bosch’s country head in Cambodia, Phirum Hay, spoke with The Post’s Cheng Sokhorng to give an overview of the company’s performance in the automotive industry, providing insights into how the private sector can help tackle Cambodia’s problems surrounding road and vehicle safety.
When did Bosch first open its subsidiary in Phnom Penh?
Bosch first ventured into Cambodia in 2004 via our power tools range. This was followed by expanding into the automotive aftermarket sector and security systems a year later.
As we continued to expand our business activities over the years, we reinforced our commitment to the Cambodian market in 2013 by converting into an official entity, enabling us to extend greater sales support to our customers across a diverse portfolio of products and solutions.
Cambodia is one of the fastest-growing economies in the region with an average of seven per cent annual growth over the last 10 years. Our local presence allows Bosch, as a global supplier of technology and services, to support this development by providing quality German products and services to the Cambodian market.
Bosch offers a wide range of services and products, but what industry do you see as offering the best business opportunities in Cambodia?
We see a rising demand for automotive aftermarket solutions [the supply of automotive replacement parts] for the consumer market as well as heavy machinery and trucks – which we call the “off-highway” market.
According to the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, the number of registered vehicles in Cambodia as of last year was about four million. Cambodia’s automotive landscape is also diversifying in terms of the number of makes and models of vehicles in the country.
Bosch is supporting this trend by continuing to expand its product range. In parallel with the enhanced efforts of the ministry to improve truck safety, we are further broadening our product portfolio by bringing in a wider range of equipment and machinery spare parts.
How do you ensure a quality service, while contending with the challenges faced by the grey market [the sale of Bosch products on the unofficial market]?
We work with our partners in neighbouring countries to ensure our products remain of a certain quality. But we still face some major challenges here despite being a fully registered operation, the most prominent of these being counterfeit or informal Bosch products being imported into the Cambodian market.
We’ve tried to minimise the issue, and we also cooperate with anti-counterfeit police to control it as well, to ensure our customers always receive good quality products and services from us. For instance, all of Bosch’s power tools have a barcode which can certify their authenticity online. When buying from an official supplier, customers also receive a warranty, which they won’t get from the grey market.
What is Bosch’s future commitment to the automotive industry in Cambodia?
Firstly, we believe that there are virtually no cars in Cambodia without Bosch component parts within that vehicle. Bosch aims to ensure high-quality products featuring the latest technology are offered to meet the demands of the local car market.
As one of the main global players in the automotive market, Bosch is also helping behind the scenes in the areas of road and vehicle safety.
According to a recently-released report from the World Health Organisation, global road traffic deaths have increased to 1.35 million annually. That’s around 3,700 people dying on the roads every day. In Cambodia, 1,736 people have died in traffic accidents so far this year.
We are also continuing to significantly invest in research and development to invent life-saving vehicle technologies such as Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) and Electronic Stability Programmes (ESP). ABS and ESP have saved thousands of lives around the world.
Since 2014, they have been compulsory in newly registered vehicles in Europe, while in Asean, Malaysia was the first to make ESPs mandatory in new vehicles in June 2018.
How do you explain Cambodia’s strikingly high road-related death rate? How are you working to improve this?
Around 90 per cent of accidents can be attributed to human error – for example, where risks are not detected or situations are not judged correctly, and the driver reacts too slowly or incorrectly.
Using knowledge gained from various accident research studies, Bosch has been investing in inventing technology that assists drivers to avoid possible risks.
But ultimately Bosch believes that only through collective action will we see change. Bosch is a leading voice calling for more active discussion and collaboration between governments, the scientific community, NGOs, the automotive industry and the public to properly utilise the advanced technology at our disposal today to make roads safer for everyone.
We all hold a shared responsibility in ensuring an accident-free Cambodia and Bosch strongly supports this vision.
As you mentioned, Malaysia is the first Asean country to legislate the mandatory inclusion of safety technology like ESP in all new vehicles. Do you think the Cambodian government should follow their example?
We believe that safer vehicles equate to safer roads. Vehicles equipped with safety technologies such as ESP will help make roads safer.
We continue to monitor the situation and hope that more companies will participate in this education and advocacy effort.
We look forward to more legislation on road safety in Cambodia and will provide support in any way we can to help make driving and riding in Cambodia safer.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.