For 48-year old Phoun Phoumara, Cambodia is a lucrative country. After 21 years in Germany, he came home hoping to realise his dreams. Within three years, he had set up a spa and a music label, as well as managing a paint shop.
“I learned a lot from Germ-any, and I have a lot of ideas. When I think of a promising project, I write a business plan, then decide whether I should give it a try,” Phoumara explains.
Cambodia-born Phoumara, who describes himself as a workaholic, says family has played an important role in his business ventures.
With his brother, who studied architecture in Hawaii, and three other shareholders, he invested in the establishment of the LyLa Centre, near Boeung Tra Bek, in 2009.
The result is a high-end spa with a pool, a children’s playground, a sauna and a fitness studio that is geared towards Cambodians.
According to Phoumara, about 100 customers visit the LyLa Spa each day.
“We [the family investors] trust one another, so we pooled our knowledge and took the chance,” Phoumara told the Post.
“Setting up such a business is expensive, so we decided to invest in it together.”
Working with a foreign partner would have been more time-consuming and would have involved more bureaucracy, Phoumara says.
Although the LyLa Spa opened just two months ago, Phoumara has followed his passion for Cambodian music with his label, J-Tone, for the past two years.
His label works with three Cambodian bands, including the pop group Gemstone and the rock band Animation.
Phoumara, who plays guitar, manages the youngsters in the background.
“Our bands write their own songs — we don’t copy the products of famous artists. We also produce high-quality videos and do good live shows,” he says proudly.
Phoumara’s 30 to 35 employees come from Cambodia as well as Russia, Germany, the US and France.
“I prefer to work with young Cambodians, because they’re very curious and willing to learn,” he says.
“But the education level in Cambodia is still very low. That’s why some foreigners hold management positions.”
Asked about the challenges he faces in his businesses, Phoumara keeps silent.
Running his fingers through his thinning hair, he remarks that he has aged a lot in the past year.
“Sometimes I miss working in Germany, but at the end of the day I want to give something back to my country,” Phoumara says.
“As long as you have the right abilities, it doesn’t matter where you work.
“The result will be success and a good life.”
Phoumara is quiet about his ideas for future business ventures, but says Germany will always occupy a primary place in his business plans.
“German products are reliable, of a high quality and worth their price,” Phoumara, who worked as a sales manager for the electronics manufacturer Philips in Germany, says.
Cambodia, however, is the place where Phoumara wants to see his two young sons growing up.
“This is a very inspiring country, and there’s lots to be done,” he says.
“If we all work together, our people can have a better life. Now is the best time for us to grow our country.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Thust at [email protected]