While many know that failure can be an invaluable experience in business ventures, not all absorb the theory in practice.
Dy Ly, however, a gem shop owner from Pailin province in western Cambodia, has had no choice; he’s too familiar with setbacks.
Starting a business because he loved gem products, Ly became a trader in the early 1990s, with gold capital weighing 16 ounces.
His paltry knowledge of the industry made him fail from the start. He lost all his money after another trader swindled him in a deal that involved bogus gems.
“When we lost, there was nothing to blame the winner for, because all was managed by us,” Ly, a 56-year-old father of three, said.
“I realised that loving something isn’t enough in the business, you need technical knowledge. Know how and experience in the sector is the core of success.”
Ly and his wife were left with nothing after the tainted deal. His business was closed and his money was gone.
He tried a different tact.
In 1997, Ly decided to earn his income in the gem industry by extracting precious stones from the field rather than being a trader.
“I [worked] as a gem extractor for a few years,” Ly said. He added that after toiling in the fields, his income gradually increased and he saved up enough profit to open a gem processing shop. A trader and business owner once again, Ly dwelled on what happened the first time.
He reminded himself to try harder, to strengthen his knowledge of the industry.
“When I first established the new shop, I was thinking all the time, wherever I went I need to be highly careful when I buy raw gems to be processed,” he said.
The extra work has led to extra hours. Getting to bed late has become Ly’s habit. He won’t accept a gem until he’s assured of its sound quality.
“When I buy gems at a high price, I am very scared, in case the quality is not suitable for the price,” he said.
“Moreover, I need to consider what to do with it and how to process this valued product.”
Despite the fact that good internal management is necessary to grow a business, external factors such as market demand and government support are major factors influencing Ly’s business.
According to Ly, poor living conditions in Cambodia during the late 1990s amounted to a challenging business climate.
“At that time, many of us [were] just worried about daily food,” Ly said.
“People were thinking about the basics, not the decorations.”
However, the market and the perception of locals who value gems have improved, especially in the last five or six years.
Ly said Cambodia’s political stability and a lot of promotion campaigns by the Ministry of Commerce to increase awareness of the product’s value have contributed to boost market demand.
Now, demand for gems is expanding beyond the local market and orders are coming in from abroad.
“Clients from ASEAN countries and China are visiting our shop very often to order our product,” Ly said, adding that China is his biggest market.
Ly’s business is growing apace.
His shop is one of the two biggest gem shops in Pailin.
After more than 10 years in the business, Ly says he is satisfied with what he has and who he is now because his business helps his family to live in good conditions and enjoy a modern life.
“Honesty and struggle is the core of prosperity,” Ly said.
“Being trustworthy and always faithful with business partners makes my business grow.”