Yesterday's opening day of the CamBuild Expo on Diamond Island brought with it a varied pool of foreign and local firms looking to enter or increase their footing in the Cambodian market.
The three-day trade show, run by Singaporean firm AMB Events Group, will see more than 350 exhibitors from 22 countries crowd into the Koh Pich convention space, promoting everything from manufacturing to energy resources to investment properties. Even the humble kitchen sink has its own booth.
“When we first came here in 2010, there was less than 100 booths, like about 70,” AMB Events Group director Andrew Siow said.
“Then in 2012, it went up to about 100 booths. Then in 2013 we went up to 180 booths and at this one we have more than 350 booths. The international community has clearly started to look at Cambodia as a viable market for construction investment. Especially the Indians – they are coming in very strong.”
Chris Hobden, a surveyor at commercial real estate firm CBRE, said the greatest benefit new companies stood to gain from exhibiting at the expo was simply gauging demand in the Kingdom's relatively young marketplace.
“These shows are a great reader for domestic demand. I think we will see results, but in terms of actual sales, it is a bit early to tell,” Hobden said.
Of the vast spread of firms exhibiting at this year’s CamBuild Expo, more than 60 have come from India – more than any other exhibiting country.
Rajesh Ramachandran, general manager at India-based Mohan Energy Corporation, said the Confederation of Indian Industry, a nonprofit peak body for the subcontinent’s private sector, organised the booth spaces at this year’s expo in an effort to diversify the country’s investment opportunities.
He added that his firm, which has renewable energy and electricity transmission and distribution facilities in Africa and the Middle East, had been actively looking to expand into Cambodia due to deteriorating investment conditions in the usually high-growth market of Africa.
“Basically, Indian companies were totally focused on Africa for its developing nations,” Ramachandran said.
“But unfortunately there are currently a lot of problems going on in Africa causing political instability and also the outbreak of Ebola, which has all but closed down the whole of West Africa. This means Indian companies have had to go find greener pastures.
“We are looking at Cambodia for its business prospects, but we don’t have any major business enquiries yet.
“Cambodia needs a lot of investment in energy transmission, and the country has a lot of potential for the hydroelectricity power generation. That is why we came to the CamBuild expo.”
But Dinesh Patnaik, Indian ambassador to Cambodia, said Africa remained an attractive market for investment and that the strong showing of Indian companies at this week’s expo was solely due to his embassy’s efforts.
“The large turnout of Indian companies to Cambodia is because the Indian Embassy in Cambodia has been actively pushing Indian companies to look for opportunities in this region . . . Africa continues to be a huge growth area,” he said.
“The main sectors that Indian companies are looking for are in building materials, textiles, construction, engineering goods, power sector and automotive parts.”