Local cosmetics firm Megabelle Clinic is looking to expand and capitalise on the rapid growth of beauty product sales in the Kingdom. The Post’s Cheng Sokhorng sat down with Keo Vong Siek, the company’s founder and the 2016 recipient of the Outstanding CEO award, to discuss how she created a company with no business training and her take on the Kingdom’s fast-growing cosmetics industry.
What led you to start your company?
Before turning to the cosmetics business, I had been selling phone batteries and accessories since 1999. When my business started to slow down because of the influx of smartphones in Cambodia, I experienced a lot of stress, which led to me getting black spots on my face. I decided to go to France to seek treatment and through the process, I got the chance to see the high-quality cosmetic products used in the French market.
This gave me the idea to bring those types of products back to Cambodia, because at the time, many Cambodians started to care about their skin and often went abroad to seek skin and facial treatment. I decided to set up a cosmetics shop in 2005 with French products from Erison Laboratoire and Italian products from Dibi.
What challenges did you face when in developing this business?
I started the store without having any real business or financial skills, relying instead on my passion to succeed and the confidence I had in the quality of the products. After that, I pushed myself to learn the skills I needed for my business to be successful and I started to learn more about the products I wanted to sell.
Initially, my clients were not convinced of the quality of the cosmetics I was bringing in, but we demonstrated the effectiveness of our products to clients by showing them pictures comparing the before and after effects of our treatments. We also provided satisfaction guarantees to reassure our clients.
Currently there are a lot of other cosmetic products coming into the Cambodian market, so we are facing a lot of competition, but I still have great confidence in the quality of our products.
How big is the cosmetics industry in Cambodia and what factors are driving its growth?
There are a lot of cosmetics companies in the Cambodian market right now, especially from Korea, Japan and France. The industry is growing very fast because people in Cambodia have better incomes and are better educated, which means they are starting to value the importance of skin and facial care. For Cambodians, there is now an important social aspect to taking good care of their skin because it helps them build up confidence and improves their communications skills.
What are your plans to expand this business?
We previously expanded our business from a beauty centre to a beauty clinic, and we now have Korean and Khmer doctors who have experience working in Singapore, Korea and France. We are now planning to set up a cosmetics factory, which will allow us to produce our own cosmetics for the market.
We are also expanding our cosmetics shops across different provinces, where we will distribute products from the Oligo brand, which are more affordable and will allow us to reach a more general market. Even though we have already been successful as a business, we always try to update and develop our brand.
Much of cosmetics sales in Cambodia is done through Facebook. Do you see problems in this?
We do not sell our products on Facebook because some products could be harmful for the skin if they are not used correctly. We need to look at our clients’ skin problems and recommend the right products for them to use on an individual basis. If our clients were to have any negative experiences because they bought a product online without consultation, we would risk losing consumers and reduce the trust in the quality of our products.
Is there enough regulation to protect the market from low-quality or counterfeit goods?
The regulation process has been slow to develop and right now we need to file a complaint with the Ministry of Commerce for them to take action on our behalf and crack down on counterfeit products.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.