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New shopping website faces old e-commerce challenges

A man browsers an internet based e-commerce site yesterday in Phnom Penh
A man browsers an internet based e-commerce site yesterday in Phnom Penh. Eli Meixler

New shopping website faces old e-commerce challenges

Worldbridge International Group (WIG) will launch a new shopping website next year in the hope of bolstering the Kingdom’s undeveloped e-commerce industry.

Representatives from WorldBridge announced the new online shopping platform called MAIO Mall in Phnom Penh yesterday. The website is expected to be operational early next year under the subsidiary firm, WorldBridgE Commerce Co.

Sear Rithy, chairman of WIG said that despite the challenges still facing the e-commerce industry, Cambodia has little choice but to embrace the digital shopping trend.

“The market is still small with a poor understanding among our buyers,” Rithy said. “But, I believe it is time for us to start this business . . . Look at Vietnam. When it first launched online shopping in 2008, the market was also small. But now the market is quite big.”

Rithy said trust would be a key factor in ensuring the future growth of Cambodia’s e-commerce trade – that is purchasing items or transferring finances over the internet via virtual payment portals.

In a move that could potentially harness shoppers’ trust, WIG has secured Acleda Bank as its official payments provider. Shoppers using the MAIO Mall website will either be able to pay directly online or by cash on delivery.

“Doing online business depends strongly on trust. When they trust the service and quality, more and more will use the service,” Rithy said.

“If clients are afraid of being cheated, like receiving products that don’t reflect what they wanted, they can wait to pay the cash in person when our staff brings the product to their home.”

In Channy, group CEO of Acleda Bank, said WIG’s new online venture could give Cambodians the incentive they need to embrace e-commerce trade platforms.

“With sufficient human resource, commitment, good infrastructure and technologies in handling the online payments service, we strongly believe that we will make the business operate successfully,” he said.

But building trust is only one part of the issue hampering growth in Cambodia’s online shopping arena, according to Pily Wong, country manager for Microsoft in Cambodia.

While welcoming WIG’s new online shopping website, Wong said public education, a lack of skilled web developers and programmers, nonstreamlined logistics and security concerns all remain hurdles to the growth of the market.

“There are about 20 or 30 online shopping businesses here already that accept online transactions. This slow take-up of the e-commerce landscape is due primarily to education as there is not enough e-entrepreneurs to set up these kinds of businesses,” he said.

“On security, software piracy is still rampant and people still do not pay enough attention to that. And across the board, passwords and antivirus are not very secure, so Cambodia remains exposed to IT security risks.”

Wong said the establishment of a locally recognised and secure payments operator, such as Acleda, is vital to building trust.

“But other obstacles are the logistics. Look overseas, you use eBay, and you receive by the post. Here, the post is an issue and the cost of transactions is also an issue, because at the moment e-commerce operators are forced to use overseas payments providers.”

Meanwhile, the Cambodian government has been preparing the country’s first ever e-commerce law to regulate the growing sector.

Ken Ratha, spokesman at Ministry of Commerce said the draft law has been finalised and is awaiting approval.

“We have finished the draft and will be soon sending it to the ministerial meeting to be approved,” he said without giving any further detail.

Despite a lot still needing to change in Cambodia before a vibrant and competitive e-commerce market arises, Tomas Polorny, the newly appointed CEO of WorldBridgE Commerce, is optimistic his firm is well positioned.

“There are millions of e-commerce companies in the world, but only Amazon and eBay that are very popular,” he said.

“We believe that only bigger players can win and we want to be the biggest e-commerce company in Cambodia.”

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