When he first stepped foot into Cambodia for the first time eight years ago, Tan Teck Kee, a former police officer in the Singapore Police Force for 12 years, encountered an eye-opening experience in seeing the Kingdom with his own eyes.
“When I first landed, it was totally different from what was all along portrayed to us by the media,” he said. “We only imagined the country to be extremely backward with no proper roads and full of mines.”
Being enamoured by the country potential, his confidence resulted in several business ventures with local and overseas partners where he adopted an active operational role as a director in them. His most noticeable investment can be said to be the joint venture with the reputable Singapore listed developer, Oxley Holdings Limited, to launch their first iconic 45-storey mixed development project – The Bridge, in March 2014.
He said, “I was indeed fortunate to fulfill my dream to bring high quality housing into Cambodia. The Bridge has captured the attention of the Cambodian market based on the modern design and high quality of construction standard inherited from Singapore.”
Although the high standards and specifications the company set was a major challenge as they were above the market standard, Tan was not for once dissuaded.
“We believed in our own vision that houses must primarily be a safe haven for everybody in addition to the luxury of having complete amenities within the building itself,” he said.
He further elaborated, “I feel that from a developed country like Singapore, at least there’s a bit of something that we can give like quality houses, and a lot of it would be training local people who work for us, or sharing experience in Singapore with my local partners, who then can also give their input to local developments on how to move ahead for a country like Cambodia.”
After the monumental success of The Bridge condominium development, Oxley rolled out its second project, The Peak. The projects are Singaporean-oriented in terms of construction materials, architect designs, and specification standards.
He also believes that affordable housing is salient for a country to grow and develop, and the company has, in its pipeline, plans to build affordable housing.
“Because of the booming of the economy in Phnom Penh, you need a lot of labour coming in from the provinces,” he said, adding a point necessary to the housing issue here, “If you don’t provide housing for them, it’s almost impossible for them to come into Phnom Penh to rent a house and work here. The rent would be too high for them.”
Besides his numerous businesses, Tan spends a chunk of his time with charitable organisations like Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), motivating children on how they can play a vital part in supporting their country’s growth, their personal aspirations, and gaining necessary skill sets.
“I think if you put your heart and soul and give some time to do that, the people here are generally receptive. I have seen how the [staff] have transformed. Skills wise and thinking wise, their mindset has developed, from what I see, which is very good for them,” he added.
Tan says that he is often questioned by Singaporeans back in his homeland on how the situation in Cambodia is like. He would tell them the safe and good experiences that he has had in the Kingdom, including “the sincerity of the people here … and the centralised location of the country in the world.”
He has succeeded in being the catalyst for many Singaporean entrepreneurs and businesses venturing into Cambodia, dealing in a range of specialties like construction materials and renovation services.
Tan concludes his enriching experience in Cambodia: “I feel that Cambodia is very safe. It is relatively safe compared to the region, and political-wise, I think it’s very stable. I think the government has very good long-term plans. It’s not like those short term plans in most countries – three to five years. They are looking at 20 to 30 year development plans, which I think will spur the growth in the country.”