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Co-working fills a niche in crowded market

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The co-working space at Sahaka, one of the newer operators in the city. Photo supplied

Co-working fills a niche in crowded market

The demand for co-working space in Cambodia is on the rise as young entrepreneurs, startups and designers seek economy and flexibility while they find their feet in the market

Despite the glut of office property in Phnom Penh, co-working enterprises are flourishing, thanks to demand by local entrepreneurs, start-ups and visiting businessmen seeking accommodation and services they can’t provide themselves.

Coworker.com, the office-sharing equivalent of Airbnb, lists 13 companies in Cambodia currently offering co-working facilities – although real figure is certainly more and set to grow in line with the boom in small business openings.

A relatively new concept here, co-working has quickly gained a foothold. Facilities range from trendy open-plan offices favoured by hipster entrepreneurs, freelancers and designers, to more private boardroom-like premises used by visiting businessmen seeking an office away from home.

“The demand for co-working space has been rising over the past few years, particularly for startups and individual entrepreneurs who need a good working environment at an affordable price,” said Chea Mara, General Manager of Emerald Hub, which has two locations in Phnom Penh.

“They stand a better chance to build networks with other firms, as well as enjoy communal meetings and seminars that will help boost their knowledge and experiences.”

Most co-working spaces in Cambodia offer similar services, but also try pitch themselves at a specific market, offering specialties in that area.

Impact Hub Phnom Penh, for example, is part of a global network that bills itself as “a business incubator, a social enterprise builder and above all, a community of like-minded people who believe they can make the world a better place”.

The Desk, another co-working space in the capital, targets small business people – particularly in the tech sector – providing “the resources and solutions for today’s entrepreneurs by offering affordable workplace, networking, educational and personal growth workshops”.

With co-working space, you get what you pay for.

Emerald Hub, which entered the market in 2016 and is planning a third premises within the year, currently serves 32 tenants, from individuals to teams paying from $60 a month to over $500.

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Co-working spaces allow young entrepreneurs the chance to share ideas. Photo supplied

Services at their BKK3 office, for example, start at $60 per month for a “hot desk” – you grab what is available in an open plan office – to $300 for a room of your own that could accommodate up to four people.

Pok Sina and her team of three have been renting a space in Emerald Hub for a year after starting a small e-commerce company known as Fado168 which orders and ships goods from Amazon in the US to sell in Cambodia.

“We decided to rent a space here because it is in a good location and the price is affordable,” she said. “We just pay monthly rent [$300] but get free, fast internet service and other utilities, which is different from renting office space in a commercial centre with higher price.

“Moreover, we have a chance to get more knowledge by attending seminars here every week.”

Earlier this year, Toong, a leading Vietnam startup in co-working space, announced its first foray into Cambodia, with a facility near Vattanac Capital Tower.

Expected to open during the fourth quarter this year, the Phnom Penh office will consist of 700 square metres and will be their ninth such facility in the Indochina region.

“The modern co-working space increasingly attracts a young and dynamic generation by providing a comfortable, economical workplace as well as a creative working culture for clients,” Duong Do, Founder and CEO of Toong , told the Nikkei Asian Review recently.

Ann Sothida, country manager of realtors CBRE Cambodia, said her company had yet to fully analyse the co-working market, but the entry of players such Toong showed great potential existed.

Echoing her view, Hoem Seiha, Director of Research at Vtrust Appraisal, said the segment would definitely see more growth given the rise in the number of young Cambodian entrepreneurs and professionals such as designers starting their own small business.

“The co-working concept has already proved popular in Thailand and Vietnam, and so it will be Cambodia in the near future.”

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