Last month, the British Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (BritCham) took on a new executive director in Ritchie Munro. B2B Cambodia sat down with the 32-year-old Scotsman to learn about his personal and professional goals and aspirations, as well as discussing the development of e-commerce in the Kingdom, the aftermath of Brexit and its implications for UK companies operating in Cambodia.
You’ve been in Cambodia for nearly a decade now. How would you qualify the change that you’ve seen over the years regarding the opportunities available to British enterprises in Cambodia?
When I arrived in 2008, the landscape of Phnom Penh was extremely different. I can remember being told that the tallest building in the city was Sorya Mall, or how big of a deal it was that the first KFC was opening on Monivong Boulevard. Fast-forward eight years and it seems you can’t go a week without a new franchise opening up or a new multi-purpose high-rise being erected.
I would say this meteoric rise in such a short time has seen a dramatic change in the way of opportunities for all international companies in the market, not just UK enterprises. It has allowed UK companies in sectors like construction to become market leaders in Cambodia. This was well exemplified by our participation at the Cambodia Construction Association Industry Expo [held at Diamond Island Exhibition Hall on December 1-3], where we showcased UK companies in the sector at a dedicated UK booth. I don’t think Cambodia had that kind of appeal in 2008 for UK companies.
What are your objectives during your tenure as the Chamber’s director and what would you like to achieve on a personal level?
My objectives during my tenure as Executive Director of BritCham are to continue to facilitate in the development of the local business community through our members. We, at BritCham, hope to continue our outreach work through our events and working groups to make sure we have our finger on the pulse of what the business community in Cambodia wants. We also want to make sure we are in tune with what sectors are growing or need assistance in growing. Ultimately, we want to be a valuable asset in the market and give value to our members and continue to be an innovative and dynamic chamber.
A priority for the chamber for the past few years has been eCommerce. Are there any specific goals that you would like to see accomplished with BritCham’s eBusiness working group?
The eBusiness group has been a great success. It has been driven by the Chamber to provide a platform for stakeholders to engage on issues of concern; help to identify approaches to bring about dialogue, change and improvement in the sector, while providing a forum for information sharing and education within the wider community.
We have been very fortunate to have very experienced members in our working group, led by Chris McCarthy, the CEO of Mango Tango, and Chris Wray, the CEO of DigitalRain. They have been at the forefront of sector development and will both be front and center at our eBusiness event in January to launch our joint research findings, focusing on the skills gaps in the Cambodian eBusiness sector, and how we can improve on this.
How can British-Cambodian economic relations be strengthened?
British-Cambodian economic relations can continue to grow as we see sectors maturing in Cambodia. We have seen Cambodia move into lower middle-income status in the past year, which gives people more disposable income and creates a demand for higher quality products. I think this suits UK companies very well as we are globally renowned for quality and innovation. The current environment in Cambodia is welcoming of our experience and expertise, in particular in areas like education and construction.
How do you think Brexit will affect British companies doing business in Cambodia and Southeast Asia?
I was recently at the global British Chamber of Commerce conference in London and one of the first things they did at the event was take a poll in the audience about whether they perceived Brexit to offer more opportunities or challenges to UK exporters and trade. The survey showed that over 70 percent of people believe it presents more opportunities, and I think a lot of those opportunities lie in Southeast Asia and in emerging markets like Cambodia. We have seen an increase in inquiries in the education sector since the referendum and we expect this trend to continue as UK companies are starting to look at alternatives to the EU.
What kind of events, seminars, discussions and presentations can we expect from BritCham in the coming months?
We will continue to host a wide spectrum of events in the coming months. We have our eBusiness luncheon on January 17, and we will be hosting for the first time a Burns supper celebration on January 28. This is a cultural event that takes place every year, celebrating the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns. We sadly had to cancel our planned joint chamber Ashes cricket match with AusCham due to bad weather but have re-scheduled this for February 4. All our events and more details of the above can always be found on our Facebook page or on our website.