Endorphine Concept is a creative agency that specialises in social media and new forms of digital communication. Founded in 2010 in France by Yohan Brizolier, the company expanded its operations to Cambodia three years ago, with fellow French national Adrienne Ravez joining as a partner.
Endorphine has since grown to a team of ten full-time employees, and completed work for international clients such as Microsoft, The World Bank Group, Prudential, Bajaj Pulsar, Pepsi, Danone, and Omron, as well as numerous leading local brands.
The company was named 2015 Digital Agency of the Year for Cambodia, Lao, and Myanmar by Campaign Asia Gold Award, the sole representative of the SMAK network for the Cambodian market last year, and collected the Cambodia CSR Award in March of this year.
Ravez, a 34-year-old Toulouse native who holds a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication as well as Bachelor’s degrees in Clinical Intercultural Psychology and Sociology and Anthropology, was invited by EuroCham to speak about Endorphine’s success story at their recent ‘Welcome to Cambodia’ seminar.
We caught up with Ravez to talk about her experience in making a break into the Cambodian market:
What were the main reasons for starting a digital solutions business in Cambodia?
After selling our client’s portfolio in France, Southeast Asia appeared as an obvious next step to us, considering the massive amount of talent and exciting digital projects we had encountered during our previous trips. Cambodia was not only a place we fell in love with, but also a promising hub for an emerging digital economy and nascent startup scene.
How did it compare to starting a business in your home country?
Starting and running a business in France was challenging in my opinion due to several factors. Firstly, the heavy weight of administrative procedures meant a lot time was spent doing paperwork rather than actual business development. Furthermore, numerous SMEs are created in France every year, but many of them do not pass the 3-year mark, very often due to the lack of actual sustainable assets, and the struggle in controlling the growth.
I think in Cambodia, my entrepreneurial experience is less theoretical and more “real”, based on a faster and more concrete profitability along with accessible funds allowing for an easier growth.
What were the easiest things about setting up a business here, compared to how things are done in the West?
I would not say that it is easier or more difficult than in the West. I think it is different on many levels, with easier parts such as the administrative steps, and challenging parts such as the analysis of the market.
What pitfalls did you encounter during your initial months of operation?
We were lucky enough to be supported by the French Chamber of Commerce in our installation, so there were no major troubles. Our main mistake was the choice of the office location, as we ended up being robbed only two months after our arrival. That was an important lesson that we thankfully learned at an early stage!
What have you learnt about running a business in Cambodia, particularly in regards to the legal system here, employing and working with local staff and trying to work with various different clients and suppliers?
I think doing business here in Cambodia should rely on the same lessons as doing business in any other country: being extremely humble and respectful towards the existing local actors, trying not to replicate a model from the West but adapting and growing together with the local partners, and listening, learning, and working hard.
In regards to the legal system, being as compliant as possible is the one advice I would give, since this compliance impacts the trust you build with your clients and suppliers, and supports at some point the valuation of your company and assets as well.
Working with both local and international staff has not proven any hindrance to me. Being a strong advocate for a cross-cultural management, I believe the team spirit is what builds a strong company, so this is one of the main achievements we are very proud of, having experienced zero turnover within our permanent employees since starting the operations in 2013.
What have been your biggest accomplishments here?
Creating a strong team spirit, seeing our trustworthy team members fully committed every day, is definitely one of our main achievements. Earlier this year, we raised private capital investment and welcomed new shareholders in our company.
We are very proud of our awards and our clients portfolio development, but we are particularly thankful for the way we have been supported here in Cambodia and how welcoming the local technology and startup scenes have been. The strong bond we developed with the tech community in Cambodia and in the region is to us a continuous source of inspiration and motivation.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to start a business here?
In my opinion, it matters to take the time to understand how this volatile market works, and to avoid rushing in a single direction, based on quick market researches that often appear not sufficient here in Cambodia. In our experience, the network has been a key factor in our growth and it seems to me that being introduced and recommended is a common practice in Cambodia, which is why people should take the time to build long-term trustworthy relationships.
I also think the most important things, which are applicable everywhere, are to be hardworking, humble, respectful towards the local culture and traditions, to learn the language, to spend time listening to what people have to say, to be mindful of doing business while having an impact, and staying faithful to your own values and ethics.
What are your plans for the future?
For now, we picture ourselves in Cambodia for a while, and the perspectives of growth in the country and in the region are promising. Our goal is to continue to remain innovative and creative, and we have several upcoming digital projects and internal ventures on the way.