The Indian Business Chamber in Cambodia (IBCC) was officially inaugurated on January 17, 2024, at the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra. The launch event was attended by over 250 guests and was presided over by Dr. Devyani Khobragade, Ambassador of India to Cambodia, and H.E. Pich Rithi, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Commerce.
During his welcome remarks, Babulal Parihar, President of the IBCC, stated that the chamber’s mission is to promote and facilitate trade and investment between India and Cambodia, with a particular focus on assisting Indian businesses entering or considering entry into the Cambodian market. He highlighted the IBCC’s collaboration with the Indian Embassy to expedite trade and investment opportunities and emphasised that the chamber is committed to contributing to Cambodia’s growth and development.
Watch B2B Cambodia’s interview with Babulal Parihar, President of the IBCC:
“This has been a need for a long time, as there was no official Indian Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia,” explained Parihar, while speaking with B2B Cambodia.
“The Indian embassy… was looking for a formal, officially registered chamber of commerce that can represent Indian businesses here, as well as those Indian businesses who are willing to enter Cambodia… This is how the idea was floated a couple of years back, and we started registering the chamber last year and finally completed our registration at the end of last year,” said Parihar.
Strengthening India-Cambodia Trade And Investment Ties
Ambassador Khobragade delivered a speech where she highlighted the historical connection between India and Cambodia and the goodwill that both countries continue to share. She stressed the importance of leveraging this goodwill to boost trade, commerce, and investments.
She mentioned the Duty-Free Tariff Preference Scheme, negotiations for a Bilateral Investment Treaty, as well as discussions on a preferential trade agreement and Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, as some of the frameworks in place, or in development, to help facilitate trade between the two countries. The ambassador further shared that there are plans being made to establish an India-Cambodia Joint Business Council and to enhance cross-border digital payment connectivity.
Secretary of State Pich Rithi also delivered remarks where he acknowledged the IBCC’s potential to enhance trade, investment, and business activities between Cambodia and India, promoting business-to-business cooperation and providing valuable networking opportunities across various industries.
“Our priority… is to provide the rightful information to Indian businesses willing to enter, or entering Cambodia,” elaborated Parihar, describing the main activities the chamber will be involved in.
“Our emphasis will be more on quality events where we will [discuss] topics relevant to our members, or which are relevant to the economy of Cambodia… So far, we are interested in holding events related to the agriculture industry,… and related to digitalisation technologies, this is something that we have in our immediate plan following this launch,” he added.
Attracting Indian Businesses To Cambodia: What Sectors And Industries Hold The Most Opportunities?
Parihar shared that while there are some notable Indian businesses currently established in Cambodia’s pharmaceutical industry, Indian businesses still do not have a sizable presence in other areas.
“Cambodia is [currently] not an area of interest for Indian businesses, so that is something that we Indians who live and work in Cambodia, and who have seen the growth of the country… have to put in more effort [towards], to make Indian businesses back in India more aware of [Cambodia] so that we can see more Indian businesses coming here,” said Parihar.
“If I compare with the Chinese investment community, the Korean, Malaysian or Japanese [investment communities], then we do not have a large [presence in Cambodia], and I think this is a matter of concern for us because India is one of the fastest [growing] and largest economies in the world, with the world’s biggest population of 1.4 billion, so if we look at that and [compare] it with our business presence in Cambodia, then it is a bit of an upset that we are not that sizable,” he added.
Regarding where he sees the most potential for Indian businesses to enter the Cambodian market, Parihar underlined the service sector as a broad area in which India could offer its expertise.
“I’ve been in Cambodia for the last nine years and I can see there is a lot of growth potential, especially in the service sector, which is where India can contribute a lot to the country’s development,” he said. “I personally want to emphasise the service sector because India is known for its excellence in services, whether it’s in finance, technology, medicine or new innovations.”
“Cambodia offers big opportunities within agriculture, so we can bring innovations to the agriculture sector, especially as the Cambodian prime minister launched the Pentagonal Strategy, which emphasises digitalisation,” added Parihar. “India can play a pivotal role for the digitalisation of Cambodia. Similarly, my personal interest is in the medical sector, wherein I wish some big hospital chains from India could come forward and have their operations established here in Cambodia.”
Highlighting Cambodia As A Gateway To ASEAN For Indian Businesses
Looking forward, Parihar shared his strong resolve that more Indian businesses and investors will enter the Cambodian market, as both the country and the Southeast Asian region hold a lot of promise.
“India-Cambodia relations have always been smooth and strong, not only from the perspective of business and trade, but from a historic point of view as well,” he said.
“As our Ambassador mentioned, we shouldn’t only see Cambodia as a population of 17 million people, but we should be seeing it as a country [that can act as a gateway] to the whole of ASEAN, which is 600 million people and the third largest population of the world.
“I’m very optimistic about the Cambodian economy. There are many good and strong points which I believe we should be focusing on, such as how Cambodia is the only country which allows 100% shareholding to foreign nationals, its geographical location, its deep sea ports, and everything else. These features make Cambodia a unique place,” added Parihar.
The IBCC launch event concluded with a ceremonial lamp lighting and toasting ceremony between the chief guests and all IBCC board members, followed by a vote of thanks from Niraj Gupta, IBCC Board Director, who expressed gratitude to all in attendance. The occasion also featured vibrant cultural performances from both Cambodian and Indian traditions and ended with a networking dinner reception.
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