Starts small, dreams BIG: Cambodian young entrepreneurs
Inspired by the most successful e-commerce platforms in the world – US-based Amazon and Chinese-run Alibaba – a group of young Cambodian entrepreneurs called buyloy.com is passionate about e-commerce business, with a far-reaching vision to take a lead in e-shopping providers in the local market. Phlang Phalla, co-founder of the platform, sat down with Khmer Times reporter Chhut Bunthoeun to elaborate further on how he leads his team struggling to run the tech startup business.
KT: Can you tell us when you started your business and why you see it as a potentially successful business in the local market?
Phalla: buyloy.com is an e-shopping platform where thousands of products are available on sale. We officially started running the platform in November 2018. So, it has been almost two years now. Before we created this e-commerce platform, we had run another business model called couponloy.com where all discount products and goods were available. It allowed offered a wide range of discount products. However, the business model was very challenging for us because merchants, who had discount products and advertised on our platform were not willing to work with us and they did not want to pay their fees. Consequently, the business model could not generate profits. We did some observations and got some feedback from customers. We are trying to listen to our customers about what they want and how we can make the business be more convenient for our customers. So our business model has to be flexible in response to customers’ needs.
KT: What inspired you to run the business?
Phlang Phalla, co-founder of e-shopping buyloy.com, speaks to Khmer Times on the business progress he has made. KT/ Pann Rachana
Phalla: So again, buyloy.com is designed with the aim of solving customer problems because our e-shopping platform is dedicated to offering thousands of products, with security guaranteed and more conveniently. All products purchased through our platform will be delivered to the customer’s door. It has been brought to our attention that there is not yet an e-shopping platform that combines all kinds of products made available for sale in Cambodia. So people have to go shopping, seeking the products they want from one place to another. And that is a problem and wastes their time. I think this is an opportunity and it has inspired us to run the e-commerce platform — buyloy.com, which we are aiming to provide A to Z products that all available on our platform. Customers just go to our website and purchase what products they want and we deliver the product to their home. Broadly speaking, we have learned from Alibaba and Amazon but that does not mean we follow them in every way. So here our business model does not follow Amazon nor Alibaba. Our platform is created based on local trends.
KT: What are the challenges you have faced and how can you solve them?
Phalla: Our team has nearly 10 people who are young and talented with individual skills. We have faced problems with cash flow because we are a startup. The global COVID-19 pandemic has created another burden for us. It has affected our sales in revenue because some customers are saving costs cost during the pandemic. But I hope the situation will soon recover. To grow a business, I think we cannot move forward alone. We are seeking potential investors to work with us, providing funding. Also, we are ready to welcome them because now we have a talented team and vision. But we are lacking investment. There is a lot of work that needs to be done and we are working step-by-step to reach our goal.
KT: What have you achieved so far after a year of your business has been operating? What is your future plan and how large do you expect your business to grow?
Phalla: We did not expect much of what we have got just running our business for more than one year. So far, there are more than 5,000 users visiting our platform every month, with more than 1,000 products available on our e-shopping platform. We have thus far partnered with 50 suppliers and we have more to come. As I have said earlier, our plan is providing A-to-Z products to be made available on our platform. We have set up plans to be a leading e-commerce enterprise in Cambodia in the next 15 years. We believe we can achieve that plan. So we focus on the local market first, then we will expand our services beyond Cambodia – tapping into the Asean market and more destinations. Although some local people are currently not yet adapted to the technology when it comes to buying products online platform, we see the trend is changing gradually with more and more locals becoming aware of the technology. They have changed day-by-day the way they purchase their products.
KT: What is your message being the young tech entrepreneur running an e-commerce platform?
Phalla: Well, I think e-commerce business in Cambodia is taking time. For our business, we do not expect much to generate revenue within the next three to five years. So it may not be able to run things well. But, if we are willing to grow the business, we have to be patient and passionate about it. When we are passionate about what we are doing, we don’t feel tired. Sometimes we work from Monday to Sunday and from dawn to dark. So, be passionate with far-sighted visions, which I think, are fundamental to realise our goal.