November 2020, Sokha Heng, a prominent businesswoman and philanthropist from Phnom Penh, became the owner of Connectum, a UK-based internet banking and e-commerce system, and plans to employ its features for her work in Cambodia. Connectum has a long-standing history of successful partnership with multiple businesses in the EU and the UK, being one of the top-rated Internet acquiring service providers. But why, you would ask, one of the well-known Cambodian charity runners and social figures, needs to acquire such a system. Why would it be needed in Cambodia?

For many people from the outside, Cambodia is an underdeveloped third-world country with problems like poverty, disease, hunger and illiteracy. Indeed, all those problems are still present in modern day Cambodia, but defining it only this way is very stereotypical. Cambodia has a rich culture and many talented and devoted people, striving to achieve success for their families and their homeland. If you think e-commerce is a thing unheard of in Cambodia, you probably know very little of it.

According to statistics, the e-commerce market annual cap in Cambodia will exceed $200 million in 2021, a very solid figure to start with. The average annual growth of the market is around 8%, which is also a very attractive rate for any business owner or investor.  The most prominent segment is fashion, and it usually means that a lot of small businesses and local brands or retailers are taking part in the activity. E-commerce penetration is over 30% at the moment, not as much as in Western Europe, but as Internet penetration is growing fast in Cambodia, this number is also bound to rise.

Cambodian e-commerce is characterized by a large quality of facebook shops or even Instagram accounts that act as shops. Many of them have little to nothing in terms of payment infrastructure and many use under-the-table payment methods.

At the same time, Cambodia is a great place in Asia to do business from. Business registration procedure is quick and cheap, and foreigners can easily own businesses in Cambodia. Besides it has a very favorable geographic position in the ASEAN, in the very heart of it, close to both India, China and South Korea, all three being the world’s biggest e-commerce markets.

Another advantage of Cambodia being an international e-commerce hub is its recent e-commerce legislation. Passed in 2019 it made a lot of movement for legalizing e-commerce businesses and gave a very good stimulus for them to come out of the shade.

The biggest revenue right now for Cambodian e-commerce businesses is raised in China, but since it’s international trade, many small businesses can’t afford selling abroad and stick to home sales. And because Cambodian population is highly unbanked, these are mostly done with cash, which limits businesses geographically. Cambodian banks do offer acquiring services, but because the service is not wide spread, they can only offer expensive fees, otherwise, it won’t be feasible to support it. And this where buying Connectum can help. Having a history of successful endeavours in financial management, Sokha Heng plans to use  Connectum’s  European experience to  enrich the financial sector in Cambodia and to bring there innovations and services that would be affordable, easy to use and implement. This could drive e-commerce infrastructure and make it available to a lot of businesses in Cambodia.

In particular, opening a branch of Connectum in Cambodia could be a possibility.  Its experience in Europe shows that the system is available to almost any ventures, including smaller one-person start-ups who do not have their own accounting or legal services. Automated acquiring and fully legal and licensed transfers is something many Cambodian smaller businesses can find useful to start selling abroad without investing a lot of money in a complex international sales infrastructure, to do it fully legally in accordance with internationally accepted norms.

Sokha Heng is keen on bringing prosperity and opportunities for people in her country. Using the experience of Connectum to her is first and foremost a means of giving the Cambodian e-commerce market and local acquiring services a much-needed push and perhaps even a breakthrough. This could create jobs and stimulate qualified workers for professional growth and help small businesses to scale and increase their reach.