Installing A New Culture In Cambodia: Online Grocery In The Burgeoning E-commerce Market

[:ja]唐[:][:en]Yusi[:] [:ja]語思[:][:en]Tang[:]

by Yusi Tang

You may have heard of online grocery and used them already. You may have also heard the rumor that such a thing exists in countries like Cambodia. However, have you ever expected to see your deliveryman is the CEO of the company from which you just ordered the ingredients for your dinner tonight…?
A young man with an ambition to push his country on the stage of e-commerce market, Sarath Uch (26), is striving to create a new culture in Cambodia.
With a few delivery fees, you will save a large amount of time, enjoy the best quality food, and most important, you will be joining one of the most would-be-phenomenal national projects in Cambodia.

Yusi: You must have explained this many times already, but what exactly is Pengpos?

Sarath: Pengpos is an online grocery delivery service. We are trying to bring convenience to people in order to make their lives easier and help them saving their time too. In particular, those who have children are the busiest because they need to pick up their children from schools after work, and they can be stuck in a traffic jam. It is very tiring. We want to bring them a way to get grocery and everything they need with a few clicks on the finger. We select the best quality products from our contracted stores and deliver them to our customer’s home and office.

Pengpos is an on-demand grocery delivery servic - Installing A New Culture In Cambodia: Online Grocery In The Burgeoning E-commerce Market

We heard that sometimes you do the delivery by yourself. Why are you doing this?

Right. I deliver 4-5 times a day to check if there’s anything that doesn’t match the demand and try to prevent those problems happening again. Most of the time in Cambodia, it’s a matter of time because people want to get their products immediately like 20-30 minutes after the order.

Does the idea of online grocery come from your own experience?

Exactly. My mom works but also has to go shopping, cook and do the laundry every day. There are a lot of things for her to do, so I wish to help her by reducing the time outside so that she can go home straight away and get what she needs.
The idea also comes from my co-founder Chakrya Chea. She studied in Korea and everything was very easy there. She rarely needed to go to supermarkets (or let’s say she was lazy to go). But after coming back to Cambodia, she found everything was difficult since she lives in an outskirt of the city. Parking is also a big issue and she doesn’t want her parents to drive to the market by themselves. I think it’s a common problem in Cambodian cities. Even nobody uses the service we hope that we could still somehow help our parents.

Your mother must be very proud of you!

Actually not. Parents’ generation doesn’t want their kids to do business because it takes a long time to be successful. My mom used to compare her kids to neighbor’s who work for the government and have a salary every month, and will get a pension after their retirement.

Growing in such an environment, what nurtured your entrepreneurial mind? Let’s discover your past experience, and see what was your turning point. So, what made you so brave to start your own business?

Learning guitar taught me a lot. It taught me being patient and keeping-going. I started the guitar when I was 15 years old. My family and friends told me that I don’t have the talent. However if I quitted then, I wouldn’t be able to play the guitar now, nor reading the music score nor composing songs. No one around me supported me including my brother, sister, neighbors and friends. I felt very disappointed but told myself, ‘one day, I will show them that I can do this.’ I insisted on learning and watching YouTube videos to improve. There was no room to give up inside me. I learned that good things never come by talent and they don’t come immediately. I believe that talent is just a small part – passion and commitment are required. Although Pengpos hasn’t reached the level we want yet, I apply this theory to my life and insist on what I decided to do.

"Talent is just a small part and good things never come immediately" - Installing A New Culture In Cambodia: Online Grocery In The Burgeoning E-commerce Market
“Talent is just a small part and good things never come immediately”

For the last three years, I’ve been running a web consultancy company. During that time, there were only a few co-working spaces and many people even didn’t know what a co-working space was. An entrepreneur was considered the same as a businessman in Cambodia. In fact, they are two different things. Entrepreneurs are innovators who focus on solving one specific problem whereas business people are engaged in trading without the mind of innovation, and the focus is on money. They don’t believe in failure but only success. For entrepreneurs however, we think about sustainability, impact and innovations which can scale-up fast.

Learning the world outside

According to the life history chart you drew earlier, you also traveled on your own?

According to the life history chart  - Installing A New Culture In Cambodia: Online Grocery In The Burgeoning E-commerce Market

Yes, I started traveling alone when I was 18 to Thailand. It’s not common for Cambodian people. Normally parents get worried but I decided to go. My mom was so angry at me but I told her that I already got a bus ticket. haha Fortunately, I had an English teacher who offered me an accommodation during my travel. It was so amazing. I met a lot of expats in Bangkok, and they told me a lot of stories and crazy things happening in the country. Then I went to Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.
After traveling, I found the world is so big. During that time, I started my own travel consultancy and at that time, I just knew how to create a basic website. But after starting my own business I learned that there were a lot more things to do such as customer communication, accounting, and marketing. That’s why I always co-found companies.
In this process, I co-founded three companies. The first one was a Software company. The second one is called inoover Digital Solution Lab, which is still available now. It offers solutions to mobile application development, web design, and social media marketing. Then I wanted to do something big so I started SnapyShop*1, but it didn’t match the product market. It was at too early stage for the country and the product didn’t bring a sustainable revenue model so we decided to shut.

*1 SnapyShop is a place where people can sell their products by snapping pictures with their mobile phones and use the chat box to bargain the price.

Is there any common ground for your products?

I believe that our core values are to deliver on time, deliver the best quality, and fix problems customers have. That’s why most of our services are web-based and made for mobile site. We want to bring business online.

Speaking of online, when did you become interested in programming? And why did you combine it with business?

I started to learn codes when I was in grade 11 or 12. I knew nothing but playing games at that time. One day, my cousin showed me a book and taught me how that language can make things. I gradually realized that everything including a game or a mobile phone starts from a code. I started understanding that programming is the key to every opportunity.
After learning and exploring more, I read websites such as and Business Insider, started learning from startups, and inspired by startups.

Challenges and Future prospects

What’s the biggest obstacle you are facing so far?

The main obstacle is that we have to challenge people’s behavior. Most of Cambodians don’t have the custom to shop online. They may shop online but only from Facebook. When we talk about e-commerce, people would ask why you don’t do it on Facebook? But we want to register and adapt ourselves to the e-commerce platform. There is more trustworthiness in terms of online payment (which is another big obstacle) and convenience in searching products with Pengpos. We are trying to push people to learn about e-commerce now.

Lastly, what kind of world do you want to create through Pengpos?

We are trying to convert the lifestyle of Cambodians. Now people may sell their products via Facebook but we think there should be a platform for chatting so we created one by ourselves. However, the attempt failed with SnapyShop. It was too early for the country and we decided to drop the project. Though after this experience, we learned that e-commerce is so amazing and so interesting, and I still believe it will work in Cambodia step by step.

Sarath Uch, Co-founder of Pengpos

Sarath Uch, Co-founder of Pengpos

Sarath Uch is a serial entrepreneur who co-founded inoover Digital Solution Lab*2, SnapyShop*3 and Pengpos. Graduated from the Royal University of Phnom Penh with a degree in Computer Science, he provides web-based solutions to both local and international clients.
In February 2016, he launched Pengpos with his co-founder Chakrya Chea. Pengpos is an online grocery delivery service which is created to help people saving their time on shopping and get the best quality product with a few clicks on the finger. Customers can expect to see Sarath in person now when they order anything from the store!

*2 inoover Digital Solution Lab (2015-present): a creative professional web and mobile development company providing a digital solution to both local and international NGOs and companies.
*3 SnapyShop (2013-2015): Snap-Chat-Deal! A modern online marketplace and the first and the only marketplace application in Cambodia that allows people to buy and sell products online quickly and easily.


Business Hours: 10am – 7pm
Address: #17, Street 306, Impact Hub Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phone: +855-95-313-626

Editor’s note

On one hand, Sarath is a very thoughtful and friendly person. He offered me drinks and asked how was my stay in Cambodia when I arrive at his workplace. On the other hand, he has the charisma of entrepreneur and an air of strictness that you will feel from a CEO of a big corporation. It would a great opportunity to join Sarath’s project for those who want to help improve the quality of life in Cambodia. The members of Pengpos are chosen purely based on their skills rather than their personalities. Thus, it may be very challenging to contribute in such a specially-selected team if you are a beginner, but a speedy self-development is guaranteed for sure!

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