Lao Sopheak, Founder of Sombok-IT

Blogger Turns Into Entrepreneur Bringing Official IT Products To Cambodia: Lao Sopheak, founder of Sombok-IT

[:ja]鈴木[:][:en]Azumi[:] [:ja]梓美[:][:en]Suzuki[:]

by Azumi Suzuki

Do you like online shopping? Online shopping is very useful, but we concern the most may be the quality of the product because when you buy something via the internet, you cannot try using it before you get. Actually, in Cambodia, there are many people sell something online especially on Facebook because of its usefulness. However, most of the products they sell are not made sure of the quality. Especially, many Cambodian people buy copy products, which quality is not good, because of its low cost. Then, a man stood up to provide the best goods into online and offline markets in Cambodia. He is Mr. Sopheak, the founder of Sombok-IT which focuses on dealing official IT products in Cambodia where is filled with fake products.

Originally Sombok-IT started as a blog

Azumi: Please describe what Sombok-IT exactly is.

Sopheak: We deal many kinds of electronic products such as compact wifi, speaker and so on. Our point is that we sell only official products, and most of the products come from abroad. First, Sombok-IT was born in 2011 on the internet as a blog. I started writing a blog to introduce IT tips and IT products in Khmer language. As the time goes, one of my agent who likes to read my page asked me, “Where can I buy such products in Cambodia?” Then I realized that there are needs but there are no providers here, so I decided to sell them by myself.

Compact WiFi is the first product Sopheak sold

In 2014, I started to sell products at my house but only two or three kinds of products. The first product I started to sell was compact wifi which we can use everywhere by inserting SIM card in. However, they wouldn’t buy it because of the high price ($60-70). But I didn’t give up.

Two or Three months later, I decided to stop selling products at home but started to sell them at the house I rent. I tried many times to improve our way of marketing, choice of goods and so on. Finally, many customers started to visit our shop. Currently, we have 7 staffs and 3 internships.

Furthermore, last year, we opened another shop named Theanea which sells mainly SONY’s smartphone, because if we sell Samsung, Huawei or other company’s products that are already dealt in Cambodia, we will not be able to stay in that market, so I decided to focus on new things. Also, I love to do what no one hasn’t focused on.

Sombok-IT was born in 2011 as a blog

Oh, you’re also writing blog on Sombok-IT?

I stopped writing a blog after I started to sell goods since I was too busy. I love reading articles and blogging but I thought I wouldn’t be able to make money by just writing articles because even if I spent long hours to write the articles, income is so little. Of course, some people can succeed in blogging. One of my friends could make money to buy a house just blogging. But I think it’s a rare case. Then, I stopped writing and started my own shop.

Why did you choose IT products?

It’s very simple. Because I like IT products. I love to sell what I like to use. Moreover, if I like using products that I sell, I can tell how to use it for customers and can share the good points of products or new products.

How do you sell products?

Mainly we have three ways to sell products:

  1. We send products first and customers would pay back by cash when the product reached them.
  2. Customers come to store directly and pay by cash or credit card at the store.
  3. We receive money from customers first and after that send the product to them.

If they want to buy via online, they can only use credit card payment. The most popular way is the second one because customers can try and test a product before use it.

How do you deliver the products to your customers?

When we deliver the products in Phnom Penh, our staff will deliver it to the customer’s house by ourselves. The price is $1-3, however, we will not deliver products to the faraway place beyond the bridges because we are afraid of losing products.

When we deliver to other provinces, we entrust to the delivery service whose name is “Kerry Express”. We have used this service many times, but no problems have happened. Therefore, we can trust that they would deliver pieces of baggage safely. And more, their service is so cheap and affordable for us. If we send near provinces maybe we cost only $1.

Actually, I have some friends who open the shop on Facebook, but they haven’t succeeded like you yet. What do you think about the key points to sustain online shopping in Cambodia?

I think how to attract customers is the most important. That’s because there are so many shops on the Facebook that people don’t get interested in the ordinary shop. Also, they don’t know about the strong points of our business at all. Thus, we have to make them impressed. If you advertise your products via Facebook, you should post a lot. For example, in my business, the products many people buy are always the ones which are seen by at least thousands of people on the Facebook.

Deal “right” products

Sombok-IT Store, Sopheak's first shop
Sombok-IT Store, his first shop

Do you have any competitors in your business?

As you know, there are many people who deal IT products in Phnom Penh. However, I stopped calling them as my competitors since last year because most of them sell unofficial products. For example, I sell a speaker which is original one at $200, but they sell a copy one at $20. What I sell is different from what they sell, so I stopped thinking they are our competitor.

So, you don’t think it’s not the big problem, right? Then, what is the difficulty for you?

Yes. Of course, there are some dealers sell fake products at a high price lying that they are original ones. We have to fight against such dealers and which can be a little problem. But it is not the serious one. The most difficult things for me is finding good products to sell. If I don’t trust the products, I will not sell them, thus I need to try them by myself at first. However, I deal many products from abroad, so it is difficult to decide which one to choose as the goods I deal. Also, it is difficult to introduce the new things to customers. But I believe that thinking for products I deal carefully is necessary for good service. Therefore, I think they are the most difficult part of my business.

Expand business by building the trust with customers

What is Sombok-IT’s goal?

Next year, I plan to create a new shop which deals cameras. Moreover, I also would like to create shops which deal laptops and any other IT products in the future. I mean I want to categorize the products and sell them at each separated shops. I want to bring the Sombok-IT up to the bigger group which deals wide range of IT products.

Prefer to build the trust among customers than to work for the mega money

Then, what is your individual goal in the future?

I will only sell the original products or warranted products forever and prefer to build the trust among customers than to work for the mega money. Because I think the most important thing in the business is trust. Especially, in the online shopping, the customers send money and the shops send products, but customers cannot see actual products. And also, if the customers cannot trust products or shops, they don’t want to send money. Therefore, the building trust is necessary for online shopping.

Even I was not confident, I followed my heart

I see you have a strong passion for IT products. Do your parents also have a job related to IT?

No, my parents have their own business, but they don’t know anything about IT. My parents take pictures in front of the Royal Palace for tourists. They take pictures and sell those only in 1000-2000 riel all day. Actually, I have also done the work in order to help my parents when I was a high school student, though I was not a photographer. I did it in the morning and in the evening, except the time when I was studying at the high school.

I also love to take photographs and I am willing to take pictures when I have my friends’ wedding party or something. But I just did it to get some money even though I loved to take photographs.
I have brothers and sisters too, but, they also major other subjects. So I am the first one who started IT business in my family.

You don’t know anyone whose work related to IT, so what made you interested in IT?

Well… in fact, I wanted to study economy when I was a high school student. Then, I looked for a school where I might be able to study Economy, but at that time, if I wanted to study Economy, I had to take a business class. So I decided to major IT instead of Economy. This was the first step I touched IT.

When did you decide to be an entrepreneur?

In 2014, when I left the former job. Actually, I was working at the company since 2011, but I was bored of routine work there because all of the staff do the same jobs and also I have to do the same jobs every day, and no matter how hard I worked, my salary had not improved. Then I thought of launching business by myself, stopped working there and started Sombok-IT. If I didn’t quit the job, I could get salary constantly, but I don’t want to try hard for working. In contrary, I can make effort to gain much more revenue for myself. Working as an entrepreneur is more exciting for me.

But I think quitting the job was the big decision for you. Did you have the confidence to succeed your business when you quitted the job?

No! I wasn’t so confident. Actually, my parents also stopped me leaving the job because they didn’t believe that I would succeed. But I learned about IT at the university and had some bits of knowledge about IT, so I could treat products well. And I tried to build a good relationship with customers day by day. Furthermore, when I started the business, I already married with my wife whom I got to know at the university, we could work supporting each other. She studied about IT at the university too, thus she is the best partner for me.

Wow, it’s wonderful to have such the best partner!!

Lastly, please give a message to our readers!

I have two points.
First, if you want to start the new business, you should not start alone because there are many obstacles to create your own path. If you face to obstacles when you have a partner, your partner will help you or you will be able to help with each other. So you should have one or two partners to start your business.

Second, you are the one who makes something new happen, so don’t repeat others. Try something new and don’t do something they already did. And if you started at once, don’t look back the past, because you have to go ahead for the future. Sometimes you may feel that you cannot do well. However, be confident that your current situation is better than before. Believe in your decision. Positive thinking will help you.

Lao Sopheak, Founder of Sombok-IT

Lao Sopheak, Founder of Sombok-IT

Sopheak majored in IT and graduated from Norton University in 2012. After engaging in IT companies, he established Sombok-IT as a blog introducing IT products and tips in Khmer language. While introducing overseas IT products to Cambodia through his blog, he found the needs of shops dealing with IT products. Taking this opportunity, he turned his business into selling IT products. Currently, he aims to cover other categories’ products and make Sombok-IT a big group dealing various IT products.

Sombok-IT Store

Sombok-IT Store

Address: #51CEoE1, St.360, BKK3, Phnom Penh
HP: www.sombokit.com
Facebook: store.sombokit

Theanea Store

Theanea Store ហាងធានា

Address: #352, Monivong BLVD, BKK1, Phnom Penh
Tel: +855-98-671-672
Opening Hour: 8:00 – 20:00
Facebook: theanea.store

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