In early March, three Nordic busi­ness­men, the Dane Kjeld Olsen, the Nor­we­gian Morten Kvam­men and the Finn Teemu Jan­tunen, pre­sented their vi­sion and mis­sion state­ment for a new Nordic Cham­ber of Com­merce in Cam­bo­dia. Pages

Nordic fron­tier en­trepreneurs are form­ing a busi­ness net­work to bring in more busi­ness from home.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - HENRI VIIRALT

In early March, three Nordic busi­ness­men, Mr Kjeld Olsen, Mr Morten Kvam­men and Mr Teemu Jan­tunen, pre­sented their vi­sion and mis­sion state­ment for a new Nordic Cham­ber of Com­merce in Cam­bo­dia in front of a group of 50 peo­ple that had gath­ered in a trendy restau­rant in the cap­i­tal of Ph­nom Penh.

“We or­gan­ised a small net­work­ing event to mea­sure the level of in­ter­est to es­tab­lish NordCham Cam­bo­dia among the busi­ness com­mu­nity, and we were ab­so­lutely over­whelmed by the strong turnout and sup­port,” says Mr Olsen.

He is an au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try en­tre­pre­neur from Den­mark with 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in three coun­tries, who has nur­tured his busi­ness in­ter­ests in Cam­bo­dia for the past four years by found­ing a car deal­er­ship Car4you and Dan­filCarz, which pro­duces zero emis­sion elec­tric ve­hi­cles and a num­ber of spe­cialised ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing minibuses, VIP vans, food trucks, that the com­pany is ex­port­ing to sev­eral coun­tries around the world.

He has also been the main driv­ing force be­hind found­ing NordCham, which is aimed to serve as a plat­form for en­gag­ing with Nordic busi­nesses and ac­tiv­i­ties in Cam­bo­dia.

“We, the Nordic coun­tries, are rel­a­tively small and Cam­bo­dia is also a small coun­try, so the trade be­tween us has tra­di­tion­ally not been sub­stan­tial. When there’s no trade, it means that there are very few busi­ness peo­ple on the ground. I ar­rived to Viet­nam 12 years ago and I had some con­tacts in Cam­bo­dia, and dur­ing that time all the Nordic peo­ple were part of NGOs, em­bassies and so on. This is cer­tainly chang­ing now.”

Re­new­ables, es­pe­cially wind and wa­ter power gen­er­a­tion, and also green tech, are ar­eas that show great po­ten­tial for op­por­tu­ni­ties for Nordic coun­tries in Cam­bo­dia, ac­cord­ing to Mr Olsen.

“The Nor­we­gians are strong in the mar­itime and aqua­cul­ture sec­tors, and Mr Kvam­men, who is also one of the founders of NordCham Cam­bo­dia, is help­ing to de­velop a fish farm­ing busi­ness here. The Danes have a great ca­pac­ity to de­velop the gar­ment in­dus­try, but they aren’t do­ing much in Cam­bo­dia yet, many busi­nesses still pre­fer to do pro­duc­tion in Thai­land or Viet­nam, and then sub­sidise some of the pro­duc­tion here due to lower labour costs or a need to di­ver­sify.”

Mr Olsen, who has pre­vi­ously served as the head of NordCham in Hanoi, said that there had been a few failed at­tempts in re­cent years for en­trepreneurs to set up busi­ness clubs in Cam­bo­dia, but con­sid­er­ing the small num­ber of Nordic peo­ple on the ground, they failed be­cause the coun­tries were not united. Draw­ing on his ex­pe­ri­ence, Mr Olsen thought they might have more luck in for­mu­lat­ing a clus­ter of 4-5 coun­tries.

“In fron­tier mar­kets like Cam­bo­dia, usu­ally the Dan­ish make up around 50% of NordChams, with the other 50% be­ing split be­tween Swe­den, Nor­way, Fin­land and some­times Ice­land. Per­haps this is be­cause we are a bit more en­tre­pre­neur­ial than our neigh­bours and are more used to trad­ing, but the com­pa­nies that Danes have in Cam­bo­dia tend to be rather small

in scale, cov­er­ing ar­eas like IT, me­dia agen­cies and con­sul­tan­cies in var­i­ous in­dus­tries. The Swedes and Nor­we­gians would usu­ally bring big­ger com­pa­nies when com­ing out – H&M has a large sourc­ing of­fice in Ph­nom Penh, al­though Maersk has now be­come one of the largest lo­gis­tics provider here. All the rest are var­i­ous SMEs you wouldn’t have heard of be­fore.”

Upon re­al­is­ing that the Nordic coun­tries need a con­certed ef­fort for this to work, Mr Olsen then launched his cru­sade to mus­ter­ing sup­port.

“I went around the em­bassies, start­ing with the Swedish one here in Ph­nom Penh, and the Dan­ish, Nor­we­gian and Fin­nish in Bangkok. Then I toured all the Nordic Chambers of Com­merce there, too.”

His ef­forts seemed to have cer­tainly paid off since both the Dan­ish and Swedish am­bas­sadors at­tended and held speeches at the NordCham Cam­bo­dia event.

H.E. Mr Uffe Wolffhechel, Am­bas­sador of Den­mark to Thai­land and Cam­bo­dia, was im­pressed by the large turnout and praised the ini­tia­tive for its ef­forts to cre­ate a safety net for Nordic busi­nesses in Cam­bo­dia.

H.E. Ms Maria Sar­gen, the Swedish Am­bas­sador to Cam­bo­dia, had only held her position for two weeks when Mr Olsen con­tacted her and in­formed her of his plans.

“I think it’s im­pres­sive to see what has hap­pened in just a few months and I am very happy to have been able to fol­low this process. It is in my in­ter­est and the in­ter­est of the em­bassy to con­tinue sup­port­ing the Nordic Cham­ber of Com­merce,” said Ms Sar­gren in an in­ter­view with Scan­dAsia dur­ing the event.

But Mr Olsen’s cru­sade didn’t end with the em­bassies and chambers, as he soon re­alised that in or­der to make his ef­forts more rel­e­vant, NordCham Cam­bo­dia should op­er­ate un­der EuroCham.

“I went to EuroCham in Ph­nom Penh be­cause they don’t have any­thing like it here and they were very pos­i­tive. We are small so we want to be es­tab­lished as a chap­ter within EuroCham be­cause be­ing a much larger or­gan­i­sa­tion, they re­ceive more funds from the EU, and can cre­ate big­ger events that at­tract more peo­ple.”

While fi­nal­is­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions with EuroCham are still un­der­way and NordCham’s of­fi­cial ac­cep­tance to the or­gan­i­sa­tion will be pend­ing on their an­nual gen­eral meet­ing, Mr Olsen is hope­ful that ev­ery­thing will pro­ceed as planned and that they can even­tu­ally tap into EuroCham’s fund­ing for fu­ture events.

The events in the plan­ning stage are break­fast events with CEO’s, even­ing net­work­ing events, com­pany vis­its and even­ing fo­rums to en­gage in busi­ness re­la­tions. How­ever, they also hope to be able to host sev­eral so­cial events such as cray­fish par­ties, Lu­cia pa­rades, Christ­mas lunch and even a party in­spired by the Nordic Vik­ings.

“There haven’t been any Nordic trade mis­sions to Cam­bo­dia be­fore. The Swedish gov­ern­ment is plan­ning one that will hope­fully take place this spring and the Danes and Nor­we­gians are also talk­ing about it. This is def­i­nitely one key area where we can act as their part­ner and of­fer our sup­port in help­ing to fa­cil­i­tate the trip and bring­ing more Nordic busi­ness here, and im­prov­ing over­all trade with Cam­bo­dia,” says Mr Olsen.

Above: Panorama of Cam­bo­dia's fa­mous land­mark, Angkor Wat.


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