Sabay.com, a Khmer site boasting 20 million page views and 2.5 million visitors per month in Cambodia. In addition to Sabay.com, Mr. Sila, CEO of the company develops local restaurants and overseas food brands in Cambodia.
We asked him about the media industry in Cambodia. (Interviewed at: August, 2017)
Chy Sila: CEO of Sabay Digital Corporation.
Providing positive information to Cambodian people
Could you introduce your company?
I am Sila Chy Thmor. I started an online game company in 2007. 3 years later, in 2010 we expanded our new business and opened a web site called Sabay.com. It is the first site launched in Khmer and its topics are related to Cambodia. After that, we further expanded to online entertainment business. I am not specialized in media, but I am producing various contents to people in the entertainment industry.
Could you tell us the strengths of your company?
I think that the difference with other companies is our vision. As the company name “Sabay”, our vision is to make people happy, “Sabay” means happiness in Khmer.
Therefore, while many media report bad news such as tragedy, war, conflict, struggles, Sabay places great importance on making content that make people positive and happy. Of course, bad news is information that people need, but Sabay news is transmitting information that makes people brighter, contrary to such general media.
In addition, Sabay news is constantly challenging new things as an innovative media and creative pioneer. We are trying to introduce new technologies and know-how from all over the world and apply them to the Cambodian market.
You have 20 plus million page views and 2.5 million visitors per month as Cambodia’s largest media.
How do you make the media with popularity from Cambodian people?
We are confident that we are a very large media in the local market as a single website. I think that the reason for receiving great support from the Cambodian people is our businesses is focusing on Cambodian people. The website is all Khmer, and the content also places great importance on the news that happens in Cambodia.
We are focused on entertainment, technology, sports, lifestyle news, etc., which are high interest from young people who are our main target. We provide topics on what they are interested in, what they want, such as the food they enjoy, places to go and play, night life, latest fashion, etc.
Regarding the entertainment field, Sabay has long experience and deep understanding, it is possible to obtain and expand news with speed.
We also have a media for women. 55% of the Cambodian population is female, so we have opened a website dedicated for women for the first time in Cambodia. Although topics focused on women does not attracted much attention, we address local women’s problems and topics such as health, beauty and general incidents.
Online users in Cambodia is 7 million people, and about 80% of them are young people, therefore we are developing business targeting young people as well. I think that they gain a lot through accessing the internet, using social media and IT.
In Cambodia, what is the reason of Internet being so popular?
This is my opinion as being born and raised in Cambodia, but in my time, there was no youth using the Internet, not many knowledge, information contents can be access through books or medias.
In Japan, you can access also everything through books, Medias, Now internet came suddenly, you can braws through millions of website and now mobile apps. We do not have to go anywhere or purchase newspaper to get news information. Even without searching, if you look at Facebook, someone shares the latest news. It is an era when information is available so easily. Therefore, I think people in Cambodia prefer to know information through the internet.
Implementing a project focusing on rural areas
Could you tell us about Cambodian Internet usage?
According to our database, 70% of our users live in Phnom Penh and access from the province is only 30%.
However, even if people can access the internet, some of them do not know how to get to the news. Even if they are using a smartphone, there are still a lot of people who are not online, or do not know how to use the internet. Although Cambodia’s smartphone retention rate is very high, not everyone can use the Internet.
However, as education on the Internet is underway, understanding is gradually deepening, and it seems that the market is growing. Also, even if people do not know how to use the internet, many know how to use Facebook. If you have a Facebook account, you can access news and connect with people. This is a movement specific to Cambodia.
I think that the cheap communication charges bring more people to use the internet.
Although calling charges are expensive, data communication fees are very cheap. For that reason, people talk on messenger, Line, we chat, weibo, etc., and the use of fixed phones through the network is decreasing. Similar trends are seen not only in urban areas but also in rural areas and I feel that they will grow further in the future.
What is your company doing to capture the local people?
As an initiative focusing on rural areas, we are conducting a project annually, called “ The Road Home”. Our main users are people living in Phnom Penh. However, there are few people born and raised in Phnom Penh. Most of them are coming from rural areas. For that reason, we are paying attention to this fact because many people are interested in rural and villages as well.
In the project, we will interview in each province of Cambodia as a website promotion and post information from each region on our website. Last year we held a special feature about rural culture. Food, dialect, history and so on. Different regional cuisines differ in cooking spirit and dialects, we hosted this feature so Cambodian citizens will have the opportunity to learn more about our own country.
We are planning to hold the next event in February 2018, and after the project we will also hold an exhibition of photographs taken in rural areas. At the same time, we aim to make rural people to know our website, and we are implementing it as a promotion for rural areas.
More people recognize the power of new media
What kind of changes do you feel about the industry over the past few years?
For the past 10 years since I entered the IT industry, the Internet industry has changed a lot. It became easier to purchase smartphones about 5 years ago, around 2012 to 2013, and the movement of people using the Internet has expanded significantly.
In the past, computers and desktops for companies were mainstream, and people using the Internet for private use could not be found, but with the spread of smartphones the method of access to the Internet is changing dramatically. The purchase price of mobile phones has dropped to under 200 USD, and the prices fell dramatically in the last few years due to intensified competition of mobile operators.
With the spread of the Internet, there are many business opportunities in this industry.
social media is using for commercials and business promotions now. People are deepening their understanding of the power of social media and the power of new media and it is becoming mainstream for corporates to advertise using such media.
Before people used to spend advertising budgets on traditional media such as television, newspapers, magazines, and radio, it is now shifting to new media, our company now serving more than 200 companies from local to international corporation and more to come. Also, through gradual growth of e-commerce and sales of goods, recognition of commercial business using Facebook account and online has expanded. Such tools are now used to promote and branding.
Cambodia is growing fast and there are parts that skip every step taken by other countries. In my opinion, I think that in the coming years the commercialization of social media becomes the majority, and I think that smartphones will be used for payment, settlement, E-banking, transactions and others. Even now there are more people using the smartphone to pay settlement through Pi-pay, WING, etc. It is very convenient and the price is also cheap.
Cambodia, which is recognized as the last frontier of development, we are not slow in any means, but the least developed in technology. Therefore, large enterprises are entering the country focusing on the large population of Cambodia and the benefits the business provides. We are doing business with emphasis on local industries and understanding their trends, so we are also contributing to the strategic development of large enterprises entering Cambodia.
Could you tell us about business development in the future?
For a long time, Cambodia spent a painful era such as civil war and poverty. My parents’ generation and my generation spent life in a poor environment. Therefore, our mission is to make people in Cambodia happier. That is why, I try to create positive contents, I try to avoid report any band news, conflict and political news.
As I said, mobile phones will be a powerful tool for payment. E-Commerce has not yet succeeded in Cambodia market and there are still huge opportunities in this field. We also started our e-commerce business, through this business we hope to provide people a unique experience, such as people being able to order overseas products online along the way local products also can sale to oversea as well.
Sabay going into Movie distribution business and also make local movie and drama for TV station because we have many contents content right, recently we just launched a video on demand service that can be called the Cambodian version of Netflix. We are planning to continue to develop creative contents and positive products that make people happier.
- Sabay Digital Corporation
- Description of Business : Digital Media