Housing demand for low to mid-income brackets is still growing – CHEA Chandara

Having been involved in Phnom Penh International Airport’s expansion work and AEON Mall No.2 projects, SOMA Construction & Development Co., Ltd is one of the top ten construction and design firms in Cambodia.
We interviewed the CEO, Dr. CHEA Chandara about the overview of his company and issues this industry is facing. (Interviewed at: April, 2017)

Interviewee Profile

CHEA Chandara: CEO of SOMA Construction & Development .

Acquired a PhD at Tokyo Institute of Technology

Could you introduce your company?

SOMA Construction & Development Co., Ltd is a subsidiary of SOMA Group Co., Ltd and was established in 2011. In 2014, SOMA Construction & Development Co., Ltd. started as a full construction and architecture firm.

The company offers general construction services for office buildings, hotels, factories, schools, shopping malls, and airports. The company also offers architectural design, MEP, structure, and project management services. Although SOMA Construction & Development has been in the construction sector for only seven years, the company has already performed over 50 construction and design projects and employed almost one thousand employees including workers and technicians.


Could you tell us about yourself and your career?

I earned a Master and PhD Degree of Materials Engineering from Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT) and University of Science of Malaysia. I joined SOMA Group as an engineer in 2011, and became Chief Executive Officer of SOMA Construction & Development in 2013.


Reason SOMA is chosen by many major international companies

Could you tell us about your current projects?

Our current projects are:

1. AEON Mall Sen Sok City: SOMA Construction & Development is one of the subcontractors under supervision from the main contractor, HYUNDAI Engineering (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. for the reinforced concrete works on Zone A of the AEON Mall No.2, covering 40% of the entire project area. SOMA Construction was also awarded phase two of the contract related to decoration work, which is the masonry wall and plastering works at zone B.

2. The Heritage Walk: The Heritage Walk is the biggest shopping mall in Siem Reap province with two basement levels and using a post tension system. SOMA Construction & Development is the main contractor of the structural works.

3. One18 Residences: One18 Residence project is a 25-story serviced apartment development consisting of 124 units with 5 levels of basement designed with mechanized car park system and communal facilities.


What are the strengths of SOMA Construction & Development?

We have three main strengths.
Major achievements of SOMA Construction & Development, as our company has completed a range of projects and is now working in construction, design and project management for both domestic and international clients such as Phnom Penh International Airport, Niroth Water Production Facilities from France, VINCH Construction Grands Projects, Lumiere Hotel from Singapore, Siem Reap’s biggest shopping mall project The Heritage Walk, and One18 Residences, a condominium which is 25 story’s high with five levels of basement designed with mechanized car park who are Singaporean clients. We have had to provide project management with international standards. We will not fail in the international market in terms of technology, monitoring and quality.

Second is Human Resources, the company has skilled and highly committed human resources with various areas of expertise and capabilities. This is a significant advantage to ensure the completion of projects on time and with quality. To strengthen the knowledge of our employees, the company has brought an advanced technology called BIM (Building Information Modeling), which is one of the leading programs for engineering and design work. The company also hired professional coaches from Singapore, to train and master the skills of their employees.

We focus on Quality and safety. Quality is the greatest selling point of any product or service. However, when it comes to construction, quality becomes the key since it affects people’s way of living. For this reason, SOMA Construction & Development has paid attention to both domestic and international technical standards to ensure 100% safety and quality of our constructions. By scanning and evaluating in advance for any risks allows them to take measures to prevent accidents, or any other factors that might affect the quality of finished work.

We strictly implement and adhere to the decree and announcements of the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. We have safety, security, and quality control systems to ensure the accuracy during work execution. This is also in order to push sustainable development and up-to-date safety and quality management systems. The company’s engineers monitor and educate workers regarding safety, hygiene and quality of working performance. In addition, the company also offers free accommodation, electricity and water, safety equipment, and health insurance to their workers and the labor fee is paid regularly to all workers.


Aiming for a sustainable business

Could you tell us your prospect as a company?

We aim to establish a one-stop service for construction, which will begin with designing, project management, construction, materials supply and continue to property development. This is the long-term business that we have thought of. However, this will also depend on the macro economy as well as the nature of business.


Could you tell us about the current business situation of the construction industry in Cambodia?

The demand for housings and buildings has already oversupplied and expected to decline, but housing demand for low to mid-income brackets is still growing, and future growth can be expected.

On the infrastructure side, Cambodia is still under development. Demand for roads, bridges and energy supply are still increasing. Cambodia is in the center of Southeast Asia, which is a good location considering geopolitics and the economy. Only growth of high buildings and high-class properties will decline, the other industries will continue to grow.


Know what Cambodians are really seeking

Could you tell us about the issues that the construction industry in Cambodia is facing?

First, is in general construction. This is related to the import of construction materials in Cambodia. In the past five years, the construction industry has been booming and the imports of construction materials in the country has already reached the limit. We rely on imports from overseas, and it takes time and there are many problems such as not getting what we ordered. Currently, the domestic suppliers are desperately trying to change this.

Secondly, the lack of human resources is a problem. When I talk with investors, it is always a topic that there are not enough skilled engineers in Cambodia. For example, if it is a large-scale project consuming five to six years, there are no workers in Cambodia who have enough experience. It is improving slowly but we still need to hire talent from overseas.

The third point is on the client’s side. When we work with a foreign-owned developer, the clients are satisfied with the contract price we present, because they know that we offer high quality and speed. But local companies just want cheap prices without considering quality. Currently, there are many Chinese-owned construction companies which are entering Cambodia and they offer a reasonable standard of quality, however they do not have awareness of delivery schedule, but they are cheap anyway. These companies are a challenge for us.


What should we keep in mind when constructing a building in Cambodia?

First, I think Cambodia has many advantages compared with other countries. Cambodian people’s trust on the products and services provided by Japanese people and their brands are high. However, there are many things that the Japanese do not understand about Cambodians, such as the selection of land and the design targeted for Cambodian people.

Therefore, the selection of partner is very important to bring the business to a success. Secondly, the selection of contractor is also very important. You will succeed if these two are considered properly and selected well. Please by all means believe in the business success in Cambodia.