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Laos and Cambodia: Challenges of doing security business

Laos and Cambodia: Challenges of doing security business
The Laos and Cambodia security market is experiencing growth due to a rise in infrastructure and commercial projects. Yet challenges still remain. These include price competition and a lack of regulations governing security.
Competition has become fierce in the Cambodia and Lao market, especially amid an influx of Chinese products that lure users with their attractive prices.
“In 2007 and 2008 we were selling cameras [from a major Western brand]. There wasn't much competition – you could sell this camera for around US$1,000 back then. But now if you try to sell a camera for that kind of price, no one is going to pay due to the competition,” said Michael Billen, Managing Director of Eyetech Security Systems, a Laos-based systems integrator.
How to survive amid this competition, then, has become a major challenge, and security players cope by building value and choosing customers carefully.
“We build a strong network and keep focused on what we do. Sure, price is very competitive, but I must also look at who is my real customer. There are posts on our Facebook everyday from people wanting to buy one set of four camera for $185 to $300, but I’m not focused on those customers,” said Kuy Channeth, Sales Project Manager at Cambodia-based V-SAFE.
“We try to improve on the customer support and work on marketing. Our company vision is not focus on price competition; rather we try to get customer good experience on our service before and after sale,” said Sovan Hok, GM of NKTECH also based in Cambodia.
Some, meanwhile, diversify their product range to cater to different segments of the market. “For our embassy projects, we use Hanwha Techwin and we use Aimetis, and we cater Dahua to the more price-sensitive end of the market. We put some Dahua cameras recently at the Lao Airlines facility,” Billen said. “Now, what I do is whenever I give a quotation, I offer a high-end product, and then I offer a mid-range option as well, so I would cover both ends of the market.”
For distributors or systems integrators using Western or non-Chinese brands, things may look bleak. Yet they say those brands still stand a chance given their reputation and good quality.
ADTECH, a Cambodia-based systems integrator, for example uses Salto and Hanwha Techwin for certain projects. “We use Hanwha Techwin in condominiums. The client, they like Samsung,” said Chomnap Sun, Technical Sale Manager at ADTECH, referring to the Hanwha Techwin’s brand before the ownership changeover. “The system is more stable on the headend. The support is much better – they take care of their partners more.”
“As for Salto, we use them in certain five- to six-star hotels,” Sun added. “While Korean and Western brands are more expensive, they don’t get a lot of complaints from customers.”

Lack of regulations

Another challenge in Cambodia and Laos is a lack of regulations governing the security of certain buildings or facilities. Without such regulations in place, users are reluctant to install security. Educating the end user, then, becomes important.
Take Laos for instance. “There is no real regulation requirement. Take fire alarms, for example. As far as I'm aware, there are no real regulations regarding fire alarms in hotels, apartments and offices. So that is a very blurry area,” Billen said. “Because they don’t have that requirement, we have to approach end users and try to convince them that they need the fire alarm. We need to go out to engage the customer and to try to educate them why they need the product and how it can benefit them.”

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