Over the past 5 years, the number of app developers in Cambodia has grown exponentially, with more than 30 companies now operating in the Kingdom. Despite the growth of the industry, more developers are needed in an effort to address systemic issues within the business management, financial transaction and marketing fields.
Ear Uy started out as an app developer and founded Osjar Studio, a company that has been creating mobile gaming apps since 2012 and has won numerous local and international awards for their work. Looking back at the last 10 years, he said the concept of being an app developer has only recently stopped being out of the ordinary.
Many telecom companies have merged together in recent years, leaving only three major players in the telecom market: Metfone, Mobitel and Smart. A decade ago, they were more competitive in terms of capacity building, creating networks and coverage areas by expanding the proliferation of antennas. They received lots of competition from internet providers, and they are now battling for a spot in the app development world.
One of the leading app developers in the telecoms industry is Smart Axiata, which has four apps: SmaryLuy, SmartMusic, SmartVIP and SmartNas. Mobitel has only one app, called the CellCard App.
SmartLuy is seen as the smartest and easiest way to top up and transfer money to anyone, anywhere in Cambodia. SmartMusic, meanwhile, brings entertainment and music to life through your phone.
The CellCard app allows you to top up your mobile phone and customise your CellCard account with a single touch. The app also allows users to log in and post their comments on the app. Here is a selection of comments from users:
Thearith Yang: “I think CellCard has bad service here. There was negative feedback with no response at all. I myself registered to the app with a typo in my name and there is no option to edit it. Poorly designed app.”
Vita Right: “Very good, easy to use.”
Huyang Te: “Only has the register or subscribe buttons but there is no unsubscribe button.”
Chantol Seak: “I think you can make money off of the phone so I can buy things online. I only wanted that because Smart has it and CellCard does not have it. Thank You.”
Chantra Sok: “Error, error, error! My username and password are not recognized. Cannot connect to serve. I will try more and spend more time on more attempts. Frustrated!”
Keo Phannan: “You are a good app congratulations! The first app for telecoms in Cambodia. Easy to recharge money, easy to change promotions, easy to check money, and another company cannot do it like you. Thank you and good luck.”
There are about 10 apps from the telecoms sector. Banks and independent institutions, meanwhile, have also come together to create apps for the financial industry, such as PiPay and DaraPay. Other banks, like ABA, Acleda, Unity and ToanChet, have their own mobile banking apps.
“If someone said, ‘I am an app developer,’ it would be very strange a decade ago, and they would have to give lots of explanations,” he said. “But now it is not like that anymore.”
He pointed to his own company as evidence of the growth of the industry, telling Post Supplements that his staff has grown from 5 members to 17, and he is eager to hire more people.
“Mobile apps are becoming more popular among smartphone users, while other apps offer beneficial treats, for example some apps provide convenient financial transaction solutions for buying goods or food at restaurants and cafes with a special discount, like PiPay,” he said.
“Some other apps are created for business management, while others are for entertainment, such as music, games, movies, health monitoring and others. Some focus on education, with things like reading and listening, exercise and tales.”
Uy said his company has been working on a educational app for the last year named ‘EySey’. The apps focuses on retelling old Khmer tales, focusing on children by letting them listen, read and watch the stories in an easy way.
“We came up with this app because we’ve learnt that most kids now have their own electronic gadgets. But they only tend to be drawn to foreign movies, and I’m afraid they will forget our stories. That’s why we created EySey,” he said. “We have uploaded 16 stories into the app already, including Kroper Romeul Kun [Disgraceful Crocodile], Sdach Baksey [King Bird], Ka-ek 1 Ka-ek 10 [1 Crow 10 Crows] and Ta EySey [A priest].”
He explained that each story has been scrutinised in an effort to tailor them to modern audiences and to make them easy to produce. There have been a few speed bumps as the company figures out how to manage drawing, designing, costuming the characters, animating and creating voiceovers, and illustrating transition scenes for the characters.
“We have revised them and removed some violent parts, but added more short educational messages, such as ‘good doings come from good deeds’ etc.” EySey is now available for download, and you can listen, read and watch Khmer cartoon animations with both English and Khmer subtitles.
Uy added that in order to make the app, he had to spend months, even years, working on the product and using a significant amount of their budget.
“For my team, EySey cost us seven to eight months before we launched it,” he said. “EySey has been used and listened to by 60,000 accounts and they have access to two stories for free and then only $0.50 for each extra story.”
Be Chantra, founder and managing partner of co-working space EmeraldHub, said through his organisation’s research and initiatives, such as their BarCamp competition for students, they have found that younger generations like using high-end smartphones and learning how to create something new and unique of their own.
“Through BarCamp in the last 10 years, we have observed that groups of young people have discovered a new potential career: app development. There are 120 companies or groups working on apps, but there are only 30 that have been successful,” Chantra said.
Kuoch Sok Ly, president of the CBM Corporation, said some apps were created specifically for financial transactions. However, the apps are only popular when they offer discounts or other beneficial treats.
A manager at Tous Les Jours Bakery who asked not to be named said many young people under the age of 25 use PiPay for most transactions.
“They come to pay via PiPay because it’s something that makes them look cool,” she said. “They are students and staff members, however, it has also increased our sales by 10 percent to 20 percent more as well.”
“We regret the some groups have failed, but it was not because of their professionalism. It was because of plagiarism. While our laws are still loose when it comes to intellectual property infringement, this factor interrupts the growth of creativity in this industry.”
Chantra added that tourism, financial, health, education and agriculture apps are the most popular, with agriculture apps taking the cake as one people are most interested in. The agriculture apps available “make it easier to increase productivity and reduce daily work, as well as save capital”, he said.
When it comes to financial apps, Chantra and Uy said security was the priority. That is why, they said, companies developing mobile payment apps like Wing ABA and PiPay have their own dedicated teams working on them.
“They are very careful and cautious. For example, Smart Axiata has a few apps of their own, including the Smart Music app that offers music and Smart Luy for money exchanges through their own network,” Be said.