According to an article published in the Phnom Penh Post, the World Health Organisation found that air pollution was linked to the death of over 3 million people every year. Out of this 3 million, the same report also mentioned that nearly 90% of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries like Cambodia.
Veasna Srey experienced air pollution first hand when he first arrived in Cambodia almost 9 months ago. He was riding on his bike when he got stuck in traffic behind a truck. Veasna tried finding masks to protect himself from the air but realised that they were not available in Cambodia.
As a result, he made the effort to import masks from overseas into Cambodia and also took the opportunity to sell a few pieces on Facebook. To his surprise, a lot of people were interested in purchasing such a mask.
That put Veasna on a path to become an entrepreneur and manufacture a mask that is able to protect users from air pollution through special filters.
Geeks in Cambodia sat down with Veasna to learn more about his entrepreneurship story and the developmental process of this innovative concept.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, flow and language.
For our readers, can you talk us through the key features of the product and the tech that goes into it?
Veasna(V): The key feature of the product would be the filter, which is an efficient way of protecting users against PM2.5 particles in the air that has been certified by international companies. Furthermore, the filters also have carbon active charcoal and micro fibres which help to create a filtration system that can trap dirty particles. Additionally, I’ve also tried my best to adapt the product to Cambodia – the mask has two valves to let exhaled air escape so that users will not feel hot underneath the mask and of course, they won’t need to breathe the same air again as well.
What is the key target market you are hoping to capture in Cambodia?
V: For me, the goal is to make something that is as cheap as possible so that the mask is something that all Cambodians can buy. I see a lot of people using the surgical mask to try and protect themselves from air pollution but that is like wearing a hat while riding a motorbike. So I think the key target market would be Cambodians and we are trying to make the product as accessible as possible to all Cambodians.
How will the product be distributed in Cambodia?
V: For now, we are looking for a distributor who is willing to partner and collaborate with us. Some shops have already shown their interest in wanting to carry the product. In the meantime, if people want to get their hands on the product, they can get in contact with me directly through www.kamask.com or they could give me a call at 095 908 554.
Are there any additional features/improvements you wish to make to your product?
V: I think the biggest idea that’s going around right now is trying to find a way to lower the cost of the mask. Even though the mask is currently priced at $8 which is not very expensive, it’s not exactly cheap either. So we are trying to bring down the price of the mask to somewhere around $5, so that it’s more accessible to Cambodians.
So let’s talk a little more about your journey as an innovator in Cambodia, what are some lessons you have learnt?
V: I think the biggest change for me as an entrepreneur is that when I worked for a company, it was an 8pm-5pm job but now as an entrepreneur, sometimes it feels like its 6am-6pm because you’re thinking about the product all the time and you’re treating the project like your baby.
One thing I also realised was that the Cambodian marketplace is like a bazaar so you need to be willing to spend a lot of time trying to find something that you need. So for this project, when I need something really specific, I have to go around asking many shops whether they carry the item I need. It also occurred to me that no one really collates data as to which shop carries what kind of items, which means that you will have to complete a lot of the leg work yourself.
Also, I think if your product is something really innovative that is not yet available in Cambodia, you might have to take the trouble to think about how you can create certain materials or how you can import them into the country.
What advice do you have for budding innovators and entrepreneurs?
V: The biggest piece of advice I can give them is to not be afraid to spend a lot of time on their projects. I believe that when you start a project, you are the one that will need to show love for your project because if you don’t love it, it’s really a nightmare. Another thing would be to grow a passion for the project because you should expect to be working on it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but you shouldn’t count the hours because you’re doing it out of love.
Without a doubt, innovation requires a lot of dedication and hard work. Through his passion and innovation, Veasna was able to come up with a product that can positively impact lifestyle in Cambodia.
Keep coming back to Geeks in Cambodia to check out the latest happenings in tech and innovation in the Kingdom!