Chantreara’s journey to starting Cambodia’s first online bookstore, Snadai Seavpove Khmer(SSK), began at home.
His father had been a school teacher for all his life, a profession that his elder sister has now taken on as well. Chantreara himself had studied English for a substantial period of time and then got involved with an NGO who works closely with the education sector.
In other words, being involved in the education scene has played a huge part of Chantreara’s life so far. Combining this passion with his love for books is what inspired Chantreara to develop Cambodia’s first online bookstore.
Offering books written in Khmer, English and French across both the fiction and non-fiction genres, Chantreara hopes that the platform will encourage more Cambodian writers to write books, regardless of the language they write it in.
The project is now taking part in the EPIC incubator programme, Cambodia’s first year-long programme of its kind.
As part of our collaboration with EPIC, Geeks in Cambodia had a chat with Chantreara to discuss the SSK project and his experience in the EPIC programme so far.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, flow and language.
What made you decide on creating an online book platform?
Chantreara: The reason I decided on an online e-book platform is because it’s something that occurred to me as being original and unique because no one has done it before. Also, I think Cambodia is slowly going digital with more and more people going online. Furthermore, I believe in the power of technology to change Cambodia. As such, I decided on an online e-book platform to leverage on these trends.
What are some key features of the online bookstore?
Chantreara: For me, the key features come in what I call the “three Os”. The first “O” stands for “Online Book Market” because that’s what we are – a place where people can buy and sell books. The second “O” stands for “Online Book Discussion Platform” because another feature our website offers is that the readers and writers are able to interact. This is especially significant for us as no such platform has ever existed before in Cambodia, even in a physical form. Finally, the third “O” stands for “Online Content Platform” because we believe we offer quality content that is accessible to everyone.
How did you manage to build your network of writers?
Chantreara: We gathered the contacts of over 200 Cambodian authors from the National Library of Cambodia. Then, we held a preliminary forum with them to find out whether they would interested in the project and started building a network from there.
I see! So, let’s talk about the EPIC Programme. What inspired to you to take part in EPIC?
Chantreara: Well, I saw EPIC as the longest running and biggest incubator that Cambodia had. The grant money we could secure was quite attractive as well. From my experience so far, I’ve found that EPIC is very professional and very inspirational. It gives me a platform to network with really great people, including some important investors. We also get to receive training from professionals as well. What’s more, the network and community that we are able to build through EPIC is another bonus.
What are some of your key takeaways from EPIC thus far?
Chantreara: Wow. I’ve learnt a lot. Like really, a lot. I think I’ve started to understand how to think more practically and realistically. I’ve learnt that to start a business, sure, you have to understand theories and tools but I think most importantly, you have to understand context. Context in terms of what the situation is like on the grounds. I’ve come to realise that it’s really important to understand people’s psychology, to talk to people, to be able to question yourself, to be able to feel uncertain, to feel unsure and despite all that, still be willing to go on that adventure to making your business successful.
What are some ways you see SSK developing in the future?
Chantreara: I think we want to see an increase in the awareness and demand for books by Cambodian authors from the people – that people will recognise what we are doing and that an active interaction develops between us and the users. In this way, we hope to encourage people to buy more books, to discuss these books on our platform and to network with our writers.
In the long term, we want to change the information sector in Cambodia. We hope to help improve the documentation processes because now it’s really difficult to collect data about Cambodia. We want to become the go-to place that people can access for reliable data.
What do you hope the impact of SSK is on Cambodia?
Chantreara: First and foremost, we want to encourage more Cambodians to pursue their writing passions. We want to see the writers becoming more empowered and more motivated to continue writing. Then, we want to see that the writers’ identity is promoted such that people know them and their work.
On top of that, I want to see a mindset change amongst Cambodians to read more books. My hope is that through reading, they will develop more critical thinking skills such that they are able to question the status quo and spur development in Cambodia.
Indeed, it’s great to see how technology and the digital world is helping to spread content created by Cambodian authors!
This article is part of Geeks in Cambodia’s collaboration with Impact Hub’s EPIC Programme. Check out the other articles part of the series here –