Why wait to be hired? Start your own business!

Why wait to be hired? Start your own business! ? Bertelsmann Future Challenges.


I ?think the difference has ?started to emerge now in Cambodia between the way our parents think and the way I ?and my peers think about employment and ?making money. The older generation prefer a regular and safe job which gives them a fixed income, but this seems to have gone out of fashion with young people who would like to start their own businesses. This younger generation has taken on entrepreneurial ambition and does not want to wait to be hired.

While studying for our Bachelors program seven years ago, my friends and I used to talk about what we?d do after graduation. While some of us intended to continue with their Masters degree, others wanted to enter the world of business right away. Although we might have had a difference in approach at that time, we somehow wanted to end up on the same path ? which is to have ?our own businesses after a certain period of working for companies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Now in 2012, our old plan for the future has materialized into reality. Some of my friends who keep in touch with me have now set up their own businesses in the Small and Medium Enterprise(SME) sector. These cover a broad spectrum of activities ranging from manufacturing to services, such as brick production, shoe-making, IT services, training and coaching services, socio-economic research and survey services, translation services, and restaurant services, etc. The service sector appears to be the most convenient for startups as it only requires light startup capital and offers an easy exit. Meanwhile, some of my other friends are still working for companies and NGOs, yet still nurture? strong ambitions about departing the world of salaried work and ?running their own business.

The entrepreneurial ambition seems even more prevalent among ?the generation who are younger than me. As the Cambodian economy has shown remarkable growth in recent years, these younger people are? much more materialistic and would like to get rich quick. Some of this new generation of internet-savvy digital natives have even started up in business while still at university with the online selling of clothes, cosmetics and second hand products like computers and phones.

Such a difference of thought on the employment front between the older and younger generations in Cambodia has not happened by chance. It has actually occurred because of continual growth in the economy along with regional and global integration. It has also brought about ?a change in the gender focus where women now also take the lead in entrepreneurship.

Women in Business

The first informal gathering of the Cambodian Women in Business Network organized on 3rd June 2011 when about 40 network participants including the author showed up to discuss the role of Facebook in facilitating their various businesses. Photo by Jerry Thai(CC BY-ND 2.0)

While the integration of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 is viewed by some analysts as a challenge for Cambodian youth? given its limited number of high quality human resources and high competition, it is also a great opportunity for young people in Cambodia to explore beyond the borders of their country, allowing them to get new ideas and see innovations which can be beneficial for the country in the future.

Moreover, it is crucial that this divergence of views and the context of regional and global integration be turned into an asset for the country. To do this, a proper social system should be installed by the Cambodian government which should include a? clear educational policy, affordable and adequate access to information, and support for small and medium-sized enterprise. The youth of Cambodia is dynamic, enthusiastic and keen to play a meaningful role in society and develop their country?and it is essential that they are provided with the right tools to do so and are well prepared for whatever future ?opportunities arrive.


I was very impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cambodian people when I visited in 2011. And the Cambodian government deserves credit for allowing this spirit to flourish — many countries seem to actively discourage such initiatives, which is a terrible waste of potential. I look forward to great things coming from Cambodia — I may even set up a business there myself! Best wishes, Robin šŸ™‚

Thank you for a really nice text and blog. Haven’t been reading it for a long while I have to admit.
However, I prefer to have a rather more sceptical view on entreprenuership and the dominating perspectives on it. While Cambodians might look very entreprenurial given the number of businesses on the streets and also in the countryside, productivity is very low. People work hard for very little money and with low outputs. I would say most entrepreneurs are in it not because they want to, but because they have to in order to survive. The low productivity is probably a key reason why the country is still poor despite economic growth for over a decade. The profits are not invested in increasing the productivity.
The quite singleminded focus on entrepreunership in the global community today is a problem also when we work with development. For example, many NGOs are today providing vocational skills in the communities to in particular women, for example in tailoring or rattan-work, but many times they do not have access to any market for their outputs and NGOs are not particularly good at supporting marketing and organisation of necessary marketing efforts. There is also a lack of all kinds of infrastructure in order to get access to the markets. This is largely beyond the control of the civil society.
In large cities there are certainly better opportunities for young students to have a business. The most driven ones can for sure make some money. But also in Phnom Penh there is a limit on the size of the market for the outputs. Again, in the end it all comes down to productivity and to little money circulating in the society. Most people in Cambodia simply work too inefficient and for too small money to make development taking off properly.
The most effective developed societies today do not have huge amounts of “street entreprenuers”. The number of business people are fairly low, but they run very efficient and competitive businesses and with well-paid staff. I think there is a lesson here that is not learned by those promoting entrepreneurship to solve development challenges.
If I had been a student or young professional in Cambodia. I would have put all my effort to get the best possible education, optimally try to get a schoalrship abroad, and after that simply look for a good well-paid job. Most businesses fail but we never hear yes. about that… If I as a student really felt the urge to go for a business, I would ask my parents or my closest friends if they truly think I am material to be a good businessman. If they say no, just don’t do it. If they say yes, do it.

Hi Jens, thanks for visiting my blog again šŸ˜‰ and with such useful comment. I do agree with your observation and that is how it goes in this emerging and developing country with a political commitment struggle still. However, as a young generation myself, I am still in hope to see more and more young talent who could bridge the gap of low productivity and development as you mentioned.

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