Success story Cambodia / Follow-up assignment has a lasting impact

The organisation Villageworks Cambodia produces bags that are socially and ecologically sustainable. Unfortunately, sales via the website are not yet meeting expectations. In order to boost online sales and train staff, the company contacted the SEC and asked for an e-commerce expert. Together with the SEC expert from Emmental, the employees further developed the website and web shop and learnt how to maintain both themselves.

Norm Bunnak, CEO of Villageworks, first came into contact with the SEC in the summer of 2022. At that time, an SEC expert visited the company to advise Norm Bunnak on marketing and product selection to increase competitiveness. Markus Göldi, a textile merchant, was the expert who supported Norm Bunnak. After this positive experience with Göldi, Norm Bunnak contacted the SEC again last summer and enquired about a specialist for e-commerce. The aim was to train the employees in this area in order to increase the company’s turnover without having to increase the number of employees.

Such follow-up assignments with previous clients are common at the SEC and have proven to be effective. They allow the expert to already know the client and be in contact with them. In addition, a new expert can exchange information with the expert from the previous assignment in advance, which increases the effectiveness of the assignment.

Training in digital marketing and e-business
Pieter Perrett, an experienced SEC expert, was a perfect match for the assignment at Villageworks. In recent years, Perrett has already advised two other SEC clients in Cambodia on digital marketing and e-business. His technical skills enable him to advise a team on digital marketing. He is also characterised by his effective communication with the Villageworks team and other stakeholders, which contributes to the successful assignment of Perrett.

Perrett was well prepared for the upcoming assignment, thanks to the monthly Zoom video calls in advance. He was aware that the company had been hit hard by the Covid pandemic and that the local team had limited knowledge of e-commerce. He helped Norm Bunnak and her team update the website layout and improve the shopping experience for customers. He also trained employees on how to use the company’s own e-commerce platform. This followed on from the first assignment by SEC expert Göldi, who had begun to explore the possibilities of e-commerce with the client.

Pieter Perrett’s closing words: “The focus on sustainability, creativity and environmentally friendly products (no plastic) was particularly admirable and very much in line with my personal goals.”

About the client
The Cambodian company Villageworks Cambodia is fully committed to sustainability: On the one hand, it offers people with disabilities a job. This enables them to earn their own living and thus lead a self-determined life. On the other hand, only sustainable and recycled materials are processed into attractive products in the workshop. Villageworks also supports the local school with a portion of its profits.

The Fairtrade-certified company currently operates two production centres, which employ around 60 people. They are also supported by a further 30 employees who work from home.


Interview with SEC expert Pieter Perrett

How do you rate the results achieved in general?
Significant progress was made during the three weeks of the assignment. A data management plan was jointly developed, an outline for a corporate strategy in the area of “digital media” was drawn up and a contribution to the environmental strategy was developed. In addition, approaches for increasing sales in the existing volume markets (USA and Germany) were defined.

My recommendation to send a personalised email marketing newsletter directly to existing customers and potential new customers in Germany and the USA was well received. We also submitted an application for start-up funding for a new sustainability project with a Swiss plant equipment company.

Finally, and most importantly, we all succeeded in building a relationship of mutual trust.

What impressed you the most during this consultancy assignment?
The focus on sustainability: how Villageworks’ mission goes beyond profit to include the well-being of the planet and the communities they serve.

The Villageworks e-commerce team worked effectively as a team throughout the assignment. Their commitment and collaboration were critical to achieving the goals.

In addition, Villageworks’ commitment to training and employing young people is commendable. This has not only created employment opportunities but has also contributed to the personal and professional development of the young people.

Where did you come up against limits?
Although I found the task very stimulating, I would have liked more time to achieve more.

What surprised you or what did not work as expected?
We may need to consider more engagement with the private sector in this type of assignment. I had the impression that we probably could have achieved more if we had engaged with Swiss companies operating in Cambodia. This could be a topic for further investigation.