Aurelio Flacco

ICBA Chairman, Italy Honorary Consul in Phnom Penh

After three years in Thailand, Aurelio relocated to Phnom Penh as a representative in Cambodia and Southeast Asia of exclusive Italian brands in the luxury furniture and automation sector.

Alongside a group of fellow Italian entrepreneurs and with the cooperation of the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (Eurocham Cambodia), in 2017, he founded the national chapter of the Italian-Cambodian Business Association (ICBA). ICBA aims to operate as a nonprofit business association and create commercial and cultural exchanges between Italy and Cambodia. He has been the ICBA President since 2018.

He was also appointed Honorary Consul of Italy in Phnom Penh by Italian Embassy in Thailand in June 2020.

We met with Aurelio to hear his views and experience of Cambodia.

Why did you choose to relocate to Cambodia?

Because it is a vibrant, emerging country with a GDP that has been growing steadily for a decade, the government can offer various commercial investment opportunities worth exploring in the medium-long term. In addition, I was attracted by the presence of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), geographical areas specially designated by the government with several fiscal incentives, including income tax, customs, and VAT benefits. Another factor was how simple it is to open a new business here, at least in comparison to Italy.

What’s it like doing business in Cambodia as an Italian entrepreneur?

I¬†consider myself lucky for my Italian roots and proud of our ability to blend creativity with commercial spirit. I firmly believe that innovation and creativity are connected to doing business, and I factor this in every commercial relation or transaction. The brand Made in Italy is very strong in Cambodia, too, and when dealing with local investors, they are aware of our products and services’ high quality and uniqueness.

How much has the economic context changed during COVID-19?

Like in many parts of the world, tourism has been heavily hit and remains in dire straits. However, I was surprised how the construction industry continued to thrive. For the last three years, the construction sector has boomed, particularly in big cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap; the pandemic did cause some slowdown. Nevertheless, this sector still represents an interesting investment opportunity for Italian companies, despite these difficult times.

What advice would you give to an Italian entrepreneur who’d like to open a business in Cambodia?

  • Do your homework and learn about the Cambodian market before investing here. Doing business is quite different in Europe, so understanding the context is an essential first step.
  • Find the right partner. Building a relationship of trust requires time and patience but is essential in the long run. Unfortunately, I have seen several companies throw away important market positions and damage their brand over the years because they chose the wrong partner.
  • The key to success is finding the right Cambodian distributor, partner, or investor, someone knowledgeable in the industry you’d like to invest in. A local qualified and reliable partner will bring technical expertise, local language and cultural knowledge, and an understanding of respecting the local laws and network of suppliers. With an excellent Cambodian partner, you can focus on launching the business, the marketing campaign, brand awareness, etc.
  • Finally, I recommend that the entrepreneur to either be physically in Cambodia to manage its business or delegate a highly trusted representative.

How can you support the Italian companies in Cambodia in your ICBA capacity?

As the only Italian official business association operating in Cambodia, ICBA is the first entry point for Italian businesses wanting to invest here. My role is also to support Italian companies established in Cambodia by giving them visibility with local investors, helping them grow, and sharing my experience as an entrepreneur.

How do you see the future?

I’m an optimist by nature. So it is essential to be present now! The investment opportunities available in this country are plentiful and diverse, from Investing in more established sectors, such as garment and agriculture, to exploring new areas, from renewable energy, pharmaceutical, and medical devices, to innovative waste collection systems.

We are here at ICBA to help identify such opportunities and transform them into reality.

?To connect with Aurelio Flacco, visit his profile on our Business Directory here.