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Making Cambodian Cities Better: How Prince Group’s Chen Zhi Responded to Cambodia’s Urbanization Needs

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How Prince Group’s Chen Zhi Responded to Cambodia’s Urbanization Needs

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi established Prince Holding Group in 2015 in order to prepare Cambodia to deal with rapid urbanization.

It’s well-known that urbanization is good for developing countries. More than 80% of global GDP is generated in cities, according to the World Bank.

But it’s not easy for countries if they have to deal with millions of new urban residents.

In 2010, Neak Oknha Chen Zhi, the chairman of Prince Holding Group (also known as Prince Group), came to Cambodia.

He realized the potential of Cambodia as a developing country with a growing urbanization need.

Why is urbanization good for a developing country?

First, let’s consider why urbanization is good for a country like Cambodia.

There are two reasons: agglomeration effects for businesses and human capital development for cities.

Agglomeration is the term we use to explain how businesses cluster within the same area.

It makes it easier for businesses to work with their suppliers and it makes it easier for them to target their customers as well.

Apart from industries that require a large amount of land, most industries function better (medicine, food & beverages, entertainment, education etc) if they are in a dense urban setting.

Secondly, it’s easier for people to find jobs in a city. As a result, the economy also becomes more productive.

It can be difficult for most people to find a job that matches their skill set and interests. It’s much easier to try a different job in a city. In rural areas, it’s difficult to find different types of jobs.

In cities, people can work in service sector roles, enroll in universities or vocational institutes and can even get to work at multinational companies.

Good thriving job markets in cities make it easier for developing countries to move away from agriculture.

In any case, it’s becoming more difficult for farmers to earn a living through farming. Nowadays, it’s becoming much easier for food buyers like supermarkets to import items from all over the world.

A modern developer for a modern Cambodia

When he arrived in Cambodia, Neak Oknha Chen Zhi saw a future in the market of modernized Cambodia, particularly in the sector of property development.

Instead of just building boreys or villa homes, he realized that real estate projects need to be more innovative and sustainable.

Not just that, he realized that Cambodians would want good shopping malls and supermarkets.

Moreover, it was becoming very difficult for Cambodians to get mortgage loans.

Cambodia needs 50,000 new homes every year until 2030. By then, Phnom Penh’s population is expected to rise to 7 million.

In 2015, Neak Oknha Chen Zhi founded Prince Holding Group, the parent company of Prince Real Estate Group, holding a total of 6 different large business groups in Cambodia, who brought expertise in banking, airlines, real estate development and private equity.

Now, Cambodians can get access to homes, flight routes and banking services that are common in many parts of the world.

Prince Real Estate, has a land bank of 20 million square meters. It has worked on projects that have already redefined Phnom Penh’s central business district. In Sihanoukville, it has also embarked on an 834-hectare project near the Sihanoukville airport.

Through Prince Bank, it’s getting Cambodians the financing solutions they need to help them realize their dream of owning an urban home.

Quality urbanization is the need of the hour

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi has a vision for Cambodia: to progress exponentially in parallel to its neighboring country – Thailand.

As of 2021, more than half of the Thai population lives in cities whereas three-quarters of Cambodia still lives in the countryside.

A country that was once known as ‘the rice bowl of Asia’ now focuses on manufacturing machine parts, integrated circuits, cars and motor vehicle accessories.

Much like Thailand, due to rapid modernization, Cambodians will move towards cities and away from agriculture.

That’s why Neak Oknha Chen Zhi knew that Cambodia’s cities needed to be ready when a big population of skilled professionals from the provincial areas moves into the cities for occupation prospects.

For good-quality urbanization, most Cambodians should be able to own good-quality homes that are part of high-quality townships.

Most importantly, the development must be sustainable.

Bringing in expertise from the region

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi has brought with him experienced real estate professionals that have ensured the construction of homes (apartments and boreys) built out of durable materials and which are situated close to schools, hospitals, commercial malls and offices.

Meanwhile, he has ensured that commercial malls are energy-efficient and filled with international brands.

Prince Holding Group’s member companies are run by qualified professionals from across the region such as Singaporeans and Malaysians, bringing in more than a decade’s worth of experience in their respective fields.

With the help of regional real estate professionals, Neak Oknha Chen Zhi has brought in professionals who then brought international standards to Cambodian products and services.

Growth beyond Phnom Penh

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi is also keen to make an impact beyond Phnom Penh.

Siem Reap also has some cultural sights and art heritage tourism.

While such industries can help rural families, many of whom are involved in fishing or farming, earn a better living and help their children migrate to the cities, there’s still a long way to go for rural development.

New types of industries can be formed in Cambodia due to its geographic close proximity and favorable ties to various global trade giants.

With the development of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, there has been exponential growth in foreign business registrations.

Not just that, Sihanoukville also holds the potential as a hospitality hub for eco-tourism, given an upper hand in the existing logistical infrastructure such as the airport, berth and expressway.

Empowering Cambodians with jobs

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi, however, has done more than just ensure the construction of malls, offices, homes, luxury resorts and more.

He has increased employment opportunities by investing, acquiring or entering joint venture agreements through Prince Bank (one of Cambodia’s top banks with digital capabilities), Prince Supermarket and Awesome Investment Group (which owns the food delivery platform WOWNOW and LM Car, the ride-hailing platform).

Because of its presence across a diverse range of industries, Prince Holding Group was also able to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with a solid business sustenance plan and focused on its long-term development plan.

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi’s long-term vision has led to a great deal of success. The Group now counts assets under management exceeding US$2 billion.

As Cambodia’s cities grow, Prince Holding Group also continues to work.

Growing popularity

For all of its efforts, Prince Holding Group is now becoming a lot more popular – it has already secured 14 international awards in 2022 (including one for the entrepreneur of the year*).

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi is also a leader in local philanthropy as the chairman of Prince Foundation, a corporate foundation that does a lot of work to improve education, healthcare and human capital development across Cambodia’s two main cities.

It is most famous for creating a horology vocational training center (a school for watchmakers) in Phnom Penh, called Prince Horology, and it is promoting affordable education through a scholarship program helping rural students attend the top universities in the capital.

A positive outlook for the Kingdom

With pro-business policies that continue to promote foreign direct investment and a growing expat population, Cambodia’s cities have a promising decade ahead of them.

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi is confident that Cambodia will have what it takes to swiftly position itself amongst global giants in the economic arena.

He believes in and supports human capital development in Cambodia, and looks forward to the country’s future with optimism.

Neak Oknha Chen Zhi’s economic and philanthropic contributions showcased his immense interest in helping Cambodian cities to become more ready for urbanization.

*Neak Oknha Chen Zhi was recognized as the entrepreneur of the year among leaders of conglomerates at the 2022 International Business Awards.

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Salman Ahmad is a seasoned writer for CTN News, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise to the platform. With a knack for concise yet impactful storytelling, he crafts articles that captivate readers and provide valuable insights. Ahmad's writing style strikes a balance between casual and professional, making complex topics accessible without compromising depth.

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