Official figures show increased love for the riel by Cambodians as companies pull their weight to promote the local currency
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The Khmer riel (KHR) usage nationwide has grown 16 percent year-on-year while bank deposits rose at an average of 26 percent, thanks to the collective effort of National Bank of Cambodia and corporations over the years.
Companies such as Sabay Digital Group Pte Ltd and Wing (Cambodia) Specialised Bank Ltd keep ramping up their support for NBC’s efforts and initiatives through in-house strategies and external mechanisms.
Speaking to Capital Cambodia, Sabay Digital chief executive officer Chy Sila says the company pays its staff salary in riel. A strong supporter of the Khmer riel himself, he makes sure the move is adopted in his company based on the belief that the usage is crucial to Cambodia.
“I formed a habit of only using riel in most of my transactions and decided to apply this (concept) in my company four years ago,” he adds.
Sila notes that initially it was a challenge to promote the local currency but everyone had to get used to it.
“We opened bank accounts for our staff in order to ease the transition to riel,” he says on the sidelines of NBC’s 39th anniversary of the re-introduction of the riel on Monday.
The group has also set the pricetags for some of its products in riel and US dollars but for its food and beverage outlets and cinemas, only riel pricing is advertised.
Sila contends that it would take time for all its products to be priced in riel, and for there to be a change in mindset.
For instance, Sila says not all his business partners are keen on a complete transition due to bookkeeping methods which are dollarised.
But that is not the case within Sabay Digital where both currency systems are practiced.
“It takes time because we can’t force (the situation). However, we are optimistic that change would happen in the next six months. We also hope the awareness among people would be higher,” he says.
Jojo Malolos, chief executive officer of Wing, says the local currency is part of the company’s DNA.
One of the aims of the company when it was first established was to convert the way people performed transactions. It planned to achieve this through its vast footprint in Cambodia.
Its efforts are paying off as results reveal that 50 percent of its transactions in 2018 rose 40 percent year-on-year to KHR39 million.
“We have been actively working to ensure that the riel is always the main option offered to customers. It doesn’t matter if our client is sending money as low as 2,400 riel, paying bills or applying for a Wing account. All of this can be conducted in KHR,” he adds.
Wing customers also have access to digital reports of their respective accounts, and the ability to track and manage their finances in KHR.
Association of Banks of Cambodia chairman In Channy believes that the mindsets can be changed if there is an increase in public participation.
He urges companies and banks to work with the public regularly to widen the usage of the riel.
Meanwhile, Sila urges conglomerates to be more creative by promoting the riel to younger segments of the society.
With the emergence of digital wallets and e-transactions, youths are more willing to use the riel for digital transactions.
Therefore, there is hope in getting them to embrace the idea of riel usage. After all, it is not only a thing of pride but it is also sexier, Sila says.