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Orchid Koh Pich Hospital prepares for public listing as Cambodia’s maternity sector develops

Gareth Johnson

As Cambodia continues along the path of becoming an upper-middle-income nation its consumers’ attitudes towards healthcare are also evolving with providers such as Orchid Koh Pich Hospital are looking to capture this evolving market.

Speaking to Cambodia Investment Review, Orchid Koh Pich Hospital CEO Emerson Mar explained what makes this hospital stand out from the crowd and its business plans for the future.

Orchid Koh Pich Hospital

Opened in July 2018, Orchid Koh Pich’s remit was to become the “leading maternity and child health care hospital in Cambodia”, something they argue has already been achieved.

The initial money to set up the facility including buying of state-of-the-art equipment and setting up on Diamond Island or Koh Pich in Khmer was privately raised, coming from a mixture of money from the founders, investment from friends and relatives, as well as purchasing equipment on credit.

To read more about healthcare as one of three priority investment sectors for Cambodia click here.

Emerson Mar Chief Executive Officer Orchid Koh Pich Hospital and Dr. Ek Menlgy the leading obstetrician and gynecologist at the hospital.

According to Emerson the early days were particularly hard: “We literally had to not only build a name for ourselves but also deal with creditors hounding us for money and even threatening to take away our equipment”.

As the initial 20 rooms the hospital slowly began to make a name for itself, it was through the Covid-19 pandemic that travel restrictions resulted in a spike of demand: “Before Covid-19 people would fly to Thailand, or Singapore to have their babies. The pandemic changed this and this is what put us on people’s radar.”

“Those with the money looked for local options for childbirth and we grew exponentially. At times we were at absolute capacity, but we maintained standards and our reputation continued to grow,” he added.

And while the pandemic might be over, those same consumers have continued to choose Orchid Hospital after strong brand recognition.

Emerson explained that: “It is seen as very fashionable and good luck having your baby on Diamond Island and not just that, but the time of day and even the room numbers being selected due to their lucky qualities. We as a hospital do everything we can to give our customers what they want, no matter how strange the request might seem”.

This popularity has further been aided by a number of social media influencers and Cambodian ‘superstars’ having their babies at the hospital, with one even live-streaming a day or two  after birth.

And with success has come expansion, with the hospital now having 46 rooms, 32,000 clients, as well as 145 full and part-time staff, with the next major step being expansion.

Changing attitudes towards healthcare

Arriving at Orchid Hospital you are immediately hit with how different things are from the surroundings. The complex it sits on has been designed to resemble a Parisian street, with the hospital itself not only immaculately clean but also having a friendly clinic-type ambiance, in vast contrast to the public hospitals of the country. 

This was extremely intentional with the CEO, who is Cambodian-American stating: “We wanted to create the kind of establishment that is common in western countries, which is not just about the birth itself, but preparing for it, as well as providing after care for the mother and her child. More importantly, we wanted the family to feel comfortable and enjoying quality time together”.

New mothers and their babies spend an average of four days in the hospital, more than double that of a non-specialist facility. Aside from this, the facility has invested heavily in employing specialized doctors, pediatricians, and midwives, with clients being given several options for childbirth.

To read more about the company changing Cambodia’s pharmacy sector click here.

The hospital has 46 rooms.

These include fully natural births, epidural to reduce pain, or C-sections if required for medical reasons or personal preference. While public hospitals make little to no charge for births Orchid Hospital remains competitive by private standards, particularly within a regional and even local context.

“It costs $1,000 to $3,500 to have your baby here, deepening on what medical service you require. In comparison higher-end hospitals in Cambodia can charge up to $8,000 with certain hospitals in Singapore and Thailand being even more expensive,” he explained.

This he added put into the reach of upper-middle-class clients, many of whom saw having a baby on Diamond Island as a matter of prestige adding: “Many of our customers are owners  of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and much like anything there is a fashionable element to this”.

Return on investment

While the first few years did not rear a profit the company was profitable by the end of 2020 boasting $5.7 million in revenues, as well as over $800,000 in after-tax profits, most of which will be reinvested back into the company as it seeks to expand.

According to Emerson current expansion plans were relatively modest, consisting of increasing capacity to 120 rooms, as well as employing specialist foreign staff, with the long-term goal being to list the company on the stock exchange.

To read more about preparing SMEs for the CSX Growth Board click here.

The hospital was officially launched in with Secretary of State and spokesperson for the Ministry of Health H.E. Or Vandine.

“On the question of listing on the Cambodian Stock Exchange (CSX). This is our 4th year in preparing to be listed. Orchid Koh Pich Management team have consulted with CSX’s incubator team to help navigate us in the right direction,” he said.

“For the moment there are some delays to the preparation process as we had to restructure our company from a holding company to a Public Limited Company (PLC). And then of course Covid-19 happened, which has further delayed things,” he added.

The plan was though very much back on track with the CEO adding: “We are always looking for strategic investors and our profitability and numbers speak for themselves. I believe if we have the capital we can easily double our revenue and profits”.

“The health sector will continue to grow as incomes improve and we are confident of being able to ring that bell at the CSX by 2024,” Emerson said.

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