'Technology has no gender': Cambodian entrepreneur contributes to sustainable farmingMarch 7, 2022
A recent global study by UNESCO found that 35 percent of female students choose to pursue STEM-related fields in their higher education. Every year, more and more women are breaking down the dated stereotype that technology is meant for men, bringing important innovations and leadership to the sector.
Kheav Thida, 42, is among them. She is a Cambodian technology entrepreneur and a co-founder of Solar Green Energy Cambodia, a company that provides solar technology services to help reduce electricity costs and unleash the potential of solar energy development in Cambodia.
A graduate from the National University of Management, majoring in accounting, Thida was hired as a brand manager for a private company that provides solar installations service. After working directly with people in remote areas, Thida became interested in solar technology. She never knew that people in remote areas faced such challenges in accessing affordable electricity.
“I didn’t expect that I would be really interested in this kind of technology," she says. "All I knew about was to manage the sale, reporting and client service. However, my experience there was eye-opening, not only regarding renewable energy, but also its contribution to a population’s economy.”
Seeing the benefits of clean energy, Thida together with her husband founded an association in 2008, the Renewable Energy Development Association. The goal of the association was to increase the use of green energy in rural Cambodia. Running the association was not a smooth process, as she didn’t have enough business capital to stock material and often dealt with low-quality product when importing from abroad.
"I didn’t get any support from donors to run this association. I got a loan from a money lender with 5% interest to buy products to install for my clients. This continued until I had enough savings to provide installment loans to my customers."
Eventually, Thida and her husband started doing research and invented their own brand of lamps to use with solar panels.
After years of operation, they helped more than 1,000 families in remote areas to access clean, affordable energy.
“As solar panels at that time were imported from different companies, the quality of the product was not ideal, and the market became more competitive. So I wanted to grow my business operation and increase the quality of the services. I decided to close the association, and instead founded my own company.”
In 2013, Thida established Solar Green Energy Cambodia to upgrade her services with products such as solar water pumps, solar hybrid, solar back-up systems and smart farm systems for green houses. Solar Green Energy Cambodia now employs around 30 people, 40% of them women.
“I am lucky to be able to work in the field I am interested in since the beginning and received enormous support from my family. Technology has no gender. Technology and innovation are part of better livelihoods. Everyone can be a part of this kind of development. I encourage my three daughters to get involved in technology.”
With innovation, Thida’s business provides solutions that are helping farmers to reduce their spending on electricity and gasoline while producing high yields with the first automatic sun tracker technology in Cambodia.
Thida is a curious entrepreneur who is keen to learn all she can about both business operations and technology innovation. She is taking training related to business management, digital marketing, investor negotiations and soft skills from organizations including SHE Investments, a partner in the WE Act project, which is implemented by Pact and funded by USAID.
“It is not that women in the technology sector are more amazing than women in other fields," Thida says. "Having women involved in every sector is crucial. I want to encourage women who are interested in innovation but are refraining because of old-school perceptions. Do what you love and don’t let people’s opinions influence you. Try your best and follow your heart.”