Just weeks after giving birth, Cham Krasna was thrown another challenge – stepping into the shoes of CEO at Soma Group after spending roughly a decade working at the company.
First Year As CEO
In March last year, Cham Krasna started her new role, leading the company that has been working in the agriculture, education and infrastructure sectors since launching in 2008. And her responsibilities run far and wide, overseeing the operations of 10 core subsidiaries across six business divisions and more than 3,000 employees working in nine provinces.
Having harboured ambitions to work for the government from a young age, Krasna soon realised politics wasn’t the only way to help develop and make impactful differences in Cambodia.
“The private sector can be an effective way to contribute to the development of the country such as providing jobs, upgrading the skills of our employees, and the people of Cambodia across different sectors ranging from farmers to engineers,” she says.
Starting At Soma Group
In 2008, she joined Soma Group to work in the sales and marketing department and quickly rose through the ranks gaining experience in a swathe of departments. This includes Managing Director of Soma Trading and Head of Soma Hospitality & Real Estate.
Today, she is one of Cambodia’s leading businesswomen but admits this comes coupled with challenges. “I feel pressure, not only being a woman but being a young CEO,” Krasna says.
“Having to lead meetings with more experienced individuals is challenging at times. Every conversation I feel I have to prove myself to really show that I know what I am talking about especially with partners who are much older.”
However, she adds that attitudes in Cambodia are slowly starting to shift, with a gradually increasing number of women now successfully juggling work and family life.
Gender Equality At Soma
Balancing gender in the boardroom is another element of business that Krasna takes seriously. Since she became CEO, Soma Group’s leadership team has jumped from 80 percent men and 20 percent women, to 60 percent women and 40 percent men.
“During the recruitment process, it is crucial to build a team which is strong, diverse and most importantly has the right attitude, positive and results driven. It makes me feel proud that there are so many women in executive management levels at Soma Group.” says Krasna.
“Business in Cambodia is mostly dominated by men, but it’s great that we are seeing more and more women in senior positions,” she adds.
“At Soma Group, we want to create an inclusive working space for both men and women. I want my male and female employees to see it doesn’t matter what your gender is, you can reach the highest positions in the organization.”
Ingredients For Success
Educated in America, Krasna secured a BA in Legal Studies in Business (Business Law), a BA in Marketing Management and a minor in Economics from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
She said her education abroad equipped her with invaluable experience. But it wasn’t until she returned to her homeland that the real learning began.
“What I learned at university was more focused on western culture and society, like legal business, marketing, management, and economics,” she recalls, adding she had to spend some time readjusting when she returned to Cambodia.
But hard work, determination and drive have helped Krasna secure a string of success during her first 12 months as CEO. During 2018, international corporate standards were rolled out across the group, setting out a range of policies and training programs.
A raft of initiatives aimed at improving employee’s performance and opportunities were also introduced, including Soma Group’s first employee CSR event, tripled company training and a buddy programme.
By the end of this year, she aims to build the Group from 10 to 13 subsidiaries based around three main areas: infrastructure, hospitality, and property development.
As part of Soma Group’s growth strategy, Krasna also stresses the importance of her team, “We want to make sure that we provide the best services and to do this we constantly look at ways to improve our operations.
“ Our employees are the heart and soul of Soma Group and I believe by nurturing them as people, not just employees, they will be more productive, satisfied and fulfilled,” says Krasna.
With ambitious plans for the company’s future, Krasna is undoubtedly a woman to watch in Cambodia as she steers Soma Group into a prosperous new chapter.