Tablet Hand Soap Business Aims to Reduce Plastic

While studying in Australia, Hong Panhavongpitou decided to launch a business that would help eliminate single-use plastics in Cambodia. The result is Arom.Eco, Cambodia’s first tablet hand soap tablet hand soaps tablet hand soaps

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Founder of Arom.Eco, Hong Panhavongpitou, has invested his personal finances into designing Cambodia’s first tablet hand soap in a bid to encourage Cambodians to cut down on plastic waste. 

The 22-year-old finished high school in 2019 and applied to study a Bachelor's degree in accounting with a financial major in Australia.

Initially, he did not harbor any desire to start his own business, especially regarding sustainable and environmentally-friendly products. 

But after living abroad, he came up with some ideas from his girlfriend. One idea he had was to try and find a way to help Cambodians cut down on plastic waste, especially plastic packaging. 

He noticed that there are a lot of types of hand soap in the Cambodian market, but many do not take into consideration the environment, especially when it comes to using single-use plastic packaging.  

Pitou realized that while plastic is an issue, it is hard to change people's behavior. So, while studying abroad, he spent time designing a product that would help to save the environment and provide good hygiene to people. 

To set up his small business, he initially pumped about $2,000 of his savings into bootstrapping the project. Most of this was spent on research and design, and investing in inventory. In mid-2022, he was ready to start working on his business. 

“We started our soft launch with the improved final product back in June this year. As of now, I manage the operations myself with valuable assistance from my partner [his girlfriend] in Cambodia, who handles the packing and delivery service for our customers,” Pitou siad. 

He decided to call his business Arom.Eco - a term derived from the Khmer language that refers to passion for eco-friendly living. The logo comprises three words: Arom (Passion), Anamai (Hygiene), and Amatak (Forever). These words reflect his brand’s identity and mission, which is to provide quality cleaning products with an essence of eco-friendliness and sustainability in mind. 

“I always knew that starting any business is challenging, and it’s much harder when you’re a student without prior experience. However, I’ve found the experience to be quite fulfilling. As a commerce student, this small project is a great opportunity for me to apply my creativity and also a chance to build up skills that were not taught in school,” he said.

“It’s like a playground for me, as working on it has provided valuable lessons for my personal growth and learning. Most importantly, I’m proud to give a helping hand for the betterment of the environment, especially in my home country,” he added.

Pitou underlined that by working on the project, he has not only learned the practicalities of starting and operating a real business, he has also deepened his understanding of sustainable living and practicing living more responsibly.

“When I came to Australia I lived alone and tried to observe everything around my house; any products to cut down waste. In Cambodia, there is a problem with plastic waste. Even though we the government educate us, we still see it as a problem,” Pitou noted.


Before setting up his business, Pitou had no prior experience researching brands and supply chains and had to talk with many manufacturers who produce pellet soap to high standards and quality. 

He explained that not all manufacturers produce pellet soap. Instead, they tend to produce liquid soap in plastic bottles that are thrown away once they have been used. 

“We found out that there are a lot of local and international companies, but manufacturing soap as a pellet is hardly ever found,” Pitou said. “So, I needed to find manufacturers who can do this. I needed to do more research and study the qualities and prices of the sustainable products that we found.”

He found it hard to explain to customers the concept of his products and found changing consumer habits about using plastic a battle. With Arom.Eco, customers receive a bottle that can be reused and refilled. A tablet of soap, packaged in paper, is dropped in the bottle and mixed with water to create foam soap.

“With our version, we want them to have one bottle that is refilled. I think this point is hard to do. But, I hope with the refill system for Arom.Eco it will be easy for consumers to change their habits,” he said.

As he recently launched the business, for now, Pitou uses an online platform to promote and sell his products. However, his plan after graduating is to set aside some time to build Arom.Eco into a fully-fledged business and reach as many households as possible.

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