Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Entrepreneurial undertaker takes the hassle out of dealing with death

Entrepreneurial undertaker takes the hassle out of dealing with death

Morodok Memorial Planning's coffins include a viewing window beneath the lid.
Morodok Memorial Planning's coffins include a viewing window beneath the lid. Scott Rotzoll

Entrepreneurial undertaker takes the hassle out of dealing with death

Close your eyes,” Yos Bunleng instructs. “Now imagine that your relative has just died. What are the problems?” Bunleng’s sales pitch, delivered in a gadget-filled Tuol Kork office earlier this week, is effective. Death in Cambodia creates logistical problems that those affected are ill-equipped to deal with: mourning rituals are elaborate, and require a coffin, musicians and a fully decorated marquee to be delivered on the same day as the death.

“I see a lot of difficulties with funeral management in this country,” said Bunleng, an energetic man in his late 20s, who records all his interviews on a tripod-mounted DSLR, and whose office is wallpapered with marketing-strategy flowcharts.

Bunleng said it took him four years of research to come up with his business venture: memorial planning that streamlines the complexity of funeral arrangements by putting it all in the hands of a single organiser – himself.

Morodok Memorial Planning, the company he set up last year, has the potential to furnish grieving families with everything from a photographer to the embalming chemicals needed to inject into the deceased.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A Cambodian take on the hearse. Scott Rotzoll

Bunleng said the original idea stemmed from a bereavement in his own family, which left his grandparents at a loss for what to do. Seeing a gap in the market, he quickly left his job as an interior designer and set up the funeral firm. At the time he had no training in business other than a keen observance of entrepreneurs he admired, and scouting trips where he visited similar businesses abroad.

He is a keen innovator and, as he spoke, he flipped through an iPad featuring pictures of the foreign ideas he’s most excited about introducing to the local market, such as “memorial trees” on which small condolence messages can be hung from white branches. “We provide extras – some accessories that the families can’t miss,” he said with confidence.

And the coffins, he was keen to point out, are top of the range: imported from Malaysia and Singapore, the caskets have a second, internal lid made of see-through plastic.

Bunleng explained that bodies are usually covered over quite quickly in Cambodia because of hygiene concerns, but this double layer allows relatives travelling from far away to view the face of their loved one several days after death. He thinks the idea is new to the Kingdom.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Morodok Memorial Planning even provides funeral attire. Scott Rotzoll

But what makes Bunleng’s business unusual is less the particular services he provides than the boldness of the vision.

The company, whose packages cost from $950 up to $7,000, disrupts the status quo of families taking responsibility for their own funeral arrangements.

According to Seng Someny, spokesperson for the Ministry of Cults and Religion, it’s an unusual venture. “I heard that there are funeral planning companies to cover food, the ceremony tent or flowers … but I never heard of a company covering a full event. Normally it is only the family who go to find different places to organise the funeral,” he said.

He added that as long as the business wasn’t cheating people in their hour of need, it seemed like a good idea.

Bunleng is not the first person to try to attempt to monetise funeral services. Two entrepreneurial women, Lay Chunn Yi and Hou Sivhong, made local headlines last March when they won the gold medal at the Mekong Business Challenge with their plans for a funeral agency.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Enterprising funeral director Yos Bunleng. Scott Rotzoll

The idea never became a reality, which Bunleng thinks was due to flaws in the model that slowed down the process: “For example, if they want to have a coffin, they have to contact a coffin supplier,” he said.

At Morodok Memorial Planning, coffins are the first thing on display in the large central foyer, while a newly painted funeral truck waits in the yard outside.

Bunleng has organised 10 funerals so far, and said he would persevere in convincing the Cambodian market in favour of outsourcing.

“I do believe that people want our service, but if they don’t have information about it, they will think it is expensive,” he said. “We are happy to help them and make it easier for them to make this different choice to use our service.”


  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro