With sleek, colorful netting lined with fabric, elegantly draped over a customized frame, what Eriq Amtalla offers is not your typical mosquito net.
Situated above his hair salon on Street 246, Mr Amtalla’s Tunica Sky features custom-made mosquito nets and canopies for private homes, as well as hotels, restaurants and other establishments. Clients provide the measurements and choose the type of frame, netting and finishing fabric they would like for their net, which can cost between $40 to $150 depending on the order. Tunica Sky customers can also opt for a net made from a blend of cotton and synthetic cloth, which is sturdier than the typical all-cotton mosquito netting.
Mr Amtalla and his former partner were inspired to create Tunica Sky by their experience living in Tanzania a few years ago, where Mr Amtalla said there was a limited choice of mosquito nets.
“The problem was you couldn’t find the right mosquito net,” he explained. “They are just simple mosquito nets which might or might not even fit on your bed, but you just had to take what was offered.”
Tunica Sky was initially going to be launched in Tanzania, but it was too difficult to obtain fabric there, Mr Amtalla said. Cambodia, however, was a different story.
“The good thing about Cambodia is that you get all kinds of fabric and you don’t have to go far to get the nets and the finishing fabric. Everything is here,” he said, adding that to his knowledge, Tunica Sky is the only custom-made mosquito-net business in Cambodia.
Since Tunica Sky opened in June 2009, Mr Amtalla has been receiving roughly five orders a month, and he hopes business will increase over time.
“It’s a slow-moving business,” he said.
Siv Sovanaroth, head of insecticide bed nets for the National Malaria Center, said that while he hasn’t heard of Tunica Sky, he doubted that a high-end mosquito net business could thrive, because the communities that are at risk for insect-borne diseases cannot afford them.
“It’s very expensive… For the target group community, I don’t think that it can work,” he said, adding that the most popular mosquito net in Cambodia costs just $5.
But Steven Bjorge, malaria team leader for the World Health Organization, believes that there is plenty of room at the top of the mosquito-net market.
“It has always been my contention that the mosquito-net market could probably use some market savvy,” Mr Bjorge said. “So you’ve got mosquito nets that appeal to different segments of the market rather than just one size fits all. If these people can find someone that can afford the higher-priced net, well, more power to them.”