News – Vietnam Economic Times
FROM THE GROUND UP
“To use a football term, I think it is time for the older generation to retire from playing and start coaching. The country needs a new generation of young entrepreneurs who are coached in how to seize opportunities and create new business, not only in the tough domestic market but also in large overseas markets.”
– Mr Nguyen Duc Hau, Founder of Uniexport –
Vietnam’s new class of young entrepreneur is bursting with people who started out with next to nothing.
After contacting Mr Nguyen Duc Hau, the 30-year- old founder of Uniexport, a million dollar export company in Ho Chi Minh City, it was only at the end of the month that he could find the time to talk with VET. Apologetic, he explained he had just returned from a team building exercise in Singapore with 20 of his employees. Such trip have become common in Vietnam, but given his factory nearly burned down at the end of 2012 it was something of surprise to find that recovery has apparently been so swift.
Graduating in 2006 with a degree in engineering from the Ha Noi University of Mining and Geography, Mr Hau stared with almost zero capital and scarcely any knowledge of business or finance yet managed to find success before the fire. Many believed the fire would the death knell for his venture, but he refused to give up and a short year latter is well and truly back on track. He is yet another example of the will to succeed that is a feature of Vietnam’s new generation of entrepreneurs, most of whom were born in the 1980s.
FROM THOSE THAT CAME BEFORE
After graduating with an engineering degree his family was keen for him to find a steady job in a State-owned enterprise on a decent salary. “But I chose to join the private sector with one simple dream in mind: to make more money, buy a car and travel around the world,” he told VET. The first five year in business turned out to be truly awful, with a series of rough challenges coming his way, not the least of which was the fire.
Mr Lai Van Tin, Director of Tin Phat International Communications Company in Dak Lak province’s Buon Ma Thuot city in the central highlands, told VET that fledging small and medium –sized enterprises tend to be inexperienced I personal management and financial management, and knowledge simply not enough. “They will suffer significant difficulties when trying to access markets,” he explained. “Finance is always a major challenge for young entrepreneurs, and the thought of just giving up will cross the minds of many.”
But such difficulties have failed to discourage others.”I took the previous generation of entrepreneurs as an example to follow,” Mr Hau said. He has great respect for his predecessors in business, as they drew during extremely difficult times in terms of political and social ideology, economic structure, and finance. “They came from various socio- economic backgrounds with differing areas of expertise, but all carried a common desire for wealth.” Indeed, after about 30 years of development, from a starting point as slow as possible, the previous generation of entrepreneurs recorded impressive achievements, enriching not only themselves but also society and Vietnam’s economy. They change it from a “weak” economy to a “developing” economy, Mr Tin remarked. “As a subsequent generation, it is our responsibility to follow the foundations we have inherited.”
Meanwhile, Mr Dao Duc Dung, a surprisingly young 27-year-old director of an entrepreneurs training institute in Ha Noi, believes the most important thing is to have the determination to overcome hardships and challenges.” Capital is not important, nor is the idea,” he said. “The most important thing is to have the guts to do what you want to do. I see many people with a very good business idea but after just a couple of months it cools off. IF you don’t execute the idea it will come to nothing.”
FUTURE IN THEIR HANDS
After decades of innovation and development, the leading industries in Vietnam are still those that have trading privileges, rely on natural resources, or are industries such as electricity, oil and gas, minerals, and real estate, etc. Consumer goods and items that require high technology such as motor cars, electronic equipment is not yet fully developed. Local enterprises and their products and services are not even competitive in the domestic market, let alone internationally.
The economic crisis over the last few years has made it quite clear that the traditional way of running a business in Vietnam has severe shortcomings. History has shown that business development based on natural resources or economic privilege stop. Fortunately, countries not rich in natural resources, such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, found another way to secure stable and sustainable development through advanced manufacturing and the infinite productive capacity and creative power of their people. Looking back on the issues facing Vietnam, previous lines of business considered the main stream of the economy are now suffering substantial difficulties. The domestic market is also now becoming cramped, with hundreds of thousands of business in hot competition. After decade of “fighting” in the marketplace, it is time for the entrepreneurs of the older generation to take their rest. “To use a football term, I think it time for them to retire and start coaching,” said Mr Hau.”The country needs a new generation of young entrepreneurs who are couched in how to seize opportunities and create new businesses, not only in the tough domestic but also in large overseas markets.”
The equal of their male counterparts, female entrepreneurs are also active in the world of business and face similar difficulties. Standing firm has been difficult amid the economic crisis, let alone growing. But with dynamism and market acumen and willingness to invest boldly some have successfully untied the knots. According to Ms Pham Thi Le Thu, director of the Nam An Aluminium Joint Stock company, difficulties challenges present opportunities. From her experience in supplying and distributing aluminium products, Ms Thu wanted to build her business into a specific product brand. In 2012, as many business were downsizing production, she decisively invested billions of Vietnam Dong in new factories with automatic power coating lines. This new technology created premium glass and aluminium products that more than satisfied the needs of customers. Her success can be credited to her closely observing market developments and having the ability to be flexible during tough times. Her strategies have been calculated, not risky.
“Doing business is like playing chess,” Mr Hau said. “In the most dangerous moments, players need to have the will and the creativity to make the move that ‘no one has ever made’ and turn defeat into victory, transforming difficulties into advantages. Artist devoted their lives to seeking the beauty of life. Doctors devote theirs to finding cures for diseases. And we, as entrepreneurs, devote our lives to enriching not only ourselves but our families and the country as well. Our generation has the same aspirations for wealth as our predecessors, so despite starting from scratch we are confident we will not disappoint them.”
_ Minh Tien reports