Viet Nam is a small, developing nation with a relatively large population. Because of its location on key international trade routes, control of Viet Nam has always been of great interest to bigger players. After enduring many centuries of foreign occupation and war, Viet Nam now faces increasing tensions in the South China Sea.
Instead of being crushed by adverse circumstances, the Vietnamese people are renowned for their resilience and fighting spirit. This never-say-die attitude reflects in the success of entrepreneurs of Vietnamese origin, both in Viet Nam and around the world.
Mai Kieu Lien – CEO and Chair of Vinamilk
Viet Nam’s largest dairy producer, Vinamilk exports to 30 countries, including the US, the Middle East, Africa and Cuba. Originally from Hau Giang, Lien studied in Moscow before starting work as an engineer at Vinamilk in 1979. Lien has played a key role in transforming Vinamilk into one of Vietnam’s most profitable and respected brands.
Truong Gia Binh – CEO and Chair of FPT Group
FPT Group is one of the biggest IT corporations in Vietnam, with 26,818 workers and total assets of $USD1, 24 billion. Truong also studied in Moscow, obtaining a PhD in Mechanics and Mathematics. He co-founded FPT in 1988 and established FPT University in 2006.
Huy Truong – Founder of Wishlist
Huy arrived in Australia at the age of 7 as a refugee “boat –person”. 21 years later he founded gifting site Wishlist with his wife Cathy and two sisters. Huy sold Wishlist to Qantas for $850 million, and is now a private equity investor.
Tan Le– Founder and President of Emotiv Systems
Tan also came to Australia as a refugee, in 1982 when she was 4. She went on to become 1998 Young Australian of the Year. In 2011, Tan co-founded Emotiv, a company producing headsets which can read brain signals and facial movements to control digital technology.
Mitchell Pham – Founder, Director and General Manager of Augen
Originally from Saigon, Mitchell landed in New Zealand in 1985 at age 13 after escaping Viet Nam in a fishing boat with 66 other refugees. He studied Information Systems at Auckland University and in 1993 set up software company Augen with four friends. In 2011 he was recognised by the World Economic Forum as one of 190 Young Global Leaders. Augen now partners with Kiwi companies to provide IT and green technology solutions to South East Asia.
The approach of young Vietnamese to study and learning is a big factor in their business success. In 2015, Vietnamese made up 25.8% of overseas students in the US, 15.3% in Australia and 1.9% in New Zealand. Often Vietnamese students stay on in their host country after graduating and contribute their skills to the local business world.
So what can we learn from the Vietnamese about business?
- Resilience–take the knocks and keep going, even if the odds seem insurmountable.
- Flexibility –adapt to local conditions to meet the needs of your customers.
- Humility – grab all learning opportunities with both hands.
- Innovation – look at your market place from an outsider’s point of view- are there opportunities that established operators might have missed?