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Request For Vietnam Startups

READ THE COMPANION PIECE: “FROM A SUBSIDY TO A STARTUP ECONOMY

AGRICULTURE

Vietnam accounts for more than a fifth of the global total of rice exports, it’s the world’s second largest exporter of coffee, and it’s also the second largest producer of pepper, making it an ideal prototyping arena for new farming techniques and technologies. Thus, AgriTech that is developed in Vietnam has the potential to be exported across other markets. For starters, how can crop yields be efficiently increased without over-farming existing land?

BRAND

Vietnam has a lot of potential to develop its international brand—it already has a strong reputation for IT outsourcing. Furthermore, the Vietnamese conical hat (known as nón là) has near-instant brand recognition. What’s the most effective way of enhancing Vietnam’s perception abroad?

CHALLENGES

Counterfeit goods, collusion (pricing), congestion (traffic and pollution), climate change effects in the Mekong Delta, gender imbalance, lack of transparency, etc. Pick an area; how can it be addressed?

COMMUNITY

Most of Vietnam’s major cities are made up of locals, foreigners, and Viet-Kieu but sometimes there isn’t much overlap among the English-teaching, business, diplomatic, freelancer, arts, and other communities. One idea: how to tap into these diverse groups of people and make it easier for people who want to move and contribute to Vietnam (or any country) to do so?

COLLABORATION

There are almost two million Vietnamese in the U.S. with approximately one million in California alone. Surprisingly, (to some) Vietnamese is the third most spoken language in Texas. Furthermore, there are overseas Vietnamese communities in France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Australia. Already, many Vietnamese study abroad and second-generation Vietnamese have returned to Vietnam for work, study, or to live. Linking the diaspora back to Vietnam means benefits at home and abroad. How can these links be strengthened and deepened?

CONSTRUCTION

There are a number of high-rises under development in Ho Chi Minh City and buildings are constantly razed to make way for new ones in Hanoi. Vietnam builders have focused on high-end accommodations but the need is for middle to lower income housing. The pace of construction will only accelerate in the future but often construction sites are hazardous with lax safety measures, waste, delays and overages. Not to mention some badly designed features to begin with, which begets the question: can the industry begin to innovate?

COPIES

Vietnamese entrepreneurs, developers, and product managers might consider trying to copy more: copying best practices, successful models, and building up expertise to a point where they have mastered a skill, product, form, etc. Taking  a proven business model in the region and localizing it to Vietnamese tastes and styles isn’t necessarily a bad idea—it lowers risk. What else could or should Vietnam copy?

DATA

Getting accurate data in Vietnam can sometimes be difficult. Collecting data and making decisions with it is a competitive advantage, given the right data. Depending on a particular industry, what kind of data should be collected to make the right decisions?

DEMOGRAPHICS

There are approximately one million babies born each year in Vietnam while people from rural areas continue to move into major cities. Moreover, people are living longer. What kind of services and care will they need that don’t exist yet?

DIGITAL

Paper is inefficient to store, whether it’s triplicate invoices or money. Finding a way of getting medical and other records into digital databases could be the beginning of a digital transformation in Vietnam. As a starting point, what can be stored digitally today?

EDUCATION

Vietnam needs to revamp its higher education system; more banking and finance majors in Vietnamese universities is not viable in the long term. The Vietnamese youth need to develop more critical thinking skills, more creative abilities, and more confidence in asking questions and executing tasks in order compete internationally. How can these skills be developed within and outside of the school system?

ENERGY

Vietnam’s largest source of electricity-generating capacity is from coal and this trend will continue well into this century. When might we see the emergence and mass adoption of renewable energies such as solar and wind as well as the development of smart homes, buildings, and cities?

FINANCE

FinTech is on the rise but credit card adoption rates are still low in Vietnam and access to loans for SMEs can be improved—perhaps via crowdfunding combined with better investment management tools. How can Vietnamese consumers adopt e-payments more quickly?

GOVERNANCE

Vietnam is a top-down country. However, within the country’s political system, it is experimenting with e-governance in places like Da Nang in an effort to improve public services, e.g., legal process standardization and optimization. Along this theme, how can citizens positively engage the government for everyone to benefit?

HEALTH

Digital health, animal health, BioTech. More specifically, cardiology, oncology, women’s health, opthamology, radiology, intervention, supplements, anti-counterfeit, and general awareness, prevention, and treatments that are developed in Vietnam for a (presumably) lower cost than they would be in the developed world have the potential to outcompete similar solutions in other markets. Not to mention growing diabetes, asthma, and chronic illnesses in Vietnam’s youth and elders. Pollution and divorce is on the rise as well. Getting ahead of the curve: what will be the biggest health concern in five years in Vietnam and do solutions exist for it yet?

INFRASTRUCTURE

With metro projects coming online in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, we may see an alleviation of traffic congestion in both cities. On the other hand, obtaining a car is the new Vietnamese dream and rush hour is already near-gridlock in major Vietnamese cities. How can Vietnam design and execute smart urban planning?

LOGISTICS

Last-mile distribution is still a huge challenge with distribution channels and supply chains that have not yet been streamlined, affecting almost every sector. In its current state, what is the best way to aggregate demand, capture data, and process payments within the logistics and shipping infrastructure?

REAL ESTATE

Renting in Vietnam can be a mixed experience but it is sometimes not economical to buy a home. More and more inventory is coming online—is there a way to optimize under-utilized real estate units until they are sold?

SDGS

See UN Sustainable Development Goals.

SMES

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises are the backbone of the economy and will continue to be as SOE reforms and equitization are accelerated in order to give space to SME growth. New digital tools are a start but how can SMEs compete better, go abroad more easily, and reduce the risk of doing so?

TECHNOLOGY

This is essentially doing more or the same with less, i.e., finding international products and producing them for 30% of the retail cost and 65% of the feature set so that technology sharing across Vietnam and around the (developing) world can flourish. Which product to start with?

TOURISM

Approximately eight million people visit Vietnam every year; this industry has been in decline for months and it’s partly related to customer service—it can be improved, especially in northern Vietnam. Training, language skills, and anticipating customers’ needs are all in short supply. How can three-star hotels deliver three star (international) experiences?

TRADE

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), EU-Vietnam, Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and approximately 10 other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)—how can Vietnam maximize these opportunities and move up the value chain?

WILD CARDS

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Neural Networks, Quantum and Cognitive Computing, Robotics, Moonshots, etc. What is Vietnam in a position to develop via the sheer will of researchers?

YC

See the original Request For Startups.

YOUR IDEAS

No one has a monopoly on good ideas—what are yours?

YOUTH

The future of Vietnam can sometimes be in flux between traditional parenting forces and the desire for modernity. Developing content that the youth can relate to on the topic of careers, life lessons, relationships, and etiquette advice across social media and applications could help to ease the transition to adulthood. More importantly, what are their hopes and dreams for Vietnam in this century?

The REMON Project

On July 2 and 3, the Final Conference of the Vietnamese-German Research Project Real Time Monitoring of Urban Transport—Solutions for Traffic Management and Urban Development in Hanoi (REMON) was held in Hanoi. During the conference, project representatives outlined their plans for going forward and listened to the concerns of the attendees, which ranged from data privacy to the methodology of the proposed actions.

Traffic in Vietnam can conjure up images of motorbikes, bicycles, buses, and luxury vehicles all vying to occupy the limited space on the road, especially in major cities. Already during rush hour, parts of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are near impassable. Few experiences could be worse than being caught at a red light in Ho Chi Minh City during the rainy season, and surrounded by the drone and exhaust of a few hundred motorbikes in front and behind. (Your author has experienced this firsthand.)

And up in Hanoi, the afternoon rush hour can turn into a “Battle Royal” where buses are operated as if they were cars, cars as if they were motorbikes, and motorbikes as if there were regulations for operating a motorbike. The Vietnamese dream is to own a car—to show off success to others, to protect from the elements, and to travel comfortably.

Last year, the first Rolls-Royce Motor Cars showroom in Vietnam opened up in Hanoi. However, as we explained during coverage of the Yamaha Town Hanoi showroom, the car will never fully replace the motorbike in Vietnam, and Hanoi itself is a Motorcycle Dependent City (MDC). Still, Vietnam experiences 10% new vehicles on the road each year and congestion will only increase as more people become successful as a result of the economy. In fact, there are even events called “car washes” where an entire company will go out to celebrate the purchase of a car by one of its employees–arguably, one of the nicer effects of an increasing number of vehicles on the road, but not without short and long-term effects on the city, its people, and the environment.

So in the last three years, a team of Vietnamese and German researches has looked at this increasing traffic issue in Hanoi. The REMON Project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Vietnam and has been ongoing since May 2012 (and will run until October 2015).

According to a handout at the event, the REMON project has several key objectives:

  1. “reduction of air pollutants and emissions;”
  2. “reduction of energy consumption in the urban transport sector in Hanoi, Vietnam;”
  3. “establish a real-time traffic information system in Hanoi, which helps to increase the efficiency of Hanoi’s transport system;”
  4. reduce environmental impacts of traffic, in particular traffic jams, traffic-induced emissions and energy consumption.”

The REMON project wants to track and detect traffic conditions in real time via two methods; Floating Car Data (FCD) and Floating Phone Data (FPD) which is essentially GPS data from onboard units in vehicles but also the smartphones of the vehicle drivers as well.

The REMON project hopes to use the raw data for several applications ranging from “informing road users of the current traffic situation on each street to controlling and managing traffic as well as long-term transport and urban planning efforts and measure to solve traffic problems.”

Thus, the focus is on short-term traffic information as well as long-term transport management approaches and urban planning solutions. In other words, “the REMON project is a well-adapted, demand-oriented, collaborative research and development project between German and Vietnamese partners. It aims at establishing a traffic information system and using it for achieving an integrated urban and transport development of Hanoi.”

Ridesharing and Electric Vehicles in the Future

Uber arrived in Vietnam in June, 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City and in October in Hanoi. GrabTaxi also arrived last year in Vietnam. These services help optimize the flow of people across cities but they also have the potential to reduce future vehicles on the road considering the tough parking situation in Hanoi. For sure, once the metro comes online, it will provide a viable alternative for navigating around Hanoi (and Ho Chi Minh City).

On the other hand, electric vehicles such as bicycles, are usually associated with young people or students. At the high-end range, if Tesla Motors were to enter Vietnam it could change the perception of electric vehicles in this market. However, entering an Asian market where consumers want to have instant gratification and want to save “face” and requires developing infrastructure can be quite challenging as seen with Tesla Motors’ progress into China.

There are definitely opportunities to partner with residential and commercial developers in Vietnam to offer Powerwall (see a full Powerwall 2 review) and other devices in the portfolio that could benefit residents, customers, and others who are interested in living a high-tech, stylish, and green life. For example, establishing VIP charge/parking spots at malls, and premium parking in residential developments are some options for building a suitable brand image for Tesla Motors. Successful Vietnamese want others to acknowledge their success and want to be seen in exclusive situations so it may take some time for a mindset or attitude shift, especially from the nouveau riche, who will only increase in numbers in the future.

One thing is certain: the focus and results of the REMON project will affect all Hanoians as the impact of traffic is demonstrated in more relatable terms such as quantifiable lost productivity due to waiting in traffic (or even access to the real-time data via a mobile application as the project hopes to achieve). Along those lines, solutions for traffic challenges could emerge from a variety of areas–not only the private sector or from researchers, but also from the public via crowdsourcing campaigns. Indeed, there were many vocal and concerned commentators at the event in the audience who did not have a shortage of opinions on what should be done moving forward. In the meantime, the continued promotion of basic standards of courtesy on the roads with an emphasis on safety, utilizing signals, and respecting traffic laws can go a long way toward improving the commuting, driving, and riding experiences in cities such as Hanoi; after all, innovation and technology can help to fill in the gaps.

If you would like to know more information or would like to view the material presented then you can find it here.

The UNICEF Innovation Lab in Vietnam

Recently, we met with Brian Cotter, an Innovation Specialist with UNICEF; he explained the UNICEF Innovation Lab in Vietnam, how the tech scene is changing in Ho Chi Minh City, and how you can get involved with the nearest Innovation Lab.

Can you share a bit about yourself? What’s your background, your role in your organization, and where are you located?

BC: I’ll have lived in Vietnam nine years this June. I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison where I majored in Zoology. During my studies, I worked with the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), which deploys autonomous buoys into lakes for data collection. When I was doing it, the project was just in the US but now it’s global. So I was working with technology even though I had a different major.

Then I had the opportunity to move to Vietnam so I took it. I started off teaching English, like many people and then worked in hospitality and retail. I helped open a restaurant and tried to open a series of convenience stores in Mui Ne, a coastal town. So my experience was working in small businesses before I tried to do a mobile app outsourcing company.

The entrepreneur style really attracted me and I didn’t want to be in the office all the time so I tried to participate in startups as much as I could. I liked building things and doing things. Today, I am based in Ho Chi Minh City as an Innovation Specialist with UNICEF.

How long has the UNICEF Innovation Lab been present in Vietnam? What’s the role of the UNICEF Innovation Lab here in Vietnam?

BC: We’ve been here for six months; 2015 is foundational year so we are working to determine the best approach. The Innovation Unit for UNICEF global has been around since 2007 with growth accelerating since 2009. We are an interdisciplinary team of individuals around the world tasked with identifying, prototyping, and scaling technologies and practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work. We build and scale innovations that improve children’s lives around the world.

In the UNICEF context, Innovation Labs generally have a dual imperative. Firstly they exist to support the utilization of innovative processes in the development of internal programs and the identification of opportunities for improved results through the use of emerging technologies. Secondly they exist to empower the local communities and stakeholders to develop the capacity approach complex problems and create sustainable solutions.

Our main office is in Hanoi but we have sub office in Ho Chi Minh City so I travel between both cities, depending on work. However, the Innovation Lab is initially focused in Ho Chi Minh City.

The UNICEF Innovation Lab is both a physical space and a “conceptual environment,” correct? How does that work exactly?

BC: The Lab part of the Innovation Lab means a physical space. It is our mission to participate in a community of like-minded individuals and organizations to create a better future for Vietnam through innovation. The physical space is there to embody the type of community we want to empower: equitable, sustainable, impactful. We want to improve the collaboration across different sectors of the entrepreneurship and startup community, to convene partners around social impact, and to provide opportunity to those who are traditionally left out of the conversation. In order to create this space, we must first exemplify these values by working collaboratively with different stakeholders to identify our best approach for success and continually work to improve the mission and service provided through the space.

There are about a dozen UNICEF Innovation Labs around the world, how much collaboration is there between the labs?

We have monthly calls; I can reach out to them at any time. There’s a growing regional team to support us in bringing global context to our locales. There is another Innovation Lab in Indonesia—we talk almost every day. We share documents, struggles, and bottlenecks to help support each other. The context of every country is very different but we work together to share solutions. I set up a Skype group between ASEAN innovation labs and we have bi-weekly regional calls. In terms of technology, we use the cloud for collaborative documents and we utilize collaborative project management tools such as Trello.

What are some of the challenges that the UNICEF Innovation Lab in Vietnam seeks to address?

BC: We have nine Innovation Principles so one result of a principle is that everything in the lab is open-source. In our space, technology is not the innovation—the use of that technology in a novel way is the innovation for us. We use technology as a tool to deliver results. The tech is a tool, it doesn’t have to be bleeding edge, it has to be relevant. It needs to create a competitive advantage and be scalable. We pose a simple question: “How do you use it to deliver a better result?”

Project Mwana in Zambia is an example of this, which cut down the turnaround time for testing blood for HIV by half. The traditional method involved paper and post: 30 days to send the results, 33 days to get them back. With Project Mwana, the change was in delivering test results via SMS. Thus, critical treatment can get started earlier with better results.

Looking to the horizon, UNICEF will leverage trending technologies. The Innovation Lab looks at the situation and asks, “three-to-five years down, what does the country need? What does UNICEF need?”

So Wearables is a continuing theme now as well as the “Internet of Good Things.” We are addressing emerging tech areas and applying them in the context and using current technology in novel ways. What do we need to develop today that we will need to scale in three-to-five years?

Locally, the global innovation unit has identified Vietnam as a key contributor (key regional leader) that can contribute to the emerging technology community. Vietnamese expertise in ICT can be used to impact other parts of the world, which is why Vietnam was chosen to be one of two initial innovation labs in SE Asia.

We hope to be engaged and implement here, and then export the innovations that emerge.

Is there any recent news or upcoming developments about the UNICEF Innovation Lab that you’d like to share?

We opened our Global Innovation Lab in May in New York City, which focuses on global initiatives. U-Reports is one global initiative. U-Report began as an SMS program in Uganda in 2010 as an opportunity for young people in developing countries to express their views from a basic mobile phone.  Today the program, developed on RapidPro, is in 13 countries and over 650,000 people are sending or receiving SMSs every week.  Over the past four years U-Reporters have:

  • Sent and received over 50 million messages, each one representing a voice, question or opinion.
  • Improved the impact of UNICEF health programmes for mothers and children
  • Identified or verified cholera, Ebola, and typhoid outbreaks
  • Successfully advocated to support the Children Act to outlaw corporal punishment in Ugandan schools
  • Increased the rate U-Reporters knowing their HIV/AIDS status in Zambia by one third.
  • Advocated for girl’s rights to education at Rio+20 conference
  • Fought against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation alongside multiple faiths, legally and culturally.

You’ve been in Vietnam since 2006, right? How has the tech or startup scene changed since when you first arrived here?

BC: It’s accelerating. There is more action, desire, maturity. I’ve been around developers for awhile, they used to develop for their day jobs then go home and relax. Now they are developing at home because they are passionate about their side projects. The acceptance that “it” is possible has increased so there is additional motivation to build. In terms of the official ecosystem, it’s still so early so there are opportunities to influence things at the beginning.

What do you think readers should know about the startup scene in Vietnam?

BC: It’s a bit rough around the edges. There are still significant gaps and opportunities for development. The momentum is accelerating. Before, when Saigon Hub was around, people wouldn’t pay for events. Now I see that many people are willing to pay for events. They recognize that there is better quality content available, so they pay for it. The ecosystem is maturing organically in that regard.
What should we keep an eye out for in terms of startups and innovation coming out of Vietnam?

BC: There’s a lot of really smart people in this country. If they focus energies on a startup they could make some pretty incredible things. We saw VP9 at TechFest Vietnam; that could be incredible. But he [the founder] is not unique, there are a lot of people out there who don’t know the value of their market knowledge. Vietnam is bursting with so much raw talent—and discipline to a specific expertise. But that’s all they have so there needs to be support around it.

There are tech people in hardware and academia who don’t know how to talk about or differentiate their products. If they got the support of the ecosystem—whereby if other skills to run a startup were made accessible to a broader audience, then some magic could happen. It would require other focus put on soft skills; being able to present and express ideas and then we could see some significant tech and intellectual property-based technology break out. There are a lot smart people whose inventions never see the light of day.

Also, uniquely Vietnamese styles are starting to come out. Vietnamese are being inspired by other cultures and are not just copying anymore— they are putting their own twist on things. The maturity is coming. The tech startup scene has some of that; big things are coming, not just copies.

If people want to get involved with the UNICEF Innovation Lab, how can they do that in Vietnam?

The first thing you should know is that if you walk in and say, “I want to make a difference,” then I’m not going to say no. Everyone has a part to play, from CEO on down. We have open global challenges on Wearables and Causetech.net and will be making UNICEF problems within Vietnam more visible to the tech entrepreneur community as well.

One feature would be a weekend workshop so we can recruit mostly marginalized people to train skills and create projects. The sustainable projects will be guided by mentors and eventually those projects will develop into organizations. We are basing this idea off a framework that has been used in Kosovo so it’s a “by youth for youth” component. It’s a model that has been crafted through iteration after two-to-four years of events so it’s not from scratch. This workshop will be coming in late 2015 in HCMC and hopefully we can see it in other cities in Vietnam in 2016.

In effect we are turning innovators toward UNICEF problems and are engaging marginalized youth to enable equitable access to innovation and entrepreneurship resources like accelerators and training. Everyone has the opportunity to participate as mentors, entrepreneurs, providing funding instruments, or just sharing the vision. If you simply want to follow our progress, check us out on Facebook.

Any advice for locals or foreigners who want to become entrepreneurs in Vietnam? 

Just do it. You don’t learn until you launch or until you do it. If your gut tells you that you want to try then do it, listen. Figure out a way to do it without losing your job. Judge for yourself how much risk you are willing to take.

Thanks to Brian Cotter, who shared his time with us.

Building Vietnam’s Innovation Economy

On May 12, 2015, representatives from Google, Uber, 21st Century Fox, Cisco Systems and other multi-national corporations (MNCs) came together to discuss digital trade and cross-border data flows in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi. The event was organized by the American Chamber of Commerce Vietnam, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), and the US Chamber of Commerce. Of course, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was front and center throughout the daylong event but there were also a series of interesting topics throughout the panel sessions, some of which were named “Building Blocks for Innovation” and “Best Practices for Promoting the Economy and Protecting Consumers.” During these panels, company representatives spoke about attitudes and policies toward operating in Vietnam.

For example, Google’s Country Lead for Public Policy and Government Affairs, Alex Long, shared some insight into the Vietnamese market: there is 300% more language learning content that is consumed on YouTube in Vietnam compared to the average rate globally, showing the strong desire that Vietnamese have for Google’s services. Google has 13 data centers around the world including one in nearby Singapore. Thus, its interests are global so Google seeks to maintain a virtuous cycle where there is more demand for online services, more innovation in online services, more investment in online services, and therefore more online services in general. (In short, Google loves content–both in terms of volume and quality.)

On a local level, activating this “virtuous cycle” can work in a few ways:

  1. Policy advocacy (through events and working with public sector partners)
  2. Pilots—increasing access (Project Loon, for example.)
  3. Peering/caching (allowing locally and regularly-accessed content to be consumed more efficiently)

However, sometimes basic training needs to be put in place to get users to the point where they can use digital tools effectively. So in 2014 Google worked with organizations like Vietnam E-commerce and Information Technology Agency (VECITA) and VCCI to conduct trainings for 500 small businesses in Vietnam. Ultimately, the goal is to get Vietnamese companies to expand abroad so digital marketing is a way for Vietnamese companies to do that without setting up an overseas office. For example, one tool that Vietnamese companies can use is Google’s Global Market Finder.

One example of a Vietnamese company that went beyond Vietnam (and was present at the event) is Topica Edtech Group, which was founded in 2007 and is now operating in three countries: The Philippines and Thailand (besides Vietnam). The company will launch into the Indonesian market in September 2015 and will be exploring cloud computing solutions within the next six months. Nguyen Khoi, a product director at the company revealed that the first step for Topica was to train people how to use computers even before educating them through their service–again highlighting the need for basic training. Mr. Khoi also shared that he thought the perception of online education in Vietnam was changing and thus Topica Edtech Group may be one of the first in a new wave of Vietnamese startups to expand abroad as a result of positive interest in the field.

At the other end of the company spectrum, Uber Vietnam’s General Manager, Dang Viet Dung had some great advice for startup teams: “Make sure your product is kicking ass.”

He told the audience to “focus on your product first” and ask some basic questions:

  1. Is it good?
  2. Is it intuitive (especially for B2C)

“Often entrepreneurs believe that they need funding—no, get the product right.”

Mr. Dung said to focus on the following steps on the way to success:

  1. Invest in a product
  2. Find a mentor—open up your network, have allies

Mr. Dung also shared information about the recent cable breaks in Vietnam: Normally, the ETA in Hanoi is four minutes and 12 seconds. That means that the time from when a user orders an Uber vehicle to when it pulls up in front of him/her is, on average, four minutes and twelve seconds.

However, the ETA delta goes up during cable breaks which results in the Uber user experience being diluted. Mr. Dung also shared that Uber has had more than 25,000 failed credit card sign ups in Vietnam—the highest in Southeast Asia. Commenting further on recent reports about controversial Uber activities in Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. Dung said the incidents in Ho Chi Minh City related to “paper versus digital” contractual misunderstanding. Mr. Dung also pointed out that Uber is pioneering transparency since all payments are digital so they can be tracked; so instead of skirting tax responsibilities, as some have suggested, Uber is actually helping to increase the tax base.

So, according to Mr. Dung, Uber:

  1. Allows governments to trace transactions
  2. Allows the tax base to get bigger

In relation to Uber, Vietnam will continue to be a growing market and Uber will continue to make the service more affordable. However, the service will stay cash-free so as to not dilute the customer experience. [Update 08/2015: Uber will now be accepting cash payments by end of the year.] Uber is currently available in over 310 cities in 60 countries in the world but when Dung joined Uber in September 2014, Uber was in “just” 180 cities and 32 countries. For Mr. Dung, Uber introduces dynamic quality, feedback, safety—all while optimizing supply (vehicles) and demand (riders). He pointed to the average utilization rate of a private car, 5%; for a taxi, 25%; but for an Uber car it can be between 60% and 80%. Thus, Uber helps reduce traffic, an issue in Hanoi and other cities.

During Mr. Dung’s panel, he said that Vietnam has “one of the biggest startup scenes in Southeast Asia.” There certainly has been a lot of interest in startups in Vietnam since late 2013, from both the private and public sectors. Phan Hong Quat, Director General of the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Development (NATEC), under the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), spoke a bit about the origin and mission of NATEC, which was formed four years ago.

NATEC is supporting SME in difficult fields and is working to simplify the process for investment certificate with the Ministry of Home Affairs. The challenge that NATEC is finding a solution to is how to encourage investors to come in and support the developing industry; one initiative that the MOST pioneered is Vietnam Silicon Valley (VSB).

Modeled after Y-Combinator (YC), a seed fund in the US, VSB seeks to replicate a model that is accepted and successful in the US. VSB provides seed money to startups in exchange for up to 10% equity. Last October VSB had its inaugural Demo Day. Through its network of mentors, it seeks to help to close the gap in the startup communities in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and growing scene in Danang–especially for outsourcing companies which rely on reliable and open technologies.

[NATEC was the main organizer for TechFest Vietnam, a three-day festival which was held last weekend from May 15 to May 17; the main purpose of the event was to foster international connections for startups in Vietnam. We’ll be doing a follow up to the event soon.]

On the topic of reliable and open technologies, MasterCard’s Indochina Chief Representative and Vietnam Country Manager, Arn Vogel, stated that technology allows better customer service—whether it’s e-commerce or payment facilitation and Vietnamese companies need to be able to talk to the world, especially in order to verify payments. In terms of payments, we are transitioning from 16 digits to tokenization—and verification is crucial; a company can only do that if the transaction is on its network or has access to it. Mobile payments are on the way in Vietnam; there are 130 mobile phone subscribers per 100 people and the internet is ubiquitous. However, facing different data protection laws, MasterCard and others can’t offer hosted services–which affects consumers because they can’t use their credit cards. Mr. Vogel stated that there are about 20 payment facilitators operating in Vietnam and they can all play a role to work together to change the payments landscape.

Overall, one of the key takeaways of the event was that digital tools are not just for information technology (IT) companies but for all potential fields, i.e., all successful businesses use the internet. Cross-border data flows are not just important for IT access but are necessary to use the best technology available. A major point driven by more than one speaker during the event was that the “Digital Economy” is actually the general economy and that any attempts to restrict the flow of data would impede the flow of trade as well.

Adam Schlosser, Director of U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stated that the TPP helps companies of all sizes but Vietnam stands to gain the most out of the trade agreement. According to some estimates, as Mr. Schlosser stated,  it could provide the Vietnamese economy a $46 billion boost by 2025. It would also favorably affect tariffs, market caps, and digital products and services to help facilitate free trade across borders. Jack Lambert, Economic Officer at the US Embassy in Hanoi, reiterated that with the TPP, the biggest opportunities of growth and jobs are for Vietnamese SME but they can’t compete unless they have access to the world and data.

During opening remarks, Vice-Chair of the American Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Foote, noted that the digital economy and global transformation is well underway. And more than a few speakers touched upon how Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has driven the Vietnamese economy in the last 20 years and will continue to have a greater effect in the next 20 years. And nations like South Korea, Israel, Sweden, and others can help to show Vietnam new models and tools in order to create its own digital economy with its own “Vietnamese” style. (One of Vietnam’s strengths is that it has a young population that loves working with technology, so it should be leveraged.)

Above all, the event provided key insight into how multi-national corporations and other entities in the public sector view the future in Vietnam. Throughout Vietnam, there are more than 16,000 foreign companies operating across a variety of industries. Through collaboration, local and international partners in Vietnam can work together to create an ecosystem innovation can flourish; one that is full of promising and fast-growing companies or in other words, building Vietnam’s innovation economy.

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Forty Years Later

This week we are at the end of a six-day holiday: Hung Vuong Day (Hung Vuong, i.e., “Hung King” is to celebrate the history and lineage of Vietnamese kings.) on April 28; Reunification Day (also called Victory Day or Liberation Day in Vietnam) on April 30; and International Worker’s Day on May 1, also known as “May Day.” It’s the first big holiday break since the Tet holiday (Lunar New Year, a nine-day holiday) back in February. (Originally, the current holiday vacation was requested to be eight days, but only six days were granted.) Signage proclaiming and celebrating these three special days are all over Hanoi, citizens have their flags out in front of their homes, and nationalist songs are broadcast on public address systems in the streets. During significant year anniversaries (30th, 35th, 40th, etc.) parades are held in Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate the north “releasing” the south and the veterans that led the way.

In general, the atmosphere in Vietnam is quieter between Christmas and the Lunar New Year (one-to-two months). Things pick up between the Lunar New Year and this current holiday, but slow down again as we enter this break—in effect, another “reset.” The last day before the holiday, April 27, was the deadline to push through agreements before the exodus to places like Ha Long Bay, Co To, and Cat Ba islands.

As with Tet, many workers return to their home provinces and the streets in major cities become a bit quieter with less traffic (and less honking but not less dangerous, unfortunately). However, some work still goes on: directly and anecdotally, some construction workers on residential projects, service workers in cafes and bars, and factory workers in Bac Ninh all maintained their posts. The next big holiday is in September when Vietnam celebrates its Independence day on September 2. Thus, there are four solid months where business can proceed, unimpeded by long stretches of holiday. At the same time, Ho Chi Minh City’s rainy season begins, which can slow down travel around town due to flooding, and the weather in Hanoi heats up considerably (also slowing down the pace of things) since the city experiences proper seasons without snow.

This year is the 40th anniversary of Reunification Day, when North Vietnamese forces (NVA) captured Saigon and the Second Indochina War ended. In the US, April 30, 1975 is largely viewed as the final day of a tragic chapter in American foreign policy in Vietnam. For the more than one million Viet-Kieu (and their children) in the US, every April brings renewed memories of hardship, sacrifice, loss—and perseverance in a new land. There is no doubt that the war was a dark period for relations between the two governments at great expense of its peoples, some of which continues today. However, more than 40 years after Operation Frequent Wind, Vietnamese attitudes toward the US and capitalism may raise a few eyebrows.

New Attitudes

According to Pew Research, 76% of Vietnamese expressed a favorable opinion of the US during a 2014 poll. Almost nine-in-ten young people (as well as more educated people) were fond of the US. Of those who lived through the Second Indochina War (the Vietnam War as it is called in the US), six-in-ten over the age of 50 held a favorable view of the US. Perhaps the most surprising figure from the poll was that 95% of Vietnamese respondents believe “that people are better off in a free market economy, even if some people are rich and some are poor.” That’s not a typo; ninety-five percent of Vietnamese believe that people are better off in a free market economy (perhaps because the poll respondents picture themselves as the rich ones).

In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear from successful Vietnamese (with direct or close relations to VVIPs) that “making money is not bad… as long as you don’t hurt anybody.” Now, for those who have not spent much time in Vietnam, it may be surprising that there are so many “pro-American” attitudes in a one-party state, especially in the capital.

But spend some time working with Saigonese and doing business with Hanoians and the Pew Research results aren’t that hard to believe at all. For one, Vietnamese love and voraciously consume American culture. Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and Terminator Genisys are all films that have been screened or will be screened in Vietnam. Along with KPOP, Vietnamese youth listen to a variety of American music artists such as Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, and Katy Perry. American flag backpacks (as a fashion statement) are an occasional sight in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly and still known as Saigon). Last autumn in Hanoi there was even a American-style prom organized and American-style wedding requests aren’t that uncommon. (In fact there is even an American ordained minister who has performed a ceremonial wedding in Hanoi.)

In terms of American products, the Apple iPhone 6 is perhaps the most desired phone in Vietnam. Getting a gold iPhone 6 Plus is even better. Workers will spend two, three, or more months of their salaries just to have it and show off that they are able to afford one. Silicon Valley is the envy of many Vietnamese entrepreneurs in the tech industry. Even the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) initiated a Vietnam Silicon Valley program in 2013. And later this month the National Agency for Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Development (NATEC), a division of MOST, is the main organizer for TechFest Vietnam, a three-day festival which will be held from May 15-17 at Vietnam National University in Hanoi.

And if you were to directly engage and question Vietnamese about the American War (as they know/learn about it), they would most likely respond with “No problem, it was not me and you who were fighting each other.” With two-thirds of Vietnam’s 90 million population being under the age of 30, that is not a surprising response at all. Other Vietnamese have described the US to your author as a “big and strong country,” a “rich country,” and even as “number one” in casual discussions over beer or coffee. (Of course, there are ideologues and “politically correct” apparatchiks to encounter as well.)

One Direction

But it’s not just people-to-people ties that are being forged; there are ever-growing official ties between the two countries as well. Coincidentally, this year is also the 20th anniversary of normal relations between the US and Vietnam. Looking forward, the US intends to be Vietnams’s largest trading partner (having traded $35 billion in total goods last year, the US is already Vietnam’s largest export market), and the TPP will only reinforce the relationship between the two countries even more. However, the intertwined paths of these two countries started long ago, and came to a salient point shortly after the end of the Second World War.

Thirty years before the Fall of Saigon in 1975, Ho Chi Minh stood in Ba Dinh square in Hanoi and read the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam; it contained a familiar passage: “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” “Uncle Ho,” as he also known, has another particularly famous saying that Americans might identify with: “Nothing is more precious than Independence and Liberty.” The American Founding Fathers would almost certainly agree with that sentiment.

Forty years later, Vietnam has transitioned from a war-torn economy to a manufacturing center and serves as an integral part of the global supply chain. Beginning with Doi Moi (“Renovation”) in 1986, the Vietnamese economy has become increasingly integrated with the world economy. There have been and will be other significant milestones as well: the US embargo against Vietnam ended in 1994, Vietnam ascended into the WTO in 2007, the TPP will most likely be implemented this year, and by 2018 all tariffs will be reduced to zero as part of ASEAN integration in the region–not to mention a host of other trade promotion vehicles that Vietnam is involved in at various stages. To some, the changes in Vietnam since 40 or even 20 years ago may be surprising, but as someone who heads a department in a ministry recently stated, “the world is changing so we too must change with the world.”

Samsung’s Vision in Vietnam

On April 22, several Vietnamese leaders of Samsung as well as former Vietnamese and South Korean ambassadors came together during a workshop at Hanoi’s University of Industry to share elements of success, future opportunities, and advice from their own careers with approximately 300 students.

The guests of honor included Mr. Han Myoung Sup: President, Samsung Complex Vietnam; Mr. Ha Chan Ho: Strategic Advisor, Samsung Vietnam and Former South Korean Ambassador to Vietnam; Mr. Lee Cheol Ku, Vice President of Human Resources, Samsung Vietnam; and Mr. Phạm Tiến Vân, Former Vietnamese Ambassador to South Korea. The theme of the workshop was “Building Vision” which communicated three basic tenets to the university students:

  1. Work Hard
  2. Ask “Why”
  3. Attitude is Everything

These three points were emphasized at different times during the workshop but the guest speakers also implored the students to think and dream big and to travel outside of Vietnam. In particular, Mr. Han Myoung Sup told the audience that Vietnam is an important part of the global economy. Later, Mr. Phạm Tiến Vân reminded the students that even though resources are limited, creation (and innovation) has no limit so they should try to make a difference, i.e., become “Creation Heroes.” He pointed out that South Korea went from a war-torn economy to becoming a developed nation and economic powerhouse within several decades–and that Vietnam should follow a similar path. (During the 1960s South Korea was considered among the poorest countries in the world.) Indeed, Samsung’s $11 billion investment in high technology (and in human capital) in Vietnam will be one of the keys to developing the country further in the future.

Samsung and Vietnam

Apart from other Samsung affiliates’ investment capital, currently, Samsung Electronics’ investments in Vietnam include:

  • $2.5 billion in factories in the northern province of Bac Ninh (producing cellphones, smartphones, tablets, and vacuum cleaners);
  • $5 billion in a hi-tech assembly plant in the northern province of Thai Nguyen (in Yen Binh Industrial Park); and
  • ~$1.4 billion in plant in Ho Chi Minh City.

Furthermore, Samsung Vietnam’s research center is located in Hanoi, making Vietnam an essential part of Samsung’s global supply chain. But Samsung is also an integral part of Vietnam’s economy as its largest foreign investor; last year, Samsung products made up 18% of Vietnam’s total export turnover.

Investing in Vietnam is appealing for Samsung because its new manufacturing facilities benefit from corporate tax breaks for the first four years of operations, and then half the normal rate for the following nine years, depending on meeting certain criteria. These tax breaks plus the lower cost of labor in Vietnam (compared to China, where Samsung is shifting its manufacturing from) will allow Samsung to remain competitive against rivals such as Apple and Xiaomi. But it also means that Samsung will have to keep its Vietnamese production facilities adequately staffed (in part by events like the “Building Vision” workshop) in order to meet the global demand of its products. Today, about one out of three Samsung phones are made in Vietnam.

Working at Samsung

Samsung branded magazines were distributed to the students, which featured facts about operations, profiles of current employees (including salary information), and other relevant information that might be of interest to students and future Samsung employees, allowing for an in-depth summary of what the work culture is like.

During the Q&A portion, a student asked for advice for interviewing with Samsung. Samsung Vietnam Vice President Lee Cheol Ku had the following advice for the student:

  1. Introduce yourself in English or Korean;
  2. Promote your strengths and touch upon your weak points; and
  3. Make the case for why Samsung should hire you.

Once hired, a good attitude, positive thinking, and confidence will surely accelerate any career, but especially so at Samsung (according to representatives). (And if a candidate is not found competitive, the speakers advised to try and apply again.) Samsung representatives said that the company considers each worker to be a “genius” and provides a fair playing field for advancement if an employee does a good job. It advertised a realistically attainable monthly wage for “fresh staff” (university hires) of 9.7 million VND (approximately $450—the monthly minimum wage in Vietnam is approximately $150) at the workshop and stated that it needs high-quality people who work hard and can be promoted quickly (thereby earning the higher stated wages).

By the end of next month, Samsung is looking to fill 2,000 student positions. Already, 18,000 candidates have applied (with 1,600 applicants from the University of Industry).

Constructive Vision

Economies like South Korea’s provide a road map for how a developing country can turn itself into a global leader (the other notable example being Japan). Sony, LG, Toyota, Hyundai, and Samsung are all prime examples of innovative companies that emerged as a result of necessary investments in high technology, complementary skills, and long term choices. (And, by the way, Intel, Microsoft, and LG have all collectively invested several billions of dollars in Vietnam as well.)

In general, Vietnamese workers are quick learners when properly incentivized and they are natural entrepreneurs. Companies like Samsung are leading the way to positively impact the human resources standards in Vietnam as well as to position themselves for optimal competitive advantages. However, in the not-too-distant future, attempts at a Vietnamese “Samsung,” or a Vietnamese “Xiaomi,” or a Vietnamese “Nintendo” may emerge to challenge these established players. Vietnam is already amassing vast amounts of IT outsourcing knowledge as it continues to build its low-tech manufacturing capabilities–and now multi-nationals are training its workforce on how to assemble hi-tech components. For some Vietnamese, it may only be a matter of time before the opportunity cost to start their own company becomes too great.

In the meantime, the advice given at the workshop isn’t just suitable for students—it’s apt for anyone in business (and would be good to record and share on YouTube with other students throughout Vietnam). Trade barriers continue to fall as competition increases around the world, especially in Southeast Asia. At the end of this year ASEAN integration begins, which will bring with it zero percent tariffs for most products throughout the region by 2018. No one can say for sure what the landscape will be like then–but the best way to predict the future is by creating it. Without a doubt, Samsung will continue to play a critical role in the Vietnamese ecosystem for years to come as it continues to invest billions into the rapidly-developing country.

Vietnam Expo 2015

Last week we stopped by to check out the 25th annual Vietnam Expo which was held from April 15-18 at the Vietnam Fair Exhibition Center (VEFAC) in Hanoi. The event was hosted by Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) and directed by the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency (VIETRADE). Additionally, there were a number of sponsors, organizers, and overseas partners which resulted in 28 countries and territories participating in the event, according to official numbers.

The various exhibitors were spread across three different halls whereas VietBuild Hanoi (the last event we attended at the same location) was spread across both indoor and outdoor areas. Most of the foreign exhibitors seemed to be Korean and Chinese, which was confirmed by official literature. Even though there were more Chinese exhibitors, the Korean exhibitors were organized into their own sections (they had a dedicated area in the main building) which effectively promoted Korean businesses and Korean-Vietnamese economic interests. Surprisingly, there was only one listed Japanese company on the official Vietnam Expo 2015 literature. Furthermore, Cuban exhibitors had a strong showing at the expo, closely followed by Czech companies.

Additionally, there were Russian-origin products, e.g., digital testers for food and other uses. Recently, Prime Minister Medvedev visited Vietnam and announced a new trade deal between the Russian Federation and Vietnam so perhaps there will be more Russian exhibitors at the next Expo. With EU and US sanctions against Russia, this new deal between Russia and Vietnam could prove beneficial to Vietnamese exporters and Russian consumers (and vice versa).

Overall, a variety of beauty and skin care products were on display, mostly of Korean origin as well as some Chinese fashion/clothing trends that were showcased. There were two Korean products that interested us: one was a handmade wooden iPhone 6 case produced in ROK (but could be produced for a much lower cost in Vietnam); and the other was a mobile device charger that doubled as an advertising platform. However, both items seem like they would be better suited in other (developed) markets.

Engaging Exhibitors

We spoke to exhibitors from Nepal, Iran, the Czech Republic, Korea, China, Cuba, DPRK, and Germany, among others. Some had mixed feelings about the Expo; for example, a leather producer from India (but based in China) had paid a Chinese agent $6,000 under the false pretense that the Expo was exclusively for leather (the Indian businessman sold only wholesale). He arrived at the Expo on the first day to find that there were a variety of other goods that were exhibited as well. His attempts to reach his Chinese agent were unsuccessful and the exhibitor left the Expo the next day. This exhibitor described meeting other exhibitors who had been misled, as well as having met other exhibitors who had paid about $1,000 for a similar sized booth.

We met with some exhibitors who expressed confusion about the consumer goods that were present at the event as they had been under the impression that it was to be an industry event (for purchasing and sourcing rather than end-users) which partly reiterated the Indian businessman’s experience. Strangely, there was a large, but mostly empty, Algerian section at the Expo–due to logistical issues as we later found out; we met an Algerian representative who told us that the items for her booth experienced some transportation challenges so she was unable to fill up part of the Algerian section at the event.

We saw individual provinces that were promoted for investment, both by representation of the province (e.g., Quang Nam) and as part of a larger campaign. Furthermore, we met with representatives from more than one company who provided services for Vietnamese companies looking to enter outside markets. Basically, these companies could provide turn-key services for setting up in foreign markets (their respective domestic markets). The majority of the people whom we spoke to—both foreigners and Vietnamese–indicated that they felt there was a lot of opportunity in the Vietnamese market for foreign products as well as opportunity to export Vietnamese products abroad.

At the same time, it seemed difficult for some of the exhibitors to translate the opportunity in the Vietnamese market into success. Some exhibitors had signs in the front of their booths advertising the search for a (new) local partner while others freely expressed their desire to replace their current local partners. Within the first few minutes, exhibitors readily opened up about the challenges of not only attending the Expo but about doing business in Vietnam.

Of three exhibitors whom we spoke to and were actively seeking a new local partner, two of them already had Vietnamese agents. The local Vietnamese agents were described to us as “negative” and “untrustworthy” on two separate occasions. For example, when one exhibitor had informed his local agent of his intended plans to go to the Vietnam Expo, the Vietnamese agent told the foreign exhibitor, “No need, it’s a waste of time.” (Instead of looking forward to seeing his partner.)

In another instance, a different exhibitor shared with us that he suspected his Vietnamese agent was using the foreign brand to command a premium for lower quality parts (substitutes) and that while their organization felt there was a lot of potential in Vietnam, it wasn’t reflected in the small amount of sales coming from the Vietnamese market. (These opinions are from a company that has been operating in China since 1996 so they are not new to entering foreign markets.)

Still, the lack of easily-located quality partners in developing markets is both a hindrance and nothing new. However, with the Expo’s theme of “Cooperation towards the ASEAN Economic Community” (which begins at the end of this year), it remains more important for potential Vietnamese partners to realize the long-term benefits of introducing foreign products, techniques, technology, and other goods and services that Vietnam will need to continue developing into the 21st century.

Key Takeaways

Based on our experiences at the event (over a two-day period), there were several clear and recurring themes:

-The Expo is advertised internationally (to exhibitors) as an industry event—and promoted in other ways as a consumer event;

-Many foreign exhibitors expressed interest in deepening ties with Vietnam and doing more business here;

-It’s a two-way street: many Vietnamese products are suitable for foreign markets—or at least several exhibitors believe so and have formed companies around this thesis; and

-The quality of local agents for newly-entered foreign companies in the Vietnamese market can be greatly improved—but it is challenging to find quality partners.

If you are interested in linking up with a potential Vietnamese partner or would like to learn more about the Vietnam Expo 2015 event then get in touch with us at info@gktagroup.com. The next Vietnam Expo event will be held from April 6-9, 2016.

 

Michelle Phan and Vietnam

“I am first a creator, but my ongoing objective is to leverage my personal success, to help mentor new and existing talent, and further help them achieve their goals.” —Michelle Phan

Michelle Phan is many things; an entrepreneur, a Vietnamese-American, a role model, a success story, and a phenomenon. Coming from humble beginnings, in 2007 she was rejected by Lancome for a makeup artist position because she had no prior sales experience. Instead, Phan turned to blogging and after two readers requested that she make a video tutorial, she obliged and a week later the video had 40,000 views. Today, Phan’s legacy so far is defined by $120 million in annual sales and 100 employees with brands like ipsy (offering a monthly makeup subscription) and her ICON Network (formerly “FAWN” or For All Women Network). Above all, Michelle Phan seems like she hasn’t reached her peak; just recently she was compared to and proclaimed as the next Oprah—all at the age of 27.

While Phan certainly hasn’t shied away from her roots, she also hasn’t seemed ready to take a plunge into business ventures in Vietnam. Phan’s first scheduled time in Vietnam was in November, 2010 (though she was not able to make it) and by her own account, the last (and first) time she visited Vietnam was in August, 2012. Recently, she celebrated her birthday in Japan, where she seems to prefer spending her time in Asia. However, she might be currently missing out on some very big opportunities in Vietnam.

[Update: Michelle Phan appeared at an event in Ho Chi Minh City on May 12, 2015.]

Investing in Vietnam would allow Phan to tap into one of the fastest growing markets (annual growth between 5 and 6 percent) in the world where Phan has clear and demonstrated cultural and heritage ties. Vietnam is part of the group dubbed “New Wealth Builders” which will outnumber mature markets after 2020. Already, the number of super rich (defined by having net worths over $30 million) in Vietnam has increased to over 100 in 2013 from only 34 in 2003. In short, many people are becoming successful as a result of the growing economy here and the growing middle class is continuously demanding newer and higher-quality products, fueled by their increased purchasing power.

Foray into Vietnam

Exactly how Phan should enter the market here is debatable. Vietnam is a complex market—each region (north, south, central, etc.) has its own quirks and consumer styles. However, there are over 90 million people, almost two-thirds of which are under the age of 40 and about a million babies are born here every year. The common area and interest is in two parts: foreign products are preferred in Vietnam, and young Vietnamese are already familiar with “vlogs” or video blogging—something that Phan pioneered in the US.

More importantly, Phan could be a role model for the country’s youth, especially its girls. In local advertising, White, Korean, or Japanese women are mainly present in ads—bombarding the youth with carefully crafted forms of “acceptable” beauty. But in Phan, young and impressionable Vietnamese women can see something else: themselves, i.e., someone who looks like them, who is successful, and who overcame a variety of challenges that they can directly relate to (gambling and/or absent father figure, sharing sleeping surfaces with siblings, financial troubles, rejection, etc.).

Phan’s makeup tutorials and other media can ultimately inspire and build confidence in young women. And in Vietnam that confidence can take several forms—both in the ability to do something (or try something new) but also to ask clarifying questions without the fear of looking foolish in front of colleagues (a significant problem in workplaces). And it can also provide something that money can’t buy: hope.

Cultural Trends

Even though KPOP, Korean soap operas, and other aspects of Korean culture have huge influence in today’s Vietnam, many young Vietnamese love American cultural products. American flag-themed fabrics can be seen in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City along with “Je t’aime Paris” apparel. Things are more toned down up north but in general, blonde-haired and blue-eyed people are often seen as the archetype of beauty and they are consistently showered with compliments when traversing the city streets in Vietnam.

For many Vietnamese, having white skin is one of their ultimate desires (meanwhile countless White people are trying to become a darker color via tanning—both naturally and artificially). There are entire product lines that are dedicated to skin whitening creams and bleaching lotions—a very different approach to beauty care than some westerners might be used to. In the streets, female motorbike drivers will go to great lengths by covering their entire bodies in order to prevent even a single ray of sunlight from reaching their skin (even in the blistering summer heat). There just aren’t many Vietnamese (role) models who are able to balance their local roots with international expectations (with the exception of some niche Viet Kieu singers) and transcend cultural boundaries.

Again, Phan is different; she is American and Vietnamese and she can help to bridge the cultural and understanding gap between people in both countries—imagine her appearing in a travel blog while going through Vietnam. It would help put Vietnam on the map for her legions of fans (whom she refers to as “Dreamers”). Right now the interest between the two countries is in one direction: toward the US for study (more than 16,000 Vietnamese students are currently studying in the US).

Additionally, Michelle, with her model/foreigner boyfriend would be a surefire hit in Vietnam. Husband and wife/DJ duo Matt (of Poreotics) “Dumbo” and Tessa Nguyen are an example of a cross-cultural couple who has found success in Vietnam (mostly based in Ho Chi Minh City). (They spin regularly at Ace Club in Ho Chi Minh City.)

A Rising Brand

As profiled in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 recently, “She’s also got a line of makeup at L’Oréal, a music venture that promotes artists on social media and a deal with reality-TV giant Endemol for an online lifestyle channel. ‘I feel like this is just the beginning,’ she says.” Indeed, Michelle Pham is just getting started: imagine the brand and licensing opportunities when she gets married, has a baby, and her firstborn goes to school for the first time, etc.

Her “name and fame” would allow her to take smart risks in Vietnam to extend her brand. In the future, the Icon Network could be the roadmap for young Vietnamese: lifestyle, personal interest, comedy, and other advice all intersecting together in unison. Some adventurous Vietnamese YouTubers have started to push boundaries here in cyberspace like An Nguy, DamTV, and Mie Nguyen, but a unifying platform (like Icon Network) does not yet exist.

(What’s the alternative? The most famous private television channel in Vietnam is scaling back its programming and some new experiments like Can Ho So 69 have been tried but have proven to be too risqué for mass consumption.)

Thus, Phan could make an impact here and leverage the Vietnamese diaspora in France, Australia, Eastern Europe, and so on. In other words, first establish a brand in Vietnam and then expand outward again, tapping into those existing networks between Vietnamese and Viet Kieu. An alternative is to form a following then expand into other areas such as fashion— and Vietnam already a has robust textiles and manufacturing industries. Michelle Phan already disrupted the cosmetics industry–what’s next for her?

Into Vietnam

Ipsy (or something like it) in Vietnam can find the right niche (via clever experimentation since most e-commerce here is COD). If not, then Birchbox, Loot Crate, Barkbox, or any other monthly subscription service (most likely after proving it can be done in China) will be the first to break into this and other emerging markets (already Bethany Mota has visited India, a one billion plus consumer market). That’s not to say that Michelle Phan hasn’t attempted to connect more deeply with Vietnam. Em, “a reflection of Me” is Phan’s attempt to mate her culture and her personal brand. “Em” meaning “she” or “her” in Vietnamese (and other things, depending on the  context); but there’s no need to stop there—keep going until something beautiful happens.

So how exactly to build up in Vietnam?

  • Start small: aptly translate YouTube videos for Vietnamese or release special videos for the Vietnamese market (which means videos 30 seconds to one minute in length—any longer and there’s not enough patience/attention span);
  • Make more regular visits to Vietnam (and bring your boyfriend);
  • Expand the Icon Network into Asia, especially Vietnam. There are a number of successful YouTube VJs here but you can also hand-select and cultivate suitable talent;
  • Good quality and affordable makeup is hard to find in Vietnam; explore localization options for ipsy;
  • Develop service learning, social enterprise, or impact investing opportunities—the dollar goes much further in Asia and being a good citizen is good marketing; and
  • Mentor new and existing talent in Vietnam; there’s a lot of talent here. Young Vietnamese people are in the middle of changing times between tradition and modernity and feel like their generation is unlike any other. Start with the 2014 Graduate of the Year.

The World’s Biggest Ever Trade Deal

In a previous post, we explored Vietnam’s economic context in the region and the world but here is a quick rundown of local current and proposed multi-party agreements that Vietnam is part of:

East Asian Summit (EAS)—annual forum on energy and trade held since 2005 between 18 countries.

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)—proposed free trade agreement between ASEAN members and Free Trade Agreement partners; formally launched in 2012 at the ASEAN summit. (China’s version of the proposed TPP.)

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)—21 member Pacific Rim forum that was established in 1989. Membership is determined by economy, not country.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—formed in 1967, its membership today includes ten countries and focuses on political and economic issues.

And then there is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); this week we are going to do a roundup of some of the competing narratives when it comes to the TPP. The TPP has been in the works since 2002 (under a different name) with the US and Vietnam joining the round of talks in 2008. The twelve countries involved in the TPP comprise approximately 40% of global GDP; those countries are Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Peru, and, of course, Vietnam and the US.

The TPP is both an economic and a strategic agreement; one thing to keep in mind is the annual GDP of Vietnam: approximately $170 billion. To put that in perspective, the annual revenue of General Electric is approximately $150 billion. In other words, the revenue of one US company is almost on parity with the annual GDP of Vietnam so there are other reasons than purely economic interest in Vietnam.

At a time when China is creating competing regional and global financial organizations, according to The New Yorker, such as “the New Development Bank, the Silk Road infrastructure fund, and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, which, together, intend to amass two hundred and forty billion dollars in capital” (in association with some US allies) the US needs the TPP (or something like it) to pass in the near future to provide a counterbalance (as proponents of the TPP have argued).

In Favor of the TPP

What are the governments behind the TPP saying? Let’s start with some of the countries that are involved in the TPP negotiations (more than 20 rounds so far).

According to the Office of the US Trade Representative:

“As the cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s economic policy in the Asia Pacific, the Trans-Pacific Partnership reflects the United States’ economic priorities and values. The TPP not only seeks to provide new and meaningful market access for American goods and services exports, but also set high-standard rules for trade, and address vital 21st-century issues within the global economy.”

According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade:

“Conclusion of the TPP would open new trade and investment opportunities for Australia in the Asia-Pacific region, further integrate our economy in this fast growing region, and promote and facilitate regional supply chains. By setting commonly agreed rules and promoting transparency of new laws and regulations, the agreement will provide certainty for businesses and reduce costs and red tape for Australian exporters, service suppliers and investors.”

According to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade:

“As well as tangible benefits for our exporters and consumers, TPP would safeguard New Zealand’s longer term trading interests. TPP is potentially a platform for wider, regional economic integration.”

According to the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada:

“Along with our successfully-concluded free trade agreement with Korea, our ongoing bilateral talks with Japan, and other ongoing initiatives, the TPP is a means to achieve our ambitious pro-trade, pro-export plan to create jobs and opportunities for hardworking Canadians.”

Against the TPP

What about the TPP’s skeptics?

There has been a great deal of secrecy surrounding the terms of the deal and some controversy. For example, China isn’t included in the deal and most of the information that the public knows about the TPP has been due to leaks.

According to Public Citizen:

“We only know about the TPP’s threats thanks to leaks – the public is not allowed to see the draft TPP text. Even members of Congress, after being denied the text for years, are now only provided limited access. Meanwhile, more than 500 official corporate “trade advisors” have special access. The TPP has been under negotiation for six years, and the Obama administration wants to sign the deal this year.”

MSF (Doctors without Borders) is against the TPP:

“Proposed by U.S. negotiators, the IP rules enhance patent and data protections for pharmaceutical companies, dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law, and obstruct price-lowering generic competition for medicines.”

Nobel economist and professor at Columbia University, Joseph Stiglitz, made the case against the same drug provisions in the TPP:

“The efforts to raise drug prices in the T.P.P. take us in the wrong direction. The whole world may come to pay a price in the form of worse health and unnecessary deaths.”

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is against the TPP:

“TPP raises significant concerns about citizens’ freedom of expression, due process, innovation, the future of the Internet’s global infrastructure, and the right of sovereign nations to develop policies and laws that best meet their domestic priorities. In sum, the TPP puts at risk some of the most fundamental rights that enable access to knowledge for the world’s citizens.”

Former US secretary of Labor, Robert Reich is against “fast-tracking” the TPP (under the Trade Promotion Authority) and identifies some issues that the TPP overlooks:

“We need trade agreements that address unfair trade practices such as currency manipulation, foreign subsidies to exports, corporate power grabs and systematic and egregious violation of internationally recognized labor rights.”

Fast-tracking is important because it allows Congress to approve (or disapprove) the TPP as a whole, instead of introducing amendments which would surely kill the TPP in its entirety. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky is among those who want to pass the Trade Promotion Authority.)

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is against the TPP, in particular “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS:

“[I]f a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wanted to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, it could use ISDS. But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts.”

The CATO Institute mostly agrees with her.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is also against the TPP:

“The TPP would make it easier for countries like Vietnam to export contaminated fish and seafood into the U.S. The FDA has already prevented hundreds of seafood imports from TPP countries because of salmonella, e-coli, methyl-mercury and drug residues. But the FDA only inspects 1-2 percent of food imports and will be overwhelmed by the vast expansion of these imports if the TPP is agreed to.”

(Here is a speech Senator Sanders gave to the Senate earlier this year.)

Both sides are very clear in their respective positions; there does not seem to be much middle ground. On one hand, governments and corporations are overwhelmingly in favor of passing the TPP. However, NGOs along with current and former politicians, policy advisers, and pro-consumer advocacy groups have all voiced their concerns about elements of the TPP.

Defining Failure and Success

So there are clear and credible opponents to the TPP. However, if the TPP fails, it could mean disastrous results for American foreign policy in the region.

As The Economist points out:

“Failure to complete it would be a terrible blow to American interests, for a number of reasons. Trade liberalisation itself is of course one. With prospects of a global agreement at the World Trade Organisation vanishing, America’s hopes lie in the TPP and the more distant Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe. In his state-of-the-union speech to Congress in January, Barack Obama dwelt on “the world’s fastest-growing region”, ie, Asia and the Pacific.”

As The Editors of the Bloomberg View pointed out:

“The main harm, if the talks fall apart, is the damage this would cause to the larger process of global economic integration.”

(However, a Bloomberg View columnist also covered secrecy issues involving the TPP process.)

The Brookings Institution laid out one scenario as a result of a failed TPP:

“The rebalance to Asia will stall. TPP is the second leg (after a reorientation of military resources) of the policy of rebalancing to Asia. As such, its fate will determine whether this strategy advances or just limps along. If TPP fails, doubts about the staying power of the United States will once again rear their ugly head. The signature U.S. policy to remain vitally connected to the world’s most dynamic economic region will come to naught. Let’s not forget that prior to the advent of TPP, the United States appeared poised to be marginalized from the process of regionalism in Asia.”

And if the TPP passes then what would that mean for the average American?

According to Moyers & Company, the TPP will drastically impact income distribution in the US:

“[T]he incomes of those at the very bottom of the ladder would be protected by the minimum wage, and those at the very top would benefit significantly from the deal’s intellectual property and investment protections. But the vast majority of Americans would see their incomes drop.”

Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California goes further to elaborate how destructive the TPP would be for the US and its workers:

Unfortunately, the TPP would neither ‘protect American workers’ nor bring jobs ‘back from China.’ Assessing what we know of the massive TPP only affirms what we’ve learned the hard way through past broken promises on trade pacts – it’s a bad deal for American workers.”

And what about the ISDS?

Jeffrey Zients, Director of the National Economic Council, wrote on the White House Blog:

“There have only been 13 cases brought to judgment against the United States in the three decades since we’ve been party to these [kinds of] agreements. By contrast, during the same period of time in our domestic system, individual and companies have brought hundreds of thousands of challenges against Federal, state, and local governments in U.S. courts under U.S. law.

We have never lost an ISDS case because of the strong safeguards in the U.S. approach.

But that doesn’t mean that the US will always win an ISDS in the future either.

Time is Running Out

So who is right and who is wrong? Can both sides be right? What should be done?

American workers can’t compete on labor wages alone and workers (in general) can’t compete against automation. Is it better to get rid of vulnerable (to outsourcing) American jobs now that will eventually be lost to job automation?

Who would benefit the most from the TPP? What sort of timeframe are we looking at? Five years down the road? 10 years? 20? Through that lens, who is really winning and who is losing? It’s only with hindsight that we can see the effects of NAFTA.

Are there other issues that have been overlooked and that the TPP would open the floodgates for?

In the short term, the TPP would make Vietnam a clear winner (as a result of its growing manufacturing base) but the benefits for the majority of Americans seems limited and largely focused on American corporations. Mexico would benefit as well, especially if Vietnam were to slash its high import taxes on vehicles. However, as we pointed out in this post, cheap labor is not a sustainable competitive advantage for Vietnam in the long term.

However, the effects of the TPP will surely be felt beyond Vietnam, the US, and the 10 other countries involved. In a sense, international trade, intellectual property rights, and fundamental issues of national sovereignty in the 21st century will all be redefined. The lack of transparency in the process, the unanswered questions, and the overall unclear picture does little to bolster confidence in those who are promoting the TPP in a positive light.

If the TPP fails to go through, it would deal a serious blow to American efforts in Asia. The TPP is in a fragile state at the moment; it can be derailed if Congress does not grant Trade Promotion Authority. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) means that Congress can approve or disapprove the TPP but cannot amend or filibuster. The TPA must be obtained from Congress first in order to “fast-track” the TPP, i.e., to give a “yes” or “no” vote as President Obama has requested. The US expects TPA to pass within the next month but it’s not a done deal.

The LA Times recently summed up the state of negotiations:

“At this point, the administration appears to have pinned its hopes on a fast-track bill being negotiated by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Democrats’ top member of the Finance Committee. Fast-track authority is also supported by the committee chairman, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), and Ryan in the House.

But the administration’s strategy looks in peril as talks between Wyden and the others have dragged on.”

Simply put, without TPA, there is no TPP, (and less “rebalancing” to Asia) but perhaps that’s a good thing in the long term.

Former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson, and Representative Sander Levin of Michigan posed a profound question about the TPP in Politico Magazine:

“Are the agreement’s rules sufficiently forward-looking and strong enough to bring about meaningful lasting improvements to people’s lives, by enhancing the positive aspects and addressing the negative impacts of globalization?”

As more information about the TPP’s 26 chapters continues to leak to the public, the answer to that question seems to be a resounding “no.”

Raising the Bar Across Vietnam

Currently, Ho Chi Minh City has a number of transformative and boundary-pushing new construction projects in various stages of completion. This pipeline of towering skyscrapers is fueled by creative architectural exploration which will help to redefine Ho Chi Minh City’s skyline for years to come. Many of these projects present developers with the opportunity of implementing evolving and emerging technologies into their respective visions. Therefore, high-tech, eco-friendly, renewable, innovative, and ergonomical designs, spaces, and solutions should all be seriously considered and employed where possible by project stakeholders, thereby raising the bar across Vietnam.

According to Asia Property Report, a “large group of Vietnamese shoppers said that they value security and cleanliness of a shopping centre, rather than putting a premium on prices and top foreign brand names, unlike their other Southeast Asian neighbours.”

Additionally, CBRE reports: “Luxury and high-end products will be sought-after, especially in Hanoi… [so] domestic retailers need to reassess and renovate themselves in order to compete with the new entrants [due to ASEAN integration in 2015 and beyond.]”

Furthermore, Cushman & Wakefield projects that, in 2015, “incentives will remain high as supply build-up pushes up vacancy.” How will developers differentiate their offerings from an increasing real estate inventory? LEED and LOTUS ratings help provide guidelines for green buildings, but there are additional options for homeowners, businesses, and developers.

These and other ongoing projects are in the middle of changing standards, expectations, and technologies here in Vietnam. Homeowners and other building occupants—especially those who are new to the idea of smart technologies—might have questions about different options.

  • What is it?
  • Why does it matter?
  • How will I benefit from it?

Well, ask yourself these questions first: is your home a smart home? (Swap out “home” with “workplace” or “school” since these technologies can cross boundaries in our lives.)

For example, is your home energy efficient? Can you control lights, TV, music, or the temperature from your smartphone? Are you breathing clean air and drinking filtered water? Not just cleaner air than what’s outside, but the best air in the world. Not just safer drinking water than your neighbors, but the safest in the world. (And yes, air and water can help distinguish a smart home from other homes: you can send your children to a better school but you can’t buy better ozone for them, at least not outside.)

Basically, our homes are made up of different systems: security, lighting, temperature, A/V—all of which can be automated, integrated, and controlled in different ways. We integrate these technologies together to form a single seamless point of control. “Technology integration” is the design, implementation, or programming of automation, integration, and control systems (such as LutronCrestron, and AMX) in residential and commercial settings. To date, we have operated as integrators, consultants, and advisors to companies and individual clients in HCMC and Hanoi since 2011.

These different technologies allow a homeowner or end user to control most systems via his/her Apple iPhone, iPad, or other smart device, i.e., control lighting, motorized shades, temperature, audio, and video distribution systems all with simple button presses. Any of these technology platforms can be utilized as a standalone product as well, including individual room solutions depending on a client’s budget. In short, a smart home means having one of the best homes; safe, luxurious, and unique. It goes beyond the basics in a tasteful and elegant way.

Imagine coming home: you walk up the steps and once you are inside, you press the “Welcome” button on the nearest keypad to the main entrance. Immediately, certain lights (we call these “presets”) begin turning on—accents, down lights, and chandeliers. At the same time, automated shades begin raising to reveal the full-length windows and the stunning view behind them.

As you move beyond the foyer and into the living room, your favorite art pieces are softly lit and soothing music is playing through the in-ceiling speakers—all automated, of course. Your focus turns to the faint scent of fresh herbs so you stop by the kitchen to see what’s on the menu for tonight before continuing on to the study, your inner sanctum. The study is a toasty 28 centigrade, just as you set it from your smart phone even before leaving the office. Time to wrap up those last few emails before dinner.

After dinner, you decide to watch a movie; as you walk into your living room, it dawns on you that it could double as a Bang & Olufsen show room: BeoVision Avant, BeoSound 5, and BeoLab 5 models are the first objects that catch your eye.

Sitting on the couch, you try to decide what to watch. Thanks to a VPN, you have the option of Netflix so House of Cards comes to mind. You remember that your building began offering Nevaya’s services the month before so you browse the selection of new releases. It’s nice to unwind with a glass of wine, so you settle on your favorite comedy.

Halfway through the movie, your phone rings: it’s a friend who wants to meet up for a drink. “Sure, let’s meet downtown in 20 minutes,” you respond. Reaching for your glass of wine, you take one last sip before heading toward the front door.

Before leaving, you press the “Goodbye” button on the keypad next to the front door. Within seconds all the lights in common areas turn off. Whatever audio or video zones were active before are now silent. Within a few minutes all the lights, music, and video zones are off and while you are already on the way to meet your friend.

These are some of the most visible benefits of smart technologies—but it gets better once you notice the energy savings on your monthly utility bills.

A Smarter Work Environment

Time is money; the new year is coming up and you have to report back the year’s financial reports via teleconference. As ASEAN integration proceeds, Vietnamese companies will have to interface more often with foreign companies and their workers. As future workers in a dedicated teleconferencing room, students are able to schedule e-meetings with experts in other cities or even work together with students in other countries.

Imagine that you are at work, early in the morning. The sky is clear so the sun’s rays are strong as they enter the window next to your desk. Sensors in the ceiling are able to detect the amount of sunlight coming in from the window. Since the office is on one of the upper floors, there is a clear line of sight. However, the shades automatically lower to reduce the amount of overwhelming sunlight.

As the day enters the afternoon, the shades slowly raise as the sun begins to set. Soon, lights begin to turn on once the natural light in the space reaches the lower limit. The shades are fully raised when the team decides to call it a day as they head out to share dinner.

The temperature, lights, and shades are all operating on “Away” mode now. Occupancy sensors in the main common areas allow lighting where and when it is needed, thereby keep operating costs low.

Education for the 21st century

The professor goes up to the lectern in the front of the classroom. She presses a button soon the bright blue light of a projector appears on the smart board behind her. The projector has several sources: she can show a documentary from the DVD player, pull up a webpage from the computer in the lectern, or show a document on the digital camera. Her students pay attention—will it be a movie today? Or a new and interesting interactive experience?

Technologies That Help You

There may be a number of sub-systems in a building: HVAC, Power/Lighting, Building Energy Management, Security, etc. Together, they actively communicate to make sure a building operates as leanly as possible, depending on how many people are active inside. While each company that specializes in a certain technology has different national origin, they all have one share aspect in common: they are among the best in the world.

AMX is an American company—its technology has been used in celebrity homes, corporate boardrooms, and even the White House. AMX specializes in meeting technology which is suitable for hotels, convention centers, and other spaces.

Lutron, an American company founded in 1961, has been a pioneer in lighting, shading, and temperature solutions. Today, the company holds over 2700 patents. In Vietnam, Lutron products have been used in the Park Hyatt, in the Summit Lounge at the Sofitel Plaza, at the JW Marriott, and in villas throughout the country.

Nevaya, a British company, to promote a cloud-based IPTV solution ideal for hotel operators and serviced residences in Vietnam and Asia. Let’s say that you want to watch a movie. Well, with Nevaya’s IPTV services you can do exactly that. Best of all, basic services are included in your service fee that you pay to the company that manages your serviced residence.

OnControls, an American company, offers room control solutions that are hosted in the cloud. This advantage allows the cost of room control to be lowered since the hardware footprint is less and changes can be easily made from the web portal.

Bang & Olufsen, a Danish brand, complements any luxury housing as it has done for the past 90 years. Its products are distinct showcases of quality, design, and art.

IQAir is a Swiss family owned company with 50 years of history in air purification. All IQAir products are made in Switzerland, conform to the strictest standards, and are considered the leading edge in their respective categories.

BWT, a German company, is Europe`s number one water technology company. The company has proven expertise in both domestic and industrial water technology. Here in Vietnam, the company concentrates on small (domestic, small office, restaurant, etc.) installations.

All of these technologies are available today—in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang or any other location. By the way, other technologies will soon arrive as well to help eliminate skills, craftsmanship, and corruption challenges.

Impacting the Environment Around Us

Five-star luxury in your home—did you think it was possible 20 or 10 years ago in Vietnam? You can make it happen today. A smart home allows you to express yourself and it allows you to simplify your life by providing convenience, safety and peace of mind. You can either help set the trend or play catch up in the future. You drive a nice car, you have a cool phone, but what about your home?

Set your life apart from your friends’ and family’s home. Make your own style; we can help you do that. Experience a comfortable temperature all year round in your home. No wet and dry season—always the perfect humidity indoors. Have a Smart Home, the Best Home, a Future Home.

While individuals can take it upon themselves to convert their residence into a smart home, the most efficient way to create a smart ecosystem is to incorporate units into the smart building design, or even better, to incorporate buildings into the smart city design. Ultimately, specifying and utilizing these technologies allows architects, developers, and designers to differentiate their projects from others in Vietnam and Asia (and provides homeowners/residents/occupants with a new level of technological and luxurious living). Everybody wins.