If you’re an American, then the first thought you might associate with “Vietnam” is “war.” In the last ten years and even more recently, the memories of the Vietnam War have resurfaced in the United States as American policy makers and analysts have drawn comparisons between it and operations in Iraq since 2003. However, it’s been almost 40 years since Saigon was renamed as “Ho Chi Minh City” (and even today both names are synonymous).
Today’s Vietnam is very different than most Americans may perceive it to be. Vietnam can surprise, frustrate, humble, and charm one to wild extremes. But, there is something enchanting about this place which can take some time to begin to understand.
Since Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization in 2007, the country has changed drastically and will continue to change as the middle class rises. In a way, Vietnam’s official policy is a forward-looking one, as evidenced by recent investments in e-payment gateways (POS), entrepreneurship, and infrastructure.
There are a growing number of smart phone users, growing purchasing power, and hyper-brand conscious consumers continue to fill malls and shopping centers that are as impressive as they are large (such as Vincom Mega Mall Royal City in Hanoi and Crescent Mall in Saigon).
Overall, the shift in Vietnam continues to be toward the west—consumers crave western brands, products, and experiences. As more people move into the middle class, they will be able to afford and acquire products and services that they previously could not have. Now is the ideal time for consumer brands to position themselves so that when rising middle class takes off the choice for consumers with new spending power will be clear: to buy from trusted brands.
Ultimately, the technology and infrastructure for consumer-centric startups to be successful is already here; for example, the economic gap between US and Vietnam is huge but there are iOS devices, WiFi infrastructure, and mobile phones everywhere.
There is growing opportunity in Vietnam and Asia in general. That’s why we’re here—because the future is here.