“What really amazed me is that at around 7:45 am on my third day living in Vietnam, I encountered serious traffic jams on the way to my office in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City,” the Indian general director of a foreign-owned company recalled of his first few weeks living and working in the biggest city in the Southeast Asian country.
“While watching the sea of vehicles, I realized that because the streets were packed with people traveling to and from the downtown area for work, those people must have begun their new day much earlier,” Shivam Misra, general director of Diageo Vietnam, who has now lived in the country of 90 million for ten months, said during a press meeting in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday.
As Ho Chi Minh City is the most populous place in Vietnam, traffic congestion in the downtown area means a major portion of its 10-million-plus population must have hit the street for a new day very early in the morning, and it is fantastic, Misra said.
Vietnam is young and energetic, and its entrepreneurial culture is a great indicator of its potential for growth, the executive said, adding that Vietnamese people are hard workers and want to make a difference in their own lives by creating opportunities for themselves.
The general director then cited Vietnam’s average GDP growth of six percent over the last five years as proof.
“My first few weeks made me feel right at home due to the warmth and friendliness of the Vietnamese people, as well as the similarities that Vietnam shares with other emerging economies,” he said.
The future is bright and stable here, Misra added.
When the government agreed to many free trade agreements, like the pact with the EU, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), they proved that Vietnam is on the progressive side of economic development and reform, he said.
On December 2, following two and a half years of intense negotiations between the 28-nation bloc and Vietnam, the two parties signed an agreement that eliminated nearly all tariffs between Europe and the Southeast Asian country.
Trade between the EU and Vietnam has grown three-fold to 28 billion Euros (about $30 billion) in the last 10 years. The EU and Vietnam reached the agreement in principle last August but still had a few legal hurdles to overcome before the deal became finalized last month.
In October, the TPP, which will liberalize trade in 40 percent of the world economy, was reached after five years of talks by 12 countries, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam, in Atlanta, the U.S.
The trade pact is still pending approval from the legislative bodies of its members, a process that may take up to two years.
In order to seize the opportunities offered by Vietnam, Diageo Vietnam has had to come up with many solutions, Misra said.
Building the right team for future challenges
During Misra’s 10 months in Vietnam, Diageo Vietnam has successfully achieved many of targets, including setting up the right team for future challenges.
A major issue when operating in an emerging economy is finding the balance between opportunity and focus, a fundamental challenge Diageo has encountered across many emerging economies, Misra said.
In many emerging economies, one can find opportunities wherever they want, but translating these opportunities into real value for both the people and the brand is a major problem, he said.
Most companies operating in emerging markets focus on fast growth and increasing market share, the general director said. But what Diageo Vietnam is doing in the Southeast Asian country is a little bit different, as it is creating its own value and raising customer awareness of its brand, especially in the emerging middle-class population, he added.
“To do so, we need the right team. It’s not about hiring new people and firing old staff, but about reorganizing the current team so that they can make the best use of their talent and capabilities,” he said.
“We have also built a working spirit based on personal progress, which suits our brand’s mantra: ‘just keep walking’, which means that whatever may happen, keep fighting,” Misra added.
“The new campaign, ‘gratitude that takes you further’, takes the old mantra to the next level by saying that you cannot succeed without the help of the others, so showing your gratitude can be very motivating,” he said.