Focusing mainly on the development of stationery, Thien Long has transformed from a small workshop producing ballpoint pens into a ‘national’ brand with millions of products after 40 years, accompanying generations of young Vietnamese on the journey to conquer the power of knowledge.
From the dream of a ballpoint pen made in Vietnam …
John Loud from the U.S. created the world's first ballpoint pen in October 1888.
Nearly a century later, the first ‘made in Vietnam’ ballpoint pen was produced in 1981 by Co Gia Tho – founder and chairman of Thien Long Group.
At that time, most ballpoint pens were imported from Thailand in such small quantities that some people had to pump ink into them for reuse.
Co Gia Tho, then a pen dealer, was craving for producing his own ballpoint pens in Vietnam, bringing a greater supply to people.
|The Thien Long TL-08 ballpoint pens, also the first ballpoint pens made in Vietnam, were churned out in a small factory in District 6, Saigon. Photo: Supplied by Thien Long|
At that time, few were well aware of the concepts of a ‘distributor’ or ‘retailer.’
Thien Long, with the desire to expand the market throughout Vietnam, took the initiative to offer ballpoint pens to small merchants in wholesale markets to get greater access to Binh Tay Market, Kim Bien Market, and Phung Hung Market.
However, not all markets supported Vietnamese goods.
Small businesses at Le Loi Stationery Market – the largest stationery wholesale market in Saigon at the moment – preferred selling foreign commodities.
In order not to depend on the market, Tho and his first colleagues brought their Vietnamese-made ballpoint pens to all the provinces and cities in the southwestern, central, and even northern parts of Vietnam.
|Thien Long not only leads the stationery industry in Vietnam but it also ranks 17th among the world’s stationery brand. The company maintains a presence in 67 international markets. Photo: Supplied by Thien Long|
By 1997, Thien Long had completely dominated the ballpoint pen market, becoming a name familiar to generations of students in Vietnam.
"Back in middle school, I could forget to bring along my books, but the Thien Long ballpoint pen was always with me,” Phuong Nga, born in the 1990s, recalled.
“My mom used to buy a whole big box of the pens and split them up among me and my two sisters.
“To use the pen was to feel good.
“I remember that I once carved some marks or wrote my name on my pens to prevent them from ‘getting lost.’
“Now when I’m at work, I don’t use pens as often as before; however, sometimes seeing those familiar pens in the bookstore strangely makes me feel very happy and suddenly remember my childhood!"
… to the leading brand of stationery in Vietnam
After four decades of development, Thien Long still persists with stationery even though the Vietnamese society has changed and the market has altered the way people receive information and knowledge.
With the advent of digital technology and a series of new means of exchanging and recording information such as phones and desktop computers in the 2000s, or the introduction of tablets and laptops now, Thien Long has firmly stuck to its choice. One of the reasons why Thien Long’s ballpoint pens have stood the test of time is the determination of the management board and the creativity and dynamism of their team.
To increase competitiveness, Thien Long has worked with experts in the region, inviting them to Vietnam to cooperate and exchange the most advanced ballpoint pen production technology.
However, given their foresight, Thien Long's management has said that it is impossible to revolve around the pen but the company needs to expand its product lines.
|By 1997, Thien Long had completely dominated the ballpoint pen market, becoming a name familiar to generations of students in Vietnam. Photo: Supplied by Thien Long|
Thien Long's strategy of exploring the market with new products in addition to pens in 2008 was appreciated for the caution to find out about the needs and tastes of new-age customers.
As a result, the stationery products the Vietnamese brand later launched besides the pen quickly won over the hearts of both office workers and a new generation of students.
The products in the stationery group have achieved sustainable growth over the past decade, as recorded since it became a public company. Until 2016, Thien Long had become the No. 1 stationery brand in Vietnam with a 60-percent market share and the firm has continuously expanded its export markets as well. To date, Thien Long products have been available in 67 countries worldwide.
Journey of broadening Vietnamese knowledge in four decades
From the founding-day to today, Thien Long has always believed in the power of knowledge and youth.
Besides corporate activities, Thien Long Group also puts its heart in social programs to spread knowledge.
The most typical is the ‘Supporting Candidates in Exam Season’ program that Thien Long has been persistently accompanying for more than 20 years.
|‘Supporting Candidates in Exam Season’ has become a symbol of noble volunteerism and been an integral part of important university entrance exams in Vietnam.|
On its accompanying journey, Thien Long is proud to have worked with the Central Committee of the Vietnam National Union of Students, the Ministry of Education and Training, and Tuoi Tre (Youth) Newspaper to fire up nearly 20 million candidates and their family members across the country as well as deploy 58,618 volunteer squads at all levels, with the participation of 1,018,231 young people and student volunteers. The total resources mobilized have neared VND200 billion (US$8.7 million).
"Over 20 years of extensive implementation on a national scale, the ‘Supporting Candidates in Exam Season’ program has made a good impression while promoting the development of the Vietnamese youth and creating a useful activity for young people to contribute to and share with the community,” said Le Tuan Anh, Deputy Chief of the Central Office of the Vietnam National Union of Students.
“On that basis, the young are growing and living more meaningfully."