Nguyen No, a 36-year-old engineer in Nghia Hanh District, central coastal province of Quang Ngai, has embarked on an intellectual adventure with bigger dreams of creating machines and tools which offer local farmers helping hands.
Countryside living has a huge draw, yet not many people have high-paid jobs in cities to pour their heart and soul into developing new gadgets for farmers.
“Doing it for my passion” is No’s response to people’s question of why he gave up his job at an international firm after a decade. The decision was a huge shock to No’s colleagues, friends and family. Only his wife supported him wholeheartedly.
“I told her that grilling rice paper – Quang Ngai Province’s renowned speciality – was hard work so I would build a rice paper grilling machine.
I had worked on the project for a long time, mostly after office hours,” said No.
“If you earned no money, I could still support the family,” his wife said, which became the motivation for him to pursue the development of a new gadget.
No researched alternatives for coal and went to South Korea to buy infrared emitters.
A controller was also developed to help users adjust temperature easily. That was how he created the 4M multifunctional griller.
“I started working on it in 2014 and completed it in 2017. In that year, I quit my job to bring the machine to every rice paper making household, asking them to use it and give comments,” he recalled.
“It was hard.”
No said he chose to start with a rice paper griller as he was unable to research something too big and complicated. He wanted to create daily tools and gadgets that make people’s lives much easier.
“When I was a child, I was amazed by a double-edged plowshare that my neighbor developed which helped farmers turn up the earth of paddy fields much quicker. The rice paper griller shares the same mission to reduce cost, time and labor expenses as well as replace coal with an eco-friendly alternative,” he said.
His machine has a remarkable productivity of grilling 200 rice paper sheets in an hour at VND10,000 (US$0.43).
Meanwhile, with the same amount of rice paper, two workers have to grill continuously in four hours, not to mention the coal cost of VND60,000 ($2.61).
The significant advantage of his grillers brought orders from all over Vietnam. Behind a simple product is a long journey of trials and errors.
According to No, it is getting easier for young people to start up their own businesses and bring products from rural areas to bigger markets.
However, without efforts to improve, products will soon fail to satisfy users’ demands and get replaced by better ones.
“To me, the strongest rival is the one remaining in the dark as I do not know how good they are or when they will release products that directly compete with mine,” said No.
“I always remind my workers to never stop creating. By stopping thinking how we can do better, we kill our business from inside,” he added.
From a humble rice paper griller, No’s company now offers nine other commercial products including food dryer, meat griller and rice paper cutting machine.
He also has his own team of seven young people. Their monthly salaries range from VND7 to VND15 million ($304 to 652) – sufficient to cover their countryside lives and turn ideas into products.
No envisions his business in the next ten years. He said he never wished to win a lottery, just always wanted to see an idea spark.
Wealth is not No’s goal but products that can help a lot of people. No’s creations had received several national-level awards for their high applicability and good quality.
He is now working on a new project whose details have yet to be revealed.
“Universal and eco-friendly” – that was how No described the product he is nurturing.
“I have ten years for an invention of my life. If I cannot make it come true, it will be a failure,” he said.
“As when I gave up on my job at the former company, my life goals changed. I stopped trying to make as much money as possible, instead, I devoted myself to creating new products,” he said.