This was no back-packing tour as I was attending a trade delegation organised by the London Chamber of Commerce in association with UKTI.
Growth in Asia is my focus for the next couple of years and therefore I take any opportunity to join an official delegation and visit a country in the region.
I assume there are two ways of exploring new markets. One is to do it yourself, plough your own furrow, do your own research and organise your own entertainment. The other is to join a delegation. The mission to Vietnam was preceded by a briefing on the country, the culture, opportunities and challenges. Once signed up there was a follow up briefing giving more detail, particularly on customs and culture – what to do and what not to do in meetings etc.
Once I was confirmed on the mission I went to work identifying the companies and people I wanted to see. This I found easy due to LinkedIn and our existing clients with contacts in the country. Every person responded to my request and all offered meetings if they were in town. What was excellent is that I was able to invite my contacts to official receptions hosted by the UK Government in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The majority of my contacts were delighted to attend such prestigious events and they were an excellent for relationship building.
The mission ran very smoothly with an itinerary organised by LCCI and UKTI that included in-depth briefings on the economy and legalities of trading in Vietnam, plus networking events with the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.
Every evening there was a venue we could all go to as a group, whether a restaurant or bar and this was when the hidden value of a delegation became apparent. Talking to and I hope becoming friends with others facing the same challenges. Lots of opportunity to listen and learn, share a few drinks and have a lot of laughs. Less possible if you are trying to explore a market on your own.
I even had the opportunity to meet one of Vietnams favourite celebrities - Ky Duyen
The next delegation is to China in the Spring and although I aim to be living in Singapore by then it is a mission I will attend.
At a glance:
90 million population, 60% under age of 35
GDP +6.78% 2010, + 6% this year
State owned enterprises are 40% of GDP
Inflation at 20% and the big problem
Interest rates at 20%
Savers rate 14%
Income tax is tiered from 5% to 35%
Direct flights from Hanoi and HCMC to UK start in December 2011
Outlook of people very positive
Safe business environment as a result of Government stability
25 million internet users
120 sim cards and 25m smart phones in circulation
Like much of Asia, respect for elders, family orientated and an aspirational younger population
People are polite
English is spoken by educated young
US$2300 a month can get you a 5 bed house with pool and staff
Everything other than cars is cheap
Ex pat net incomes are excellent
There is loads to explore
You are a short distance from rest of Asia
Education is expensive
Crossing the road is exciting but perfectly safe – if you keep going and don’t change direction or stop.