|Competitors at the Diageo Reserve World Class 2015 organised by Diageo Viet Nam to develop the skills of Vietnamese bartenders. — VNS Photo Quoc Hoa
by Thu Ngan
This year Diageo appointed Shivam Misra as its Viet Nam general director. He speaks about this trend, the Vietnamese investment climate, his company's business and more.
There are many Indian CEOs in Viet Nam. What do you think about this?
I would prefer to talk about executives with experience in emerging markets rather than Indian execs in other countries. With the complexity and diverse culture that Viet Nam has, the emerging economy experience becomes critical in this market.
India, my country, also has similar complexity, especially in our industry – FMCG. I have worked in Singapore and India, mainly in sales and marketing. For the last one and a half years before I came here, I looked after supply chain and manufacturing. This gave me a very good view of business complexity. It makes sense that when I came here my first reaction was to look at the opportunities and complexity of doing business in Viet Nam.
What advantages and disadvantages do you think Indian executives have when working in Viet Nam?
The emerging middle class in Viet Nam is significant. They are driving consumption of FMCG and services. In fact, the emerging middle class becomes a big consumer segment in an emerging economy that companies like to capture. Diageo is not an exception. Some people may say working in Viet Nam is difficult because of the business structure. But I think this is true of any emerging economy. Unlike western countries, governments in these emerging countries try to create policies to achieve growth and better standards for their people. There are, of courses, challenges, but challenges are the same with opportunities.
I may be new to Viet Nam, but I have much experience after working for Diageo for nine years and in emerging markets. Diageo has something called the Diageo Leadership Program (DLP), which not only helps develop your career but also your individuality. Diageo really develops you as a leader. It really promotes the culture of entrepreneurship. The leadership is really incredible in Diageo. Let us look at my journey: I started my career in Diageo; after nine years in Diageo, with my own efforts and chances of career promotions offered by Diageo, I am now a general director in Viet Nam.
What are your priorities in Viet Nam?
There is a fundamental challenge in emerging economies most foreign directors could be faced with: That is balancing focus and opportunity because every new thing brings opportunities. In Viet Nam, the focus is our brand, people and community. We have a world-renowned portfolio in Viet Nam. An organisation is built by people. People are a top priority at Diageo and for me, especially in Viet Nam. Giving people the right skills, great opportunities and different experiences to develop their leadership is very important. Last but not least, we contribute significantly to society and the community. Developing the skills of Vietnamese bartenders through Diageo Reserve World Class, supporting Vietnamese women raise their voice in the community through Plan W, encouraging responsible drinking through "Drink, Don't Drive," caring about the health of the community through Water For Life are some of our critical activities in Viet Nam. These continue to be our priorities.
What do you think the Vietnamese Government should do to attract more investors?
If we pull back and look at all emerging economies, Viet Nam needs to do nothing different but focus on the fundamentals: More access, less restriction in consumer segments. Especially in our industry, there has been no expansion of trade, which is the retail shop, in the last many years, whereas the population has grown and brands have come in. So access for consumers through policy changes, reforms, evolution … that is one big area. I think the second big thing is the robustness of the financial system. We all know what happened a couple of years ago to the financial system in Viet Nam. It was almost on the verge of collapse with non-performing assets of banks at really high levels. I think the stability of the financial system becomes really, really important. The third enabler, which is true across all categories, is a policy framework that enables easier investment and easier returns. I think if Viet Nam can do these three things, 6-7 per cent [economic] growth is nothing actually. — VNS