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Lecturer quits job to produce activated charcoal

Update: February, 26/2018 - 09:00
Huy drives the truck to ship charcoal for customers.— Photo
Viet Nam News

QUẢNG BÌNH — Trần Quang Huy, 36, wearing protective clothing, loads activated charcoal onto a truck for delivery.

Huy, of Trường Xuân Commune in the central province of Quảng Bình Province’s Quảng Ninh District, was a lecturer at Đồng An Technology College in the southern province of Bình Dương from 2005 to 2014.

But he quit his job after nearly a decade of work. He sold his house for VNĐ600 million (US$26,000) and returned to his hometown at the end of 2014 to run a small factory producing activated charcoal, the Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper reported.

Things were not as easy as he thought they would be. Difficulties waited ahead. At first, Huy’s parents strongly disagreed with his sudden decision.

“They thought my decision was too dangerous and crazy, because I already had a house and stable income,” he said.

“My parents did not believe that I quit my job. They thought I was fired and then made up the reasons to return to my hometown,” he said.

Additionally, the amount he received from selling his house was not enough to run the factory.

He soon sank into troubles. Nevertheless, he did not give up. Huy tried to borrowed money, but failed for several months.

But things changed when he met several friends who had been interested in producing activated charcoal.

“Some of my friends agreed to join with me,” he said.

Finally, he received about VNĐ2.8 billion ($123,000) for his start-up. His dream factory has been operating since November 2014.

Huy spent nearly all of his time in the factory.

During the first days, Huy and his colleagues had to do all of the work, from managing, producing, loading and unloading, to transporting charcoal to customers.

Now, he sometimes still loads charcoal onto trucks when the factory does not have enough workers.

At present, the factory employs 30 local people, with a monthly wage of VNĐ6 million ($264), and purchases timber from local forest growers.

The charcoal is not only sold in the domestic market, but also exported to countries, including Japan, at a price of $1.8 per kilo.

The charcoal factory of Huy.—Photo

Start-up dream

Huy said his dream started after he visited a factory in the Mekong Delta province of Long An in the 2000s when he was still a lecturer at the college.

He found that the bạch đàn (Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehn) tree and tràm bông vàng (Acacia Auriculiformis) tree were the main materials to produce activated charcoal.

In the meantime, his hometown was home to these trees.

“Moreover, my biggest dream is helping local poor people to escape poverty,” he said.

After the visit, Huy thought of his dream every day and eventually found ways to turn his dream into a reality.

A bridge needed

The factory is located in a remote area and workers had to cross a local stream to reach the factory.

Huy said the location was selected because it was very near the forest, so timbers could be easily transported to the factory.

But troubles came when it was raining, as the factory became isolated after heavy rains.

Huy and his colleagues often had to stay at the factory for several days when a torrential rain occurred. They could not go home due to there being no bridge, and water ran too quickly through the stream.

“I remember one time it was raining hard and we had to stay there. We ran out of food and had to share cassava that we found in the forest,” he added.

To fix the problem, Huy said he asked a contractor to build a small bridge, but the price was about VNĐ5 billion ($220,000).

“I could not afford that,” he said.

He hoped the local administration would partly assist him.

In response to the situation, Phạm Mạnh Hùng, secretary of the district’s Party Committee, said he would submit to the provincial People’s Committee to provide infrastructure support for Huy.

This was one way to encourage young people to create start-up businesses and contribute to the local socio-economic development, as Huy did. — VNS


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