It has been a tough year for the global economy. Thanks to the all-out efforts made by its Government, Việt Nam is one of the few countries in the world whose GDP grew in 2020. This has also benefited foreign investors and entrepreneurs in the country.
Việt Nam News correspondent Thu Ngân asks foreign business executives for their opinion on the Government’s fight against Covid-19 and how it helped their business cope with the fallout of the pandemic, and their expectations from the Government in 2021.
Satoru Takeda, CEO/General Director of Canon Marketing Vietnam
The Vietnamese Government has made great efforts to fight Covid-19. Since the start of the pandemic, it has closely monitored the situation and taken a series of rapid, proactive and comprehensive measures to combat the spread of the virus in the country and prepare its public health facilities. Việt Nam is considered a success story in its fight against Covid-19 and I feel very lucky to live and work here.
The Government has implemented many measures to support the economy and remove difficulties faced by businesses, such as restructuring bank loans, freezing debts and reducing or waiving loan interest payments. Together with the success in containing Covid-19, these measures helped reopen the Vietnamese economy and allow businesses to resume.
Talking about Canon, from the last quarter of 2020, when the Vietnamese Government managed to contain Covid-19, many companies resumed promotional activities and conferences and events like weddings and public activities were held normally. Therefore, our business also gradually recovered. Canon cameras saw the year’s highest sales in quarter four due to an increased demand for professional cameras.
Starting in August 2020 Canon also launched two new professional cameras. We were surprised by the response from the market to these two models and sales were extremely encouraging.
Covid-19 created many difficulties and challenges to the printer segment, but also gave us the opportunity to develop technological products for businesses in the era of new normal.
In 2021, Canon will continue to carry out a number of activities to promote our business. We hope to make the photography industry more active and healthily competitive to better serve our customers.
Canon is prepared to meet the needs of home printing and small businesses in the Vietnamese market in 2021. We will continue to hold many promotional events to better acquaint B2B customers and end users with Canon printers.
Talking about what we expect from the Vietnamese Government, in 2021 we hope it will maintain its fantastic leadership in the fight against Covid-19 and continue to control the pandemic successfully until everything gets back to normal with safety and stability.
Brook Taylor – COO, VinaCapital Group
Việt Nam’s effective measures to contain and control the COVID-19 outbreak are very well known at this point, and the fact that we can live relatively “normal” lives is testament to that. Countries around the world have taken notice, and Việt Nam’s standing in the world has risen.
The fact that large parts of the economy were able to remain open and operate have certainly mitigated the economic impact of the outbreak in Việt Nam, and VinaCapital had a very good year, all things considered. Our funds have performed well. We’ve been meeting (virtually, of course) with a variety of potential new investors who have taken notice of Việt Nam’s management of the pandemic. We launched a new ETF fund, the VinaCapital VN100; our cleaner energy platform gained significant momentum; and our venture capital arm, VinaCapital Ventures, was very active in working with its existing portfolio of companies to get through the pandemic as well as evaluating dozens of potential new investments.
VinaCapital enters 2021 in a strong position, and we are focused on implementing a strategy that includes new products to meet the changing needs of Vietnamese and international investors, investing in more of Việt Nam’s promising start-ups, and continuing to serve as a vehicle for more foreign investors to participate in Việt Nam’s even-more-compelling growth story.
To help Vietnamese companies, the Government should continue to invest in infrastructure, such as roads, seaports, airports, and power generation, all of which are critical to the country’s continued development. It should also continue to pursue reforms to further reduce the bureaucracy businesses face.
It may also be worthwhile to look at the possibility of assisting the tourism sector. This is one part of the economy where recovery will not be able to occur in a meaningful way until borders are reopened. There are thousands of small and medium-sized hospitality businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, and without some level of support, they may not be able to survive, ultimately threatening the sector’s ability to recover once international tourism re-starts.
Daan van Rossum, CEO of Dreamplex
We have felt very fortunate to be in Việt Nam during COVID-19. The early and effective measures the country took to prevent the spread of the coronavirus had a hugely positive impact.
We also really appreciated the frequency and clarity of communications that were distributed by the Ministry of Health.
As a company that shared responsibility for the health and safety of hundreds of employees, this was key to fighting this crisis together.
Actually preventing the virus to spread allowed many companies to keep operating.
While revenues were down and some companies suffered bankruptcy and closure, we need to acknowledge that it could have been so much worse.
Furthermore, the relative sense of safety people felt because the virus was well controlled through very early communication about new cases and tracking down all F1 and F2 really helped industry keep going as much as possible.
It will be exhilarating to see Việt Nam’s growth prospects for this year and next.
Covid-19 has truly changed what companies want from their offices. They now understand that their employees can and want to work more flexibly. This means that concepts like Dreamplex, that offer flexible shared offices with hospitality-level care and a rich programme of opportunities for the team to connect, collaborate and develop will be much more prominent in how companies choose their workplaces. The sharing economy has accelerated because of the pandemic.
In the past months, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at many international conferences and talk shows, and Việt Nam is now an example of what the future of work looks like. This is something that would not have been possible if it was not for the active and effective control of COVID-19 by the Vietnamese Government.
Raphael Lachkar, COO of Vero
On top of the great work by frontline workers and the quick decision-making by authorities in controlling the spread of the virus, as communications professionals we were particularly impressed by the communication efforts of the Government. It managed to effectively use modern communication tools to keep people informed – making Zalo a go-to resource for nationwide awareness – which certainly had an impact on the responsiveness of society.
Beyond keeping people informed, the Government managed to launch highly entertaining educational content. How could we forget The Việt Nam National Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health’s video, which reached millions of people in Việt Nam and abroad and sparked a global challenge on TikTok?
The Government’s fast and efficient response favoured a short lockdown and therefore minor disruptions in our clients’ businesses and ours.
We braced for a long lockdown and prepared our clients to digitise their brand presence, but the lockdown was short and we ended up operating almost normally.
There was a slowdown, but a lot of our clients quickly resumed normal operations and reinvested in their marketing.
This is a unique situation in SEA as all our other markets have faced either longer lockdowns or tougher restrictions on in-person interactions with brands, which somewhat affected our clients.
The impact also varied across industries, of course - some of our clients in the technology sector invested a lot across the whole region, regardless of lockdowns. A lot of our consulting work is for digital services, which consumer brands invested in quite a bit as well.
We mostly work with international brands, and the second half of the year was close to three times as big as the first half, which speaks of brands’ confidence in the Vietnamese economy and their resulting quick comeback.
All of our markets registered some growth in 2020, but Việt Nam was the one with the fastest and most robust growth.
We learned a lot in 2020, especially about agility and how to care for our teams. While Việt Nam showed outstanding resilience, we also realise that our people’s health and well-being are more crucial than ever. In 2020 we kick-started a new agency-wide wellness programme, where we provide financial support to Vero team members for counselling and therapy, guarantee “Wellness Days” off and offer free healthy meals in each office.
Looking at 2021, we are excited for the new year and we are investing in the future by recruiting continuously (our team more than doubled in 2020) and moving to a larger office in central HCM City.
Vietnam has attracted a lot of interest from foreign brands looking for a safe consumer landscape. We receive new requests from large corporate actors on a weekly basis, and were not surprised to see that Việt Nam has had the fastest growing brand value in 2020.
This is a great signal of how the Government and Vietnamese society’s efforts and resilience are being perceived abroad, as well as of the bright economic prospects that await.
On a regional level, we are committed to strengthening our presence in Southeast Asia, thanks to our own consultants in Thailand, Indonesia, Việt Nam, and Myanmar and our partners in other countries in the region. To us, Southeast Asia is the most exciting place to do business today, and 2020 only reinforced this statement to global audiences. A sustainable regionalisation of our business comes with investments in internal training and regional culture. Both these verticals are strategic priorities for the group in 2021, and we are planning investments in both.
Sanjeev Nanavati, Advisor to Board of Directors cum Head of Strategy, OCB
In my opinion, Việt Nam deserves a score of 100/100 for what it has done to contain the pandemic. An amazing job. If you watch global news and make a comparison between Việt Nam and other countries, you will realise the Vietnamese Government deserves great credit for controlling the pandemic so well.
Việt Nam has done a good job of controlling Covid-19. It provides companies with the confidence they need to relocate to the country.
However, that is not the only reason why we came to Việt Nam. Investment takes time and so does relocation.
I saw from the beginning that the Government requested banks to support enterprises, and issued documents and policies for the purpose.
In my view, the way it has dealt with Covid-19 has shown clearly that the country is pretty safe for businesses and given international companies the confidence to move to Việt Nam.
Việt Nam has become a template for how a government should act in such a crisis. The template indicates the Government performed this task very well, transparently and professionally.
Việt Nam is in an ideal position to catch investment flows in the near future.
I think many banks achieved good results last year despite the challenges. OCB has a conservative risk appetite and we always comply with the Government’s request to support enterprises.
Overall, I believe there are many signs that the economy will recover despite the ongoing concerns about the variants of the virus and whether the vaccines are effective. I think the economy will get better in the next six months and banks will take advantage of this.
The Government has been rolling out a number of policies and measures to support the economy, especially businesses.
I think the only thing the Government will consider is when and how we should open more. However, considering what has gone before, I believe the Government will make the right decision as it always has. — VNS