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Soldier goes ‘crazy,' becomes a millionaire

Update: January, 27/2015 - 11:39

Entrepreneur: Former soldier Tran Quang Dao (left) had always wants to own his own firm, and he turned out to be lucky, owning a company that has created jobs for hundreds of workers. — VNS Photo Cam Giang

by Thuy Trang-Cam Giang

Tran Quang Dao, also known as Sau Dao, is famous among local residents of Hung Thuan Commune in the Trang Bang District of the southern province of Tay Ninh.

After leaving the army, Dao had invested in a large-scale fish farm in the area and later became the Director of the Eastern Foods Technology Co Ltd, which is located about 20 kilometres from the Trang Bang District centre.

‘Mad' Sau Dao

Looking at Dao's beautiful and modern company today, it is hard to believe that only a decade ago, the land on which the company stands today, was a marshy area, choc-a-bloc with broken lethal weapons used during the war.

At the time, many people thought Dao was crazy to have started the business.

In 1995, he was a military officer at the Logistics Department of Military Zone 7, but he asked his superiors for early retirement to do business.

After retirement, Dao conducted a lot of research and found that raising fish would be profitable.

He sought financial help from his relatives to gather the capital needed to open the fish farm, and then set up a plant to process frozen fish for export in the southern city of Can Tho.

Digging ponds to raise fish, while others in the province focused on raising fish in drifts, was considered a strange idea.

"If tra fish, which is a kind of catfish, is raised in a drift, the farmer has to spend a lot of money, and earns little profit, or even suffer losses. This kind of fish farming can also result in environmental pollution," said Dao.

Moreover, tra fish usually survives in ponds, he pointed out. Living in ponds, the fish can consume clean food, and grow up quickly to meet export standards.

After taking the suggestion of other people, who had been successful in the same line of work, Sau Dao visited his mother's hometown in Hung Thuan Commune to examine the land where he wanted to open another fish farm.

Sau Dao bought 7,5ha of land in 2006 near the Sai Gon River in Hung Thuan Commune. The news surprised local residents because the piece of land was considered unproductive.

After war, shrapnels and unexploded ordnance had been strewn all over the land, which had remained unused for a long time.

The local residents also doubted Sau Dao's business acumen for wanting to invest and work on fallow.

"On the day I visited the site for the first time; I fell into a marshy hole and was submerged up to my chest. When I was pulled up, there were leeches sticking to my body," Dao recalled.

Operation slice: A processing line at the Eastern Foods Technology Co Ltd. in Tay Ninh Province.

The land surveyors also worked hard to measure the land, as they had to spend a lot of time being pulled out of the marsh.

But this was not all. Sau Dao also proposed a strange precondition while buying the land.

He suggested to the people selling the land to him to use the sale proceeds to find a better piece of land, where they could plant crops or start breeding fish.

"My experience dictated that when a farmer keeps a large amount of money in reserve and does not use it to farm any land, he or she can go bankrupt," said Dao.

At first, the farmers, who had sold land to Dao, were reluctant to accept his proposal, but six years later, they are leading better lives. They even returned to see Dao and thanked him for his proposal and his strange precondition before buying the land.

Outstanding businessman

"I always wanted to own a venture and I turned out to be lucky," said Dao.

It took a lot of time to improve the condition of the marshland near the Sai Gon River, which was initially covered with wild plants, prompting Dao to hire some people to clear the land.

While digging the land, the workers discovered a considerable amount of rotten wood. As they were clearing the wood, they also found some heavy artilery shells, which could have exploded.

"I used to be a soldier, but even I could not fix them and had to call the sappers," said Dao.

Following the hard work involved, Dao was able to create 11 fish ponds by 2008. Each pond currently yields 200 tonnes of tra fish every six months, which generates an income of VND3 billion (US$142,800).

Dao's fishing ponds have also become a good example of developing a family farm in the locality. The success has also turned the veteran into a millionaire.

The entrepreneur also found that transporting tra fish from Trang Bang District in Tay Ninh to Can Tho City was costly and it was also difficult to keep the fish in a good condition. So he invested hundreds of billions of dong in 2009 to build a plant to process frozen fish on his farm. The plant is spread over nearly 2 hectares.

The Eastern Foods Technology Co. Ltd. was founded in 2009 and became operational in June, 2010.

With his farm expanding rapidly, the current monthly production of fish is pegged at 300 tonnes.

Dao has also installed a waste water treatment system, with the total capacity of 4,000cu.m. The company discharges 400cu.m of waste water per day, but since it is treated at the plant, it does not cause environmental pollution.

Workers' welfare

The Eastern Foods Technology Co Ltd employs 400 workers, with an average income of VND4.1 million ($190) per head per month and also provides them two free meals per day.

Workers from out of town are provided free-of-charge accommodation.

Do Van Tam, a leader of the Hung Thuan Commune Farmers' Association, said, "The company has created jobs for hundreds of people in the commune."

It also awards bonuses and travelling fees to workers around the Lunar New Year each year, which helps them return to their hometowns to celebrate the festival, Tam added.

He also revealed that the company has also donated hundreds of millions of dong to the commune to build housing for the poor, award scholarships to needy students and upgraded roads in the commune. — VNS

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