A handbag and suitcase made of rattan and bamboo by workers at Lê Văn Quyết's enterprise, which have found success in export markets. VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Dự-H.Chung
By Xuân Dự and H. Chung
With his passion for preserving a traditional occupation and deft approach to doing business, farmer Lê Văn Quyết from HCM City’s Củ Chi District has turned simple local materials – rattan and bamboo – into unique and beautiful products for export.
Most of the products are environmentally friendly, made with materials purchased from markets in the provinces of Tây Ninh, Bình Dương, and Long An, and the Tây Nguyên (Central Highlands) region.
As a member of the local youth union in Tân Lập Hạ Commune, Quyết stepped into the handicraft occupation of rattan and bamboo knitting in the 2000s when he was in his 40s when one of his friends, also a member of the union, challenged him to weave three tiny bamboo baskets.
Quyết had always considered weaving a simple and easy job, so he confidently accepted the challenge.
But it was not as easy as he expected. Quyết spent three days trying to weave the baskets before eventually giving up.
Disappointed in himself and feeling embarrassed in front of his friend, Quyết was determined to learn how to weave baskets.
Every day, he rode a bicycle to nearby Thái Mỹ Commune, which had for many years been home to the traditional craft of bamboo and rattan weaving. He spent hours learning the occupation. Every morning, he watched his uncle in the village at work.
Quyết had to learn how to chop the rattan and bamboo, treat and stretch the plants and finally shape them into baskets.
His first hand-made products all sold quickly at the local markets.
He soon signed his first large contract to produce 100 rattan baskets for a friend, but half of them were returned because of defects.
Quyết had to pay back his friend and he lost most of the nearly VNĐ4 million (US$180) he had been paid.
Despite his failure, he continued to study and work on making quality, creative designs. He decided to accept small contracts with tiny profits of VNĐ10,000-VNĐ20,000 for each product.
Lê Văn Quyết shows off one of his products which will be exported to Taiwan. VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Dự-H.Chung
As a patient and enthusiastic businessman, Quyết continued to learn how to improve his production process. Gradually, he created more sophisticated products and the return rate decreased.
By 2005, after winning the trust of customers thanks to his experience in production and sales, Quyết established a company and starting to earn more contracts. He began to expand production by inviting skilled local people to work for him.
As he gained more and more success in the domestic market, Quyết began exporting products. Each year, he sends more than 10,000 products to Australia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei – his first foreign market.
His enterprise now provides jobs to nearly 100 workers, most of whom are locals. When he gets a large contract, he sometimes has as many as 150 people helping him fill it.
“At the peak of my business success, I could export between 20,000 and 30,000 units per month," said Quyết. "Customers favour bamboo boats, bicycles, dragonflies, butterflies, rucksacks and baskets of all kinds."
With business booming, his family earns between VNĐ300 and 500 million (US$12,900-21,500) per year.
“To live off a career, there must be passion," he said. "Passion helps me overcome difficulties to create beautiful products with new designs every month. I introduce new products to our customers and guide our workers on how to produce them."
The innovative businessman has done his own market research to develop new products customers will love. He has rice bowls, food containers, baskets for bread and fruit and chopsticks. His items are currently sold to tourists at restaurants in HCM City, with prices ranging from VNĐ8,000 to VNĐ100,000 per piece.
Local people have also started to embrace Quyết’s business since he launched new lines of products such as handbags, suitcases, wallets and laptop bags.
Lê Văn Quyết in a room decorated with the certificates and awards he has won for his bamboo and rattan products. Photo danviet.vn
In recent years, his products have won many prizes at contests and festivals in rural areas of Củ Chi District and around HCM City.
This year the HCM City Farmers’ Association selected his suitcases and handbags to enter the final round of the HCM City Innovation Award 2019. VNS