|Thai Huong |
TH Group, famous far and wide for its brand TH true MILK, was given birth to naturally and almost by accident. Its founder, labour heroine Thai Huong, has driven the group forward over the past decade and more.
In 2008 the Chinese government announced a recall of infant milk powder that was tainted by melamine, a chemical usually used in plastics. Consumption of melamine caused infants to develop kidney stones which, if left untreated, could cause renal failure and death.
The milk crisis had negative impacts on the Vietnamese milk market, causing risks to the health of Vietnamese consumers. Wishing to bring fresh and safe milk products with competitive prices, Huong, also the leader of BAC A BANK, decided to dive into the Vietnamese milk market, and then TH Group was born.
At that time, the world was also suffering from a heavy economic crisis hurting the Vietnamese economy. TH lacked capital for its $1.2 billion concentrated large-scale dairy cow production project located in Nghia Dan district of Nghe An province. Many banks also refused to provide loans for the project, dashing hopes to create a fresh milk revolution in Vietnam.
When facing the most difficulties, Huong even thought about selling part of the project’s land to a foreign partner and establish a joint venture and reduce pressure in investment capital. However, she did not give up. Bearing a strong heart full of patriotism, the labour heroine held that Vietnamese people must create assets on their own land.
Weathering the initial issues in experience, technology, and capital, and with her strong determination and responsibility, Huong has gradually driven TH Group forward, with sturdy solutions involving the combination of Vietnam’s natural resources and brainpower with the world’s state-of-the-art technologies and governance methods in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Steadfast in the road ahead, she sent a petition to the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) and then held discussions with stakeholders. Seeing the prospects, effectiveness, and the humanity of the project, the SBV provided timely support for TH Group to speed up the implementation of the project.
“In the world, no-one could develop such a gigantic fresh milk production project in such a very short time. While it would take up to 10 years for many similar projects in the world to complete, it took only three years for Huong and TH Group to implement this project,” said a big Israeli partner of the company.
Over the past more than 10 years, Huong has been taking the group to success with a focus laid on the core value of “harmony of benefits”, meaning not seeking benefits at all costs, but harmonising the benefits of the group, the community, and people. It stands ready to accept a longer time to recoup investment capital in exchange for sustainable development based on modern technology, ensuring social security in close link with environmental protection.
In 2015, TH Group’s project in Nghe An was recognised as the most concentrated large-scale high-tech dairy cow production project in Asia by the Asian Book of Records. The project boasts 45,000 dairy cows, with a total designed processing capacity of 500,000 tonnes of milk per year. Since 2010, the group’s products have reaped various high-profile awards at international events such as World Food Moscow, Gulfood Dubai 2016, and the Stevie Awards 2018.
These successes have helped TH Group to continue contributing to the government’s plans in developing dairy cow areas and achieving growth targets for fresh milk – one billion litres in 2020 and 1.4 billion litres by 2025 – and in the protection of the domestic agricultural sector, and limitation of powdered milk imports from foreign markets. Previously, despite being an agricultural nation, Vietnam still had to spend billions of US dollars importing powdered milk annually to process fresh milk – one of the key reasons behind the country’s high trade surplus at the time.
Currently, the group is also building projects at home and abroad, with farms developed in the provinces of Thanh Hoa, Ha Giang, and Phu Yen. In the time to come, it will likely commence a number of other projects in Kon Tum, An Giang, and Cao Bang provinces.
Expanding investment overseas
Over the past decade, Vietnamese leaders have been continuously praising Huong’s energy and exploits at home and abroad to buoy up Vietnam’s milk industry. In addition to large-scale dairy cow production facilities in Nghe An, TH Group has also been developing similar ventures producing safe farm produce in many localities nationwide.
“Thai Huong has made extraordinary efforts. She is an enterprising woman with strong determination to take the local milk industry overseas,” said Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Chairwoman of the National Assembly, when she visited TH Groups’ $2.7-billion concentrated large-scale dairy cow production initiative in Russia.
Shortly after receiving the investment certificate for this project in 2016, TH Group began the construction of a dairy farm in Moscow and another in the Kaluga region in the same year, located just under 100km south-west of Moscow.
Currently, the dairy farms in Moscow and Kaluga as well as in other areas are taking shape and coming into operation, with high-quality cows producing high productivity and high-quality milk.
In addition to these projects, TH Group is also constructing a similar project in Bashkortostan, the most populous republic in Russia. These projects are of special importance as they serve as a symbol for the agricultural economic cooperation between the two countries.
Huong has set a target that over the next 10 years, TH Group will make it onto the list of top 10 milk producers in Russia. Its projects in this nation will help supplement the milk shortages here but also boost milk exports from Russia to other foreign nations.
Most recently, with Huong’s big aspiration to take her projects overseas, TH Group have invested $88.5 million in two major projects in Australia involving producing dairy cows, cotton, sunflowers, and maize, as well as producing and processing mango juice. TH Group also became the first Vietnamese enterprise to be allowed by China to export fresh milk products to the market.
With her great ambition as well as continuing will and determination, Huong plans to move forward with her business and investment strategies at home and abroad.
“We will take Vietnam’s agricultural sector to the world with products meeting the most stringent international standards. To make a brand name last forever we need patience, a warm heart, and patriotism, as well as sturdy and correct strategies,” she said.
With her unceasing efforts, Huong has won many high-profile awards at home and abroad. For example, in 2016, she was named Global Trade Ambassador of the Year by Women in International Trade Los Angeles, a California non-profit organisation by professional women involved in international trade to provide professional and personal enrichment to its members. In September 2019, within the World Knowledge Forum at the Jangchung Arena in Seoul, Huong was granted the Empowering Women award. Forbes Magazine also named her one of the most influential women in Asia two years in a row.