Strong businesswomen weather the storms

January 04, 2022 | 13:00
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The efforts and bravery of female entrepreneurs in Vietnam have not only helped businesses through the ongoing pandemic, but have also encouraged startup and business development for millions of Vietnamese women.
Strong businesswomen weather the storms
Strong businesswomen weather the storms

According to statistics from the Vietnam Association For Women Entrepreneurs, the number of female-owned small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has increased rapidly in recent years and currently accounts for a quarter of the total number of active SMEs in Vietnam, the highest in Southeast Asia.

With quick thinking, creativity, gentleness, and assertiveness, many of these women-led SMEs have overcome adversity to achieve steady growth with impressive business results. Nguyen Thi Tuyet Minh, chairwoman of the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council said, “The challenges of 2021 have been a test to affirm the bravery of businesswomen through a turnaround strategy to adapt and create breakthroughs in business.”

To honour the important contributions of businesswomen to national socioeconomic development, the 2021 Golden Rose awards were presented to 60 businesswomen with the most contributions to the Vietnamese business community.

The female entrepreneurs introduced below are exemplary representatives from businesses with sustainable business strategies made in the past year. Their optimism and calm in the face of obstacles not only spreads positive energy to many other businesswomen but also gives their businesses new growth opportunities.

Creating sustainable values in vietnamese real estate

Strong businesswomen weather the storms
Luu Thi Thanh Mau CEO, Phuc Khang Corporation

Starting with green buildings, after 18 years the CEO of Phuc Khang Corporation Luu Thi Thanh Mau has found her own direction and built a solid foundation for the Phuc Khang brand in Vietnam’s real estate.

An impressive rise for Phuc Khang Corporation was experienced in 2021 with a series of awards including Vietnam’s top 10 sustainable businesses in 2021, the second National Urban Planning Award, and the title of “Outstanding products and services of Ho Chi Minh City 2021”.

These remarkable results reaffirm the proper orientation and the well-planned development strategy on the journey of sustainable development of Phuc Khang’s Board of Directors, especially talented CEO Mau. With enthusiasm, creativity, determination in business activities, and corporate social responsibility practice, Mau was awarded the title “Outstanding Vietnamese businesswoman” at the Golden Rose awards.

Mau said that her biggest achievement in the year was maintaining good business operations, paying full salaries for employees, and taking care of the lives of both employees and their families. “At Phuc Khang, we call difficulty a challenge and always find ways to conquer it,” she said.

Phuc Khang’s indicators were changed appropriately to address two issues: internal security of the enterprise and safety in business-financial solutions. The first solution is to upgrade technology to help employees work online effectively and maintain stable operations. In addition, the company also took advantage of the social distancing period to organise online training to enhance management and professional skills for employees.

Along with technology restructuring, Phuc Khang has also promptly restructured its business model. With available advantages and timely seizing opportunities, Phuc Khang has activated mergers and acquisitions of projects with foreign partners smoothly. Therefore, the employee morale and the financial health of the business are both guaranteed.

Mau reaffirmed that her business will still steadfastly choose the path of sustainable and responsible development. “We want to create green buildings for better health and happiness indicators,” she said.

Perhaps it is the willingness to give the best values to the community along with her perseverance and steadfastness that has created a strong internal force for this Mau to lead her business to quickly adapt to new situations and easily overcome anything that comes her way.

The “Golden rose” who uplifts positive energy

Strong businesswomen weather the storms
Tran Thi Thu Trang Chairwoman of the Board, Hanel PT

Tran Thi Thu Trang, chairwoman of the Board at Hanel Production and Import-Export JSC (Hanel PT), is a businesswoman who is always full of enthusiasm despite the ups and downs of more than 20 years of experience in many business fields, from organic agriculture to the manufacturing, processing, import, and export of electronic components.

Trang’s business has ranked second in the Gender-inclusive Workplace at the UN Women’s 2021 Women’s Empowerment Principles awards, and Trang was also honoured in the top 60 outstanding Vietnamese businesswomen at the Golden Rose Cup award.

Many years of mainly operating in foreign markets gave Trang the opportunity to participate in many seminars and connect with more than 70,000 businesses and delegates around the world, but when she returned home and decided to develop the domestic market, she was very surprised that Vietnam now had an abundance of meaningful activities for businesswomen.

“That’s why I actively participate in more events, and also have the opportunity to share more with the desire to work with other entrepreneurs to build a kind business community and grow together,” Trang said.

Around three-quarters of Hanel PT’s employees are female, and 50 per cent of its senior leaders are also strong and brave women in the market. The gentleness and flexibility of female leaders, along with the successful application of good qualities such as the love and kindness of Vietnamese women to their work, have created immense power to help Hanel PT overcome the last couple of years.

Trang said that the pandemic has opened up many new opportunities for those who know how to seize them. “We do not let difficulties fill us with anxiety but focus on finding diverse and flexible solutions,” Trang said. Instead of depending on one single source of supply, Hanel PT has worked with multiple sources of supply, and 95 per cent of previously imported materials were replaced with domestically-produced materials to regulate capital flows and increase the volume of inventory to be ready to meet increased orders. As a result, order numbers for increased by 200 per cent, and there have been no salary reductions during the past two years.

Positive thinking not only helped Trang’s business get through tough times but also gave her time to revamp her work-life balance. Previously, Trang was rarely at home because she often had to go abroad on business, but now, she has more time for her family. “The pandemic has caused severe consequences for the vast majority, but I am dedicated to my work and always keep a positive attitude,” she said.

Channeling bravery during tough times

Strong businesswomen weather the storms
Bui Bich Lien Founder & CEO ORFARM & EMi Balance Brands

The path chosen by Bui Bich Lien – CEO of ORFARM and co-founder of EMENVI and EMi Balance – has never been easy, but the more obstacles she has encountered, the more steadfast and brave this businesswoman has become.

Ten years ago, Lien was an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, but in the midst of her growing business, she suddenly decided to turn into a completely new and unfamiliar field to most Vietnamese consumers at that time, organic agriculture. It was this move that paved the way for the birth of the organic food brand ORFARM, and also a stepping stone for the birth of the EMENVI brand and the current EMi Balance homecare product line.

Inheriting Japanese EM microbiological technology applied at ORFARM’s farm to produce organic pork, chicken, eggs, vegetable and fruit products with Japanese standards, a set of homecare products from the EMi Balance family including washing liquid for milk bottles and dishes, multi-purpose interior cleaning microbiological solution, and floor and bathroom cleaning solution was officially launched to consumers about a month ago.

Lien admits that the initial ideas that led her to two turning points in her career seemed “a bit crazy”. When she came in contact with Japan’s EM technology and decided to invest and build the organic food brand ORFARM, she thought of solving all health problems by creating truly clean and bio-food products.

However, after the farm trip, she found that food was not all that EM technology offered unlimited value. People spend more than half of their life indoors, and social distancing in the past two years has made homes even more important, deserving of even more care. In addition, products such as washing liquid and hand sanitiser are also extremely important in dishing out food that is clean and safe for the family.

“It is these things that motivate us to create a comprehensive clean ecosystem in our home. Our health not only depends on the food we eat every day but also the cleanliness of our environment,” Lien said.

The pandemic has become a catalyst for Lien and her colleagues to come up with ideas and speed up the product launch, but it has also brought many difficulties.

This year, social restrictions caused the material supply and packaging to be delayed, forcing the launch of the homecare product line EMi Balance to be pushed back from June to the end of the year. “The delay time led to increased costs such as production fees, raw materials, and wages for workers, and also causes businesses to miss the golden opportunity to approach customers and expand markets.” CEO Lien shared.

In addition to that, right after the launch, many big cities in Vietnam suffered from rising COVID-19 cases. Once again, all plans to promote, introduce products, and organise programmes to experience EMi Balance homecare collection were paused to ensure the safety of customers. The interaction on online channels such as e-commerce platforms or Facebook is still being implemented, but cannot help the brand achieve the expected effect.

In addition, potential customers EMENVI targets are high-end hotel and resort chains, especially hotel chains interested in eco-friendly products, which were also forced to close due to no customers, causing brands to shift their priorities to other target groups.

“There are times when I worry about losing sleep, but these difficulties do not make me or my colleagues feel depressed or want to give up, but motivate us to be determined to conquer the destination,” Lien insisted.

Success through silent transformation

Strong businesswomen weather the storms
Le Hong Thuy Tien CEO, Imex Pan Pacific Group

It is impossible not to mention businesswoman and Golden Rose 2021 award winner Le Hong Thuy Tien, CEO of Imex Pan Pacific Group (IPPG), when referring to the high-end fashion business in Vietnam.

Tien has 17 years of experience as a CEO and is an important contributor to the development of the group, making IPPG one of the largest retail enterprises in Vietnam with more than 25,000 employees, 33 subsidiaries, and nearly $1 billion in annual revenues.

Her leading role has been confirmed again thanks to her skilful management and proactive adaptation to challenges from the pandemic to help IPPG find sustainable solutions, helping the business not only maintain sales but also grow by 15 per cent in 2021.

Tien acknowledged that most retail businesses have faced major troubles, but the reason that IPPG still stands tall is thanks to flexible change and silent transformation. With a large number of stores forced to close during this stressful time, Tien had to come up with a clear strategy to protect the safety of her employees and ensure a minimum income for them to maintain their livelihoods.

She explained, “We focus on several specific solutions: optimising operating costs; developing new retail models that thoroughly apply digital platforms; negotiating for supplier support; increasing investment and application of advanced tech solutions, and deploying many online stimulus programmes.”

Even before the pandemic emerged, IPPG was successfully conducting a digital transformation for its entire system so that employees could work remotely if the need arose.

The CEO also enthusiastically supports women’s empowerment in workplace equality and career development, with 60 per cent of the group’s employees being women and the number of female managerial positions reaching 70 per cent. IPPG has also issued a Code of Equality in Business to strengthen the implementation of gender equality in IPPG enterprises. Tien and her group have made strong efforts in implementing corporate social responsibility in recent years, including building shelters and schools for children and teachers in poor rural areas, and supporting charity funds and educational programmes across the country at a cost of more than $20 million.

With her dedication and imprint on the journey of a silent transformation, Tien strives to continue to make wise decisions in the marketplace, and contribute to integrating Vietnam strongly into the world.

The Youngest “golden rose” in 2021

Strong businesswomen weather the storms
Nguyen Ngoc My CEO, Alphanam Investment JSC

Despite her young age, Alphanam Investment JSC’s CEO Nguyen Ngoc My has landed a series of impressive achievements and has taken part in many activities that contribute to the country’s socioeconomy and improve the living conditions of the labour force.

Ngoc My is increasingly proving her worth in Alphanam’s sustainable development journey. Under her operation, Alphanam has successfully established agreements with large corporations worldwide such as Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group, NIDEC, and FUJI.

In October 2021, during a signing ceremony held in Scotland under the witness of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, ministers and members of the government and the Ambassador of Vietnam to the UK, Ngoc My represented Alphanam Group to establish cooperation with InterContinental Hotels Group.

This was a symbol of an agreement to promote tourism and hotel development in Sapa, Lao Cai, and Yen Bai provinces to introduce Vietnam’s cultural and natural identities, contributing to creating more for Vietnam’s tourism industry and offering domestic and foreign tourists quality products and services of international standards.

Real estate development is an important business pillar of the group with more than 50 projects and more than 5,000 hectares of land in development that spreads across the country, such as Muong Hoa Sapa Cultural Park with high-class hotel-resort and entertainment complexes, King Palace Hanoi luxury apartments, Altara Residences Quy Nhon, Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Four Points by Sheraton, and Altara Suites Danang. In 2021, King Palace Hanoi and Altara Residences Quy Nhon completed the construction progress and went into operation. All of Alphanam Group’s real estate projects were built with the desire to create iconic works for the country, while preserving and harmonising with the cultural identity of each locality.

For the traditional industry of elevator manufacturing, Alphanam Group reaffirmed its position in the market with ALPEC and FUJIALPHA Elevators being listed among the top 10 brands in Vietnam. Elevator production in 2021 increased by 179 per cent compared to 2020, nearly 350 per cent compared to 2019, showing a remarkable growth rate and increasingly creating trust for customers.

At Alphanam Group, the ratio of male and female leaders is almost equal. Female leaders have cemented their important role in becoming leaders of the group’s subsidiaries, managing and coordinating different fields. Ngoc My is currently the youngest female leader of Alphanam Group and also the youngest businesswoman to receive the Golden Rose Award in 2021.

In the context of 2021’s global difficulties, the Golden Rose award was awarded to businesswomen with deep meaning. The success of Ngoc My and other golden roses will become a great motivation for the spirit of Vietnamese women who are looking to break through to raise their voices in business.

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional