Day 5: Brands and Startups

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Today was fascinating! We heard from incredibly smart people; dividing the day into establishing and established brands, and then startups and new businesses later on.

In the morning we learned about energy in Vietnam. It is a priority here like it isn’t in Cambodia, but at the moment the infrastructure is very similar. Our speaker discussed he market for back-up generators and the cost of energy here. I’m a little disappointed that coal and the technology from China is where the future of energy in Vietnam is going. There is hydropower but very little solar or wind and no investment in it. The speaker sold Kohler diesel generators, and we talked about who would buy the brand name and who would still need to purchase a generator but be more motivated by price and smaller competitors.

Then we heard from PNJ Jewelry and learned about their efforts at creating branded lines. It was so interesting to hear what worked and what didn’t, and how the local sales and exports operate.

Our final meeting of the morning was with Starbucks Vietnam and we started with a coffee tasting! The steps are: 1 smell, 2 quick spray, where on tongue does it sit, and 3 what do you feel? Starbucks in Vietnam operates under a license owned by a company in Hong Kong but the brand is still the same and global. We heard about the challenges and successes of operating the global brand in Vietnam.

For lunch, our Graduate Assistant and local guide Genie, took us to get real pho! It was amazing and everything I hoped for!

Our last meeting of the day was with Vietnamese startup entrepreneurs. One spoke about the fintech (financial technology) space, and the other talked about startups in Asia, but specifically in Vietnam. The government and community support for startups is impressive and there have already been a number of success stories. We’re all eagerly awaiting the first Vietnamese unicorn!