Vietnam is somewhat like China but in many ways quite different. It is part of the group of 10 ASEAN countries. Its land size is similar to New Zealand but has a population of around 90 million people.
Some observations from my recent “Bliesure” trip
The Australia-Vietnam Business Council (AVBC) arranged a delegation to Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon as the locals still refer to it) and Hanoi in June 2017. It coincided with the Vietnam leg of the NSW government’s second annual business and investment roadshow that had been across three cities in China, Malaysia and was completed in Hong Kong.
Check out the program overview here.
Starting with Leisure
Landing a few days earlier to get the local feel and have a few days break in historic Hoi An, the first morning I was greeted with a fabulous outlook at the waterfront resort albeit hot and humid temperatures.
The town is amazing with street after street of colourful historic buildings housing clothing, souvenirs and an array of street food and restaurants.
A highlight was the cooking class where I learned about the fresh herbs that are a staple for any Vietnamese dish, meat and seafood caught locally and eaten same day, and how to make rice paper rolls from scratch.
Business in Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh is the commercial centre and has a mixed architecture with a French colonial influence. The first AVBC showcase was held with presentations and networking attracting around 80 locals. Many of the questions fielded were around students and others looking to come to Australia as well as local businesses from fishing to manufacturing looking for investors.
Meetings with Phil Jones at Auscham, discussing Agri at Austrade and connecting with local migration agents provided insights to local businesses and the areas for growth. In particular, Agri-tech is an area Australia can add significant value. With annual GDP of 6%, there is also a lot of construction going on. Tourism from Australia is expected to increase significantly with new direct flights by Jetstar.
Business in Hanoi
The capital and political centre, Hanoi is closer to China which explains some of the heritage. The AVBC expo was held at the convention centre attracting around 500 visitors to meet the delegation as well as local businesses on display. The event was also covered by local media. There was some interest in Australia and New Zealand from investors to business owners and again students seeking education and employment opportunities.
A highlight was a visit to Parliament House where the Vice President, hosted the delegation as well as the Ministry of Science and the local council chambers where we were welcomed with an overview of the city and key areas of focus.
Relaxing at Ha Long Bay
Invited to a last minute road trip to Ha Long Bay it was exciting to see the countryside and observe the housing which takes up minimal land, travel on local roads with most getting around on scooters, and enjoy some real street food!
On arriving at the resort we were welcomed by the Chairman with an abundant dinner and entertainment. After an early morning overview of the development including connecting the island to the mainland, we boarded a yacht for the spectacular views of Ha Long Bay, one of the 10 world heritage sites.
Reflections on returning home
The new midnight flight direct from Hanoi to Sydney provided time to think about what we had seen, learnt and where the opportunities are. Like China, it’s not just about going once it’s about building relationships, appreciating the culture as well as economic drivers and where you can add value.
So far there has been some interest from those seeking businesses in Australia which make sense as without a social security safety net the Vietnamese seem quite innovative in earning a living from street stalls to more sophisticated offerings.
Heading to Asia you can’t assume that just because you know one country or even one province that it will be the same. There is such diversity, from history, culture, stages of development, colour and excitement you need to be flexible, respectful and take the lead of local experts and guides.
Stacey Martin, Founder of Expat Advisors Community specialises in Investor Migration to Australia and New Zealand, from China, Vietnam and India. She is also the Australian Relationship Manager for the Farms and Finance platform connecting Chinese investors with Aussie farmers.