The tech sector in Vietnam has been growing very rapidly in the last two decades in response to global demand for tech talent, says New Zealand entrepreneur Mitchell Pham.
What’s your view on Vietnam-New Zealand business relations?
Vietnam is New Zealand-friendly, very interested in New Zealand, always keen to engage with Kiwi visitors and businesses that come into the market, as far as I have seen over the last 15 years.
Vietnam is very much aware of New Zealand’s strength in dairy, other primary industries, food safety, health products, education and tourism. But what has been completely missing is awareness of New Zealand as a high-tech nation and a high-tech exporter. And that’s been missing not just in Vietnam but right across Asia.
“About 60 percent of people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City shop online via their mobile phones.”
How do you find New Zealand’s understanding of Vietnam?
In the business sector, there seems to be a gap in awareness, understanding and knowledge of Vietnam as a market for business in New Zealand.
I think many Kiwis travel to Vietnam as tourists, but when it comes to serious business, there are lots of interesting trends happening in the Vietnam market and across the ASEAN region which many New Zealand businesses are still not aware of.
For example, Vietnam today has 95 million people but 135 million mobile connections. About 60 percent of people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City shop online via their mobile phones. This is a huge indicator for the appetite for technology offerings from New Zealand.
My parents each use two phones and three SIMs and for different reasons, different rates, different times of days, different plans from different mobile companies. It’s a highly competitive market. This is the sort of thing you see in other parts of Asia as well. We don’t see that in New Zealand, because it’s still quite monopolistic here.
What it shows is a willingness in Vietnam to gobble up whatever technology is available that will make everyday life, work and play simpler, easier, quicker, cheaper.
That is a massive digital consumption appetite, and it is a platform for all kinds of IP and content to be flushed into that market.
You launched Augen in Vietnam in 2005 — what changes have you seen in the country since then?
I have seen so much change happen in Vietnam. It seems there has been constant economic growth that drives constant change. That change can be seen partly in the rise of the new middle class, and the constant increase in disposable income and consumption appetite.
I also see constant growth in the business sector, with companies growing and expanding in the domestic market, and in more recent years, the ASEAN region and beyond.
One particular trend of interest to us is the tech sector in Vietnam has been growing very rapidly in the last 20 years, in response to global demand for tech talent.
At the same time, there’s now an increased demand from business sectors in Vietnam for technology and IP that’s going to accelerate growth and enable businesses to compete internationally. That’s been the trend.
What is the significance of APEC for Vietnam?
For much of 2017, I've seen a lot of excitement in Vietnam at the government level, but also very much the business community and across Vietnam.
The hosting of APEC is seen as a great opportunity to engage with businesses from around the region. The whole country seems to be excited about all kinds of APEC activities and other kind of spin-off benefits that come from being the host. You see APEC everywhere and you hear about it everywhere.
Also, most Vietnamese I talk to are very pro-TPP. Whether or not the US is a part of that, they still see it as a positive thing that Vietnam stands to gain a lot from. Government and businesspeople I talk to have all been very keen to continue that process and move forward, with or without US involvement.
Mitchell Pham is a Kiwi entrepreneur who came to New Zealand as a refugee from Vietnam at the age of 13. He is the co-founder, director, board member, and head of marketing and international development of the Augen Software Group. Pham is an Honorary Adviser of the Asia New Zealand Foundation and an NZTE Beachhead Advisor for Southeast Asia.
– Asia Media Centre