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Local firms advised to realize economic potential of creative industries

Vietnamese footwear products displayed at a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Experts say local products need more distinctive designs to make a bigger mark in both export and home markets.

Local enterprises should get involved in and take advantage of creative industries to add value to their business, experts said at a meeting held in Ho Chi Minh City last week.

They said although the industries, which cover a range of activities like advertising, designing, performing arts, architecture, crafts, toys and games, were relatively nascent in Vietnam, they had the potential to make significant contributions to the national economy.

At the meeting organized by the Vietnam Creative Enterprise Network in HCMC, Edward Gomez, a Filipino design consultant, and Vietnamese fashion designer Ngo Thai Uyen shared their ideas about global market trends and creativity with participants from the textile, garments, advertising, plastics, furniture, communication and shoe-making industries.

Gomez said many buyers and consumers were seeking unique products that combine ethnic elements with contemporary designs.

He said competition at the low-end segment was strong and required significant production capacity while the luxury market focused more on distinctive designs, higher quality and smaller quantities with greater flexibility in pricing.

Gomez also said that buyers were now seeking other suppliers than Chinese firms that were now focusing on their home market.

Dang Vo, chairman of the network, told Thanh Nien Weekly that creative industries are becoming an increasingly important component of the national economy. The government should see it having the potential to make significant contributions to the country's gross domestic product and issue policies to support its development, he said.

The development should start from training, said Tran Ngoc Danh, managing director of Arts and Design School, a member of the Creative Enterprise Network.

Danh said the school, supported by the British Council, would start its first training course next month that focuses on creative skills for designers in key export industries like furniture, garment, plastics, handicrafts and toys.

Tu Minh Thien, director of the Investment and Trade Promotion Center, said HCMC authorities considered the industries essential for growth.

"Authorities want the development of the city attached to the added value provided by creative industries," he said at a meeting held July to announce the city's Creative Saigon 2010 Plan to develop four of the creative industries, including communications, interior décor, information technology, and packaging and labeling.

Thien said the plan aimed to promote designing activities through training courses, fairs and contests.

The British Consul General in HCMC, Tim Brownbill, said his government considered assisting Vietnam in creative industries as a strategy to further its trade and investment relationship with Vietnam.

Britain is one of the European states with a strong development of creative industries, earning 5 percent of the nation's total exports.

No parallel

Globally, creative industries rake in revenues of US$3 trillion and account for a significant part of national economies in Asia, said Thien.

Thien said the industries added 12 percent to Thailand's GDP, 6.5 percent to Indonesia, 5.8 percent to Korea and 5 percent to the Philippines, but in Vietnam, this was miniscule.

Danh of the Arts and Design School said the furniture, interior décor and advertising industries have grown strongly in the country, luring investment from foreign firms and their supporting agencies.

However local industries were not making full use of the creative potential, he said.

Most export-oriented industries are implementing contracts where the importers supply the designs, and this is negatively impacting their own creativity and competitiveness, he added.

Vo Van Yen, deputy head of the Gia Dinh Textile and Garment Corporation's Sales Department, conceded the corporation has not invested much in designs for both domestic and export markets.

"The designs that we create are mostly based on consumer trends or that used by other producers."

The network's chairman Vo said many local firms were yet to develop their design functions as they were afraid of being copied, while other firms worried about how much they would cost.

They were also not accustomed to outsourcing their design needs, said Danh.

Ong Din Han, country manger of Global Sources, said local firms should change their mindset about creative industries and invest in them. They would otherwise find it difficult to get new customers, he said. Global Sources is a Hong Kong-based service firm that connects buyers and sellers globally.

Vietnamese furniture was unique in the international market but other products like handicrafts did poorly in attracting customers, said Han. His company would hold a fair for Vietnamese export products next year to showcase their creativity, besides quality and prices.

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