Viettel's overseas investments have provided invaluable lessons to the pioneering Vietnamese telecom and IT giant, said Nguyen Duc Quang, General Director of Viettel Global, a member of the Viettel Group.
He made the remark in an interview with Thanh Nien Weekly in which he discussed how Viettel has pioneered the art of investing abroad for Vietnamese businesses.
Thanh Nien Weekly: Have you won or lost with your overseas investment?
Nguyen Duc Quang: In which fields do you mean? In terms of investment effectiveness, we need more time (to assess our success). However, surely Viettel has won in accumulating experience. For example, in Cambodia, Viettel has tested our policies in a market already infiltrated by many other experienced firms for many years before us. In Laos, we've gained experience in building infrastructure in difficult mountainous terrain...
As a typical Vietnamese information technology and telecommunications firm, does Viettel apply the same business model abroad that it applies locally?
In overseas markets, we have applied many experiences and lessons that Viettel gained in Vietnam. In business, we, in all markets, have implemented the strategies of "network first, business later", "rural investment", and "flexible price mechanisms, fitting in many areas."
In any market, Viettel always attaches social responsibility to our business. We always implement activities that contribute to the development and prosperity of the countries (that Viettel invests in). In terms of social activities, Viettel has also applied, in foreign markets, social programs that have been successfully implemented in Vietnam such as the Internet for Schools program and palate and heart surgeries (for poor people)"¦
What is most important to a firm that wants to do business abroad: finance, technology or "relations"?
Earlier, Viettel thought that finance, technology and experience were the most important. However, the more fields and markets in which Viettel does business and invests, the more we recognize that the most important factor in deciding the survival or not of a firm is the market. Finances can be lent, technology can be bought, experience (via consultancy) can be paid for. If we have markets, we will have opportunities, and we will have everything.
We can see China as an example. The country has many successful companies as they have a market of one billion people. This is a big laboratory for Chinese enterprises to test their products.
Is it more difficult to do business at home or abroad? What difficulties does Viettel face on the overseas market?
Difficulties can be seen in every market, irrespective of whether it is local or overseas. characteristics of each market and the rate of change there, have to encounter different challenges, and need to take different measures.
Investing abroad, Viettel cannot avoid barriers in terms of language, culture and consumer psychology... We have overcome the obstacles by localizing Viettel staff in overseas markets. For example, in Cambodia, local residents account for some 95 percent of our more than 6,000 employees there.
How do the government and Vietnam's representative agencies abroad support firms with overseas investment?
The government and Vietnam's representative agencies abroad have supported and facilitated Viettel's business very much. It can be seen in the government's simplification of administrative procedures, which helps accelerate the progress of investment. The government and Vietnam's representative agencies abroad have also actively helped us in terms of providing information about foreign markets that we invest in, so that we can implement our plans in a timely and proper manner.
In the coming time, Viettel will implement more investment projects in more markets. Thus, we want to receive more support from the Vietnamese government, especially in terms of simplification of procedures for investment abroad, and diversification of information about foreign markets, so that Viettel's investment strategy becomes more time-appropriate and effective.
What have been some of the lessons that Viettel has gained from investing in foreign markets?
We believe that Viettel has grown much stronger after getting involved in such endeavors. In foreign markets, we've become accustomed to many new things about people, cultures, customs and traditions, and then we've drawn lessons, so that Viettel may reap bigger development, and occupy markets with different investment measures.
Laos and Cambodia were the first markets that Viettel penetrated. The differences between the two markets have brought many opportunities for Viettel to gain precious lessons. This will be Viettel's advantage when expanding investment abroad.
What are the foreign markets and fields that Viettel now plans to enter?
We are now tapping telecommunications services in Laos (with the brand Unitel), and Cambodia (with the brand Metfone). Viettel will focus on telecommunications services when investing abroad, because this is our core business, and the field in which we have the most experience.
Markets that Viettel tends to enter into are potential markets, such as those with the low percentage of population using the service (under 20 percent), developing countries, and those with long-term traditional relations with Vietnam.