Fostering development of creative minds

13:00 | 01/05/2019
Vietnam is making great efforts to create strong private enterprises able to make major contributions to national socio-economic development. Professor Phan Van Truong, former commercial advisor for the French government, talked to VIR’s Tran Anh about how the country can materialise this ambition and what Vietnamese enterprises should do to grow further.  
fostering development of creative minds
Professor Phan Van Truong, former commercial advisor for the French government

What can the country do to turn itself into a powerful one in the near future?

In order to realise this dream that many have, Vietnam must have a good climate for people to enhance their creativity, development, and investment. However, this can only be created when ministries and relevant agencies act in concert without central order and instructions, when localities work with the central agencies and other localities, and when people remain united voluntarily. For example, if we buy a metro system, we will link the purchase with a study programme of transport-related universities and tramcar producing workshops. The co-operation will help us develop metro technology.

Can we do that? Yes, we can. It’s important to note that almost all overseas Vietnamese students have been successful when they engage themselves in foreign technological ecosystems. However, in Vietnam, state-owned enterprises fail to create ecosystems for development. Students and pupils cannot find any ecosystem for their studies and development.

While the US, Japan, and South Korea have their own private groups as national symbols, this is not the case for Vietnam. How can we create national-level symbolic enterprises, especially in the 4.0 era?

It is high time the government seriously to look at a policy to shift investment out of the property sector, which creates little value to the economy, and focus more on technological sectors. If Vietnam invests VND100 trillion ($4.34 billion) into startups, we will be able to create opportunities for 100,000 startups. About 1,000 out of these startups would succeed, including 100 big startups. Of those, 20 could make historical turning points.

That sum of money is much smaller than the money that has been invested into the property sector. Vietnam needs to have 100 big startups, and subsequently the potential for 20 breakthrough ones.

Currently big Vietnamese groups are largely well managed, but very few of them have good governance. We lack good leaders with long-term vision, knowledge, and who embodies a personal culture.

You have experience in leading many global enterprises and providing consultancy for Vietnamese enterprises. What strong points can you see in Vietnamese businesses, and what currently locks them from further growth?

We should have a mindset of always comparing ourselves with global rivals. We shouldn’t stay at home and rest on our laurels. Recently there have been some bright examples, such as VinFast or the co-operation between FPT Software and Airbus.

But we see that there are very few Vietnamese enterprises that have a global mindset. I think that Vietnam has great potential for agricultural development, but domestic agricultural firms have no mindset of becoming global firms in the agricultural sector.

We should never forget that global billionaires such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg used to be students that quit their universities. They created their own firms with little money. That’s a big lesson for enterprises.

We have the ability to create startups, but few people have a mindset of supporting them. Currently I can see such a mindset in Vingroup and some other businesses.

Many young people are interested in startup development here, but only few are successful. What opportunities can you see for them to develop?

Major enterprises should earmark just 1 per cent of their profit for supporting young startups. They should remember that this must be a core in their business strategies. They should trust young people here and create an ecosystem full of Vietnamese characteristics.

What message can you give to young Vietnamese talent, the drivers of the country’s future development?

I have already met with about 10,000 young people hailing from different sectors and localities. They have passion, enthusiasm, and creativity, but they need to be led by successful startup people. They need to rely on successfully-developing ecosystems, and devote themselves to them and enhance their creativity.

We have witnessed debates that the Vietnamese educational sector has yet to encourage enthusiastic and creative people to engage in startups. They should continue enhancing their team spirit and enrich their knowledge, and should be sent abroad to work with young overseas equivalents. If we do that, we will soon be successful in creating a strong startup ecosystem for Vietnam.

It can be hard to develop a startup. If 1,000 startups are established, only several companies are successful, and this is true everywhere. The US witnesses the shutdown of hundreds of ­thousands of such creations every year.

Thus we must create a big startup movement across the nation, with hundreds of ­thousands of companies needing to be developed.

That’s why we are required to create a sound ecosystem for such development, in which I think agricultural startup needs to be developed first because agriculture will continue ­functioning as the mainstay of the country’s economic ­development.

However, it is noted that a startup ecosystem can be created only when transparency emerges in administrative procedures, legal regulations, and finance. The ecosystem must come from a synchronous combination among ministries and agencies that can solve difficulties. We shouldn’t develop such an ecosystem through pompous words and ineffective policies.

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