Sabeco transformation: a strategy combining global and local expertise

08:55 | 07/09/2019
Since Sabeco embarked on an ambitious transformation agenda to strengthen its operational capabilities and modernise its governance system, the corporation has started to reap positive results.  
sabeco transformation a strategy combining global and local expertise
The new packaging of Bia Saigon of Sabeco captures the optimism and desire for global recognition of Vietnamese people today

In order to ensure further growth and align with its continuing transformation process, Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corporation (Sabeco) has adopted a fresh management approach as part of its long-term strategy.

Specifically, the company strives to combine the deep local knowledge of its Vietnamese executives who have strong insights into local production, marketing, and supply chain with the international experience of its foreign executives to evolve towards unprecedented success.

Bennett Neo, general director of Sabeco, shared, “We are in the process of transforming our work culture into one that combines deep local insight, pride in our company’s heritage, and respect for Vietnamese culture with openness to global best practices and innovations. By doing this, we can strengthen our foothold in Vietnam, and once we are ready, expand our presence in the global market.”

Tapping into local prowess

Admitting in an interview earlier this year that its brand portfolio was “all over the place”, the company’s top leader shared that one of their immediate priorities was to clearly differentiate their flagship brand – Bia Saigon – from competitors and target a very defined segment.

Tasked to help this turn-around is Sabeco’s deputy general director Hoang Dao Hiep, who is responsible for planning and executing the company’s marketing and communication strategies with an aim of enabling Sabeco to stand on par with contemporary requirements.

Hiep is known as a leading expert in marketing and management with over 20 years of experience working in Vietnam and regional markets.

Meanwhile, deputy general director Lam Du An is another key local executive; he is responsible for maintaining the quality of the company’s production. With 30 years of experience working for Sabeco, he helps ensure that Sabeco continues to produce the best beer possible.

Under An’s watch, the company’s Bia Saigon Lager recently won the gold medal in the Smallpack Lager Category at the 2019 International Brewing Awards & International Cider Awards (IBA), one of the most prestigious awards in the global beer and cider industry. By getting this recognition, Sabeco and its Bia Saigon brand proved that a Vietnamese product can compete on the international level.

During the year of transformation, Sabeco also appointed Nguyen Hoang Giang as deputy general director in charge of developing the supply chain. Giang brings with him 30 years of experience in logistics and supply chain, which helps him strengthen the company’s operations.

Hiep, An, and Giang are part of the Vietnamese contingent in the company’s Board of Management (BoM), and help ensure that Sabeco and its Bia Saigon brand retain their Vietnamese essence even as they undergo continuous modernisation.

Speaking about the challenges in transforming a state-owned enterprise and its well-known brand, he emphasised that the key is to understand the evolving tastes and needs of Vietnamese consumers.

In line with this, the southern brewer recently re-launched its flagship Bia Saigon brand as part of the initiative to cement its leadership position in the marketplace. Bia Saigon’s rejuvenation was kicked-off with the introduction of a new packaging design highlighting its dragon logo, a symbol long associated with the company as well as Vietnam itself.

“Improving Bia Saigon's image is one of the necessary investments to ensure Sabeco’s continued success. As part of our portfolio management, Bia Saigon will strengthen its affinity with millennial customers by capturing their optimism and patriotism. This will help the brand continue to be the pride of Vietnam,” said Hiep.

Applying global practices

International experience, meanwhile, helps to further elevate the company and meet global standards. In Sabeco, this is brought by Neo whose vast global experience, especially in the beer industry, has allowed him to introduce innovations in the company’s operations, production capabilities, supply chain management, and sales and marketing approach.

Neo is assisted in this by his fellow Singaporean colleagues – Teo Hong Keng and Melvyn Ng – foreign BoM members who bring to Sabeco their extensive international experience in finance and sales, respectively. The two are experts in their fields and both contribute to uplifting the company’s operations to international standards.

Employee engagement is another area where Neo introduced enhancements, specifically to create a fair and encouraging environment as well as an empowering work culture.

With its goal of becoming the pride of Vietnam, the company seeks to continue leveraging both local and international experts to preserve the values of Sabeco and its brands while constantly adapting to the evolving market and business environment.

“Sabeco employees are empowered to make critical decisions with confidence and take full advantage of opportunities that they believe can help us grow as a company,” shared Neo. “At the same time, we have worked to create a more open and transparent culture as well as a competitive and globally-benchmarked approach to compensation to keep our employees motivated.”

These innovations have already started to positively impact the company’s performance as can be seen in its first-half financial results.

In the first half of 2019, Sabeco’s revenue reached VND18,424 billion ($801 million), an 8.5 per cent increase on-year. Its profit, meanwhile, stood at VND2,820 billion ($122.6 million), a 15.2 per cent increase on year.

Parallel to these operational improvements, the company has also boosted the presence of the Bia Saigon brand – and with it, Vietnam – on the international stage. Most notably, the Bia Saigon brand became the official shirt sponsor of the English premier league football team Leicester City last year and has also sponsored the Vietnamese national football team.

In addition to the elevated image of the Bia Saigon brand, Sabeco has also been recognised as a strong presence in the region. Most recently, the company was among the seven Vietnamese corporations named on Forbes Asia’s Best Over a Billion list, which comprises of the 200 top-performing listed companies in the Asia-Pacific region which have posted revenues above $1 billion.

Notably, besides the common metrics such as profitability, revenue, and debt to equity ratio, the prestigious list is also based on the projected growth of the company in the next five years. To appear on the list, firms must experience consistent growth while also showing their potential for future expansion.

By making it to the list of biggest corporations in Asia, Sabeco once again affirmed its leadership position in the F&B industry as the largest brewer in Vietnam.

The shared vision for Sabeco’s growth

The company’s continued success is due to the efforts of the whole BoM – both its Vietnamese and foreign members – and their shared focus on Sabeco’s seven strategic pillars: sales, brand, production, supply chain, cost, human resources, and board.

Despite their differences in background, knowledge, and expertise, each BoM member shares the same vision for Sabeco – to become a company that is continually evolving.

sabeco transformation a strategy combining global and local expertise
As a team, Sabeco members achieved numerous prestigious awards

To help achieve its notable accolades, Sabeco has adopted a sustainable development model to guide its long-term strategy and its quest to continue bringing pride to Vietnam. This approach is referred to as the company’s 4C Commitment: Consumption, Conservation, Country, and Culture.

Expounding on this, Sabeco aims to become a partner of the government and other stakeholders in promoting responsible alcohol consumption while enhancing consumer drinking experience; contributes to preserving and protecting the environment; helps power Vietnam’s overall development through its work in the beverage industry; and increases appreciation for Vietnamese cuisine and culture.

With its goal of becoming the pride of Vietnam, the company seeks to continue leveraging both local and international experts to preserve the values of Sabeco and its brands while constantly adapting to the evolving market and business environment.

Apart from contributing to the growth of the country’s economy, Sabeco is set to become an organisation that cultivates and nurtures Vietnamese talents; contributing to the sustainable growth of Vietnam;and accompanying the country in its general development trajectory going forward.

By Anh Duc

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