In the 1980s, Vietnam’s transition from a centralized economy to a mixed economy marked a quantum leap in the country’s economic prosperity. Today Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with a potential annual GDP growth rate of 5.1 percent, according to a February 2017 report by PwC. This provides plenty of opportunity for new entrepreneurs, reflected in a large number of new Small- and Medium-Enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
A large proportion of SMEs – sidewalk cafes, mom-and-pop stores, small businesses – are run by women who control family businesses as well as family budgeting. This tradition of women entrepreneurs also continues to many larger companies; a recent MasterCard study revealed that women make up 31.4 percent of senior management in Vietnam. The ranking marks a wave of change and offers hope for the future of female entrepreneurs and business leaders in Vietnam. We look at the handful of women already making their mark on the country’s economy, having built multi-million-dollar businesses in Vietnam:
A former state employee, Cao Thi Ngoc Dung founded Phu Nhuan Jewellery (PNJ) – “the Tiffany of Vietnam” – in 1998, while still working for the Vietnamese government. From the humble beginnings of one store, the company has grown to employ more than 3,000 employees across 200+ stores. With reported revenues of $350 million and a profit of $23 million, PNJ designs, makes, and sells its own products. Today, Cao owns 17 percent of the company after taking it public in 2004 and continues leading it as the Chairman and CEO.
Vietnam’s first self-made woman billionaire with a net worth of $2 billion, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao took her budget airline VietJet Air public in February 2017. The airline, launched in 2011, was known for several provocative marketing campaigns, including one featuring bikini-clad flight attendants. Today, VietJet Air, with over 300 flights every day, operates 40 percent of Vietnam’s air traffic. Company President and CEO Nguyen also owns investments in HD Bank and real estate (including three beach resorts) and is the Co-founder and Chairman of Vietnamese multi-business group Sovico Holdings.
Officially established in 2009, Thai Huong’s TH Group revolutionised Vietnam’s dairy industry. The company today supplies roughly 50 percent of the milk produced in Vietnam. The group has an estimated revenue of over $200 million and is backed by Thai’s other major venture, Bac A Bank, a joint-stock commercial bank with total assets over $3 billion. Thai continues to be Chairman and a majority stakeholder in both companies.
An Economics graduate from Vietnam’s Hanoi Foreign Trade University, Nguyen Thi Viet Thanh worked with Unilever in Vietnam and several other Asian markets for six years, rising to become Senior Regional Brand Manager. Her experiences at Unilever and conversations with colleagues inspired her to set up Vietnam’s first exclusive networking platform for business leaders and experts, Caravat.com. After running Caravat for a little over three years as its CEO, she used her learnings to found a new venture Anphabe.com in 2011. Today, Anphabe is Vietnam’s largest professional jobs and connections network, with over one lakh users.
One of Vietnam’s richest and most influential business leaders, Dang Thi Hoang Yen has had a long and illustrious career at the head of one of Vietnam’s largest infrastructure developers. She set up the Tan Tao Group in 1993 after working for the Vietnamese government for 13 years. Under Hoang Yen’s leadership and guidance, the company has grown exponentially, with subsidiaries today working across multiple sectors including infrastructure, food, construction, and energy. Hoang Yen has also set up a private university in Vietnam – Tan Tao University – and was even elected to the National Assembly of Vietnam in 2011.
As Vietnam pushes towards greater economic development in the future, female business leaders such as the ones mentioned here will be at the forefront of this progress. The world can definitely learn a lesson or two from their drive, passion, and business acumen. Do you know more Vietnamese women who should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!