Let's start a business in Hanoi

Trip Start Feb 10, 2014
Trip End Mar 08, 2014

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, February 18, 2014



I have to admit that I prefer Hanoi over Saigon for several reasons. Hanoi is where the exotic old mixes with modernism in a different way. The best part of town is "The Old quarter", with its warren of streets. Rather than destroying old buildings to raise modern new ones, here you notice that restoring at least the outer fašade of a building ensures that the city keeps its charm. The narrow streets now swarm with 1000's and 1000’s of scooters. This sounds bad however there must be a law re noise and exhaust emissions as engine noise is not so much part of it all, exhaust smell is almost absent. However, it would be to their advantage to follow China’s example of allowing only electric scooters in the major cities.

As I have been in sales/marketing  most of my life you tend to look at commerce in a different way. I touched upon this a few days ago. If a person wants to start a business in Europe or Australia one can call assistance by contacting the Chamber of Commerce who will supply a demographics report and advises if a certain business is sustainable within a certain area, town or km2.  Here things are obvious done in a very different way.

Vietnam is a communist country. To the visitor who has travelled in communist countries prior to the 90’s this style of communism is very different. As with the Eastern bloc countries there was no such thing as free trade and every business was ultimately owned by the government.  (imagine a country entirely filled with public servants (Dutch: ambtenaren)) no wonder nothing much was happening and economic growth  was a word absent from the dictionary. Since the 90’s things has changed and free commerce is now allowed.  Since then everyone wants to make money and the whole country went on tilt.  (yesterday I spoke about this to my friend Minh Hoang of Off-road Vietnam motorcycles who I have known for four years; he agreed with totally and pointed to another example down the street) So let’s create a scenario.

The motto for this story is  Staying Alert!

We have a busy street. Someone gets an idea to start, say, a barber shop.  The shop is doing well and that is noticed by someone else, who will  – wait for it—start one right next door.  People walk by and see that both shops are servicing clients so here come number three.  Within a year there are  7 barber shops with 100 meters nobody does much business. Now, take the large covered markets. (one day I will try to take some pics) Everyone has a small cubicle of 1 meter wide and two meters deep and--- stack their goods 2 to 2.5 meters high.  The walking space between the traders is less than a meter wide. When you walk into an area where they sell, let’s say underpants. You will  find row after row after row of underpants sellers who have stacked them  2 meters high and sell exactly  the same type, brand, colours as all the other traders.  The mind boggles.  They don’t even have an idea that perhaps if they create a point of difference between there neighbours they may attract more attention. The result is that when you walk through the market all the young girls and occasional boys who run these place don’t look up as they are busy with their phone games, I kid you not, this applies to 90 % of them. The older people who run their stalls are so bored that many of them are sitting (or laying down) with their eyes closed. The only ones still trading are the once who stay alert- Darwin would probably call that natural selection as well. You see this going on both in the markets but also in the streets as nearly all shops have open fronts.  Every large market has a food section where exactly the same thing is happening, however some people are waking up and make themselves stand out by modernizing and colour coordinating their stands and make the staff wear uniforms.    The main issue is that the people have just come out of a system where for many generations you were not allowed or no need to think for yourself and had to follow what the system told you to do. Then, when all of a sudden free trade is allowed everyone is thrown into the deep end. The few who understand know how it is done are the first to start, and the rest which is the majority just copies the idea without doing research.  For me an interesting concept to observe while I am here.  Further more because all this trading is not bound by strict rules you can buy any “brand” you want. Cartier, Omega, and other “Swiss”  watches and any brand of expensive brand clothing or shoes, not a problem, but 90% of it is fake. 

Starting a selling business in Vietnam - no not for me.
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Rob on

And the fun thing is, that you see the same thing happening in Shanghai etc., India and even at...The world famous Black Market in Beverwijk! :-)

Then again, competition has it dark side too... In the end, Man will over- compete, the whole thing heats up, melts down, and the whole thing starts all over again.

Eddie on

Yes iTS mostly about copyright. The painting on the leeft of the Hmong girl was raken by me, painted in large in Hanoi, and now in a slightly different version in your blog. That is almost more than a coincedence Richard.

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