Good morning, Vietnam!

    A quick impression of the IT market of the stronghold of communism in Southeast Asia


    I recently spent five days in Vietnam participating in a trip of top managers of Russian companies, organized by the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia. The ministry’s goal was to promote Russian high-tech companies in the Vietnamese market. We visited local universities, technology parks, talked with the leaders of large companies and even visited the Academy of Sciences. Our group included people from different companies, even agricultural producers. But I, of course, will judge Vietnam from the perspective of an IT specialist. By the way, RVK invited our company CDNvideo on this trip.

    In Vietnam, many visitors from Russia. There is even a whole city of Russian oil workers, where about 1.5 thousand of our compatriots live. There are also many Russian programmers, but for some reason they do not touch the local reality. They are satisfied with cheap food and accommodation, a warm sea, good weather, and they are corny writing code for a Moscow employer. But if they paid attention to what was happening in the local technological environment and united with the Vietnamese, they could create their own global products here. We are good with design and ideas, and the Vietnamese with diligence and meticulousness.

    Here, for example, is a story about Vietnamese meticulousness. One day we went to dinner with our compatriot, who has been living in Vietnam for several years and helps Russian companies to establish ties with a local large company. Then his wife, a Vietnamese, called, and all the participants in the dinner passed each other a mobile phone and, in turn, introduced themselves so that she would no longer have doubts that her husband was in a meeting, not with the girls. By the way, we talked with her in Russian.

    “Husband and wife are like a pair of chopsticks.” Vietnamese saying

    In Vietnam, the Russian language is quite common. In the center of Hanoi, I saw an ad in capital letters saying “Welcome!” It was an ad for the center offering education services in Russia, and local people know what this phrase means from advertising without translating into Vietnamese.

    When you come to a large company, its leaders will definitely meet with you, and they speak Russian. True, some of them didn’t speak our language 10 years before, but this doesn’t interfere with almost no accent and with a large vocabulary to recall how they were studying in Moscow. Where exactly they studied, I did not specify. It is possible that in some military school: between our countries long-standing relations are in the military field.

    “When you eat fruit, remember who planted the tree.” Vietnamese proverb

    The heads of Vietnamese companies are not spoiled by attention. The arrival of top managers from abroad is an event for them. And since our trip was supported by the Ministry of Economic Development, we were met as a government delegation and a representative of Big Brother.

    When we went into the hall at a conference at a local university, everyone applauded. In general, everything was very pathos, and, as luck would have it, I forgot my suit in Moscow. I come to the largest clothing store in Hanoi - everything is designed for the Vietnamese, not a single suit fits. As a result, I found the largest jacket and trousers of the same color to it and got into them with grief in half. It turned out fine, albeit a bit crowded.


    In terms of interest in Russian business, Vietnam recalled Kazakhstan. The local market is developed a little worse than the Russian one, and when you come with your finished and beautifully packaged product, a line of people who want to sell it is built for you. In Western Europe, for example, nobody needs you. And in Vietnam during the trip at least five local companies offered their services in the sale of our products, and this is nice. Among them were found partners of 1C and 1C-Bitrix. They were Vietnamese, the owners of a local company - a system integrator, who, again, are fluent in Russian.

    They are puzzled that Russian companies are so inactive in their market. After all, the political situation that has developed in Vietnam is in our hands. All large companies (in particular, telecoms, television, IT and Internet companies) are seriously controlled by the state, which will not allow Chinese or Americans to enter the market. There is now a conflict with China over disputed territories. It’s clear with America - not so long ago there was a war. So Japanese and European companies (mostly Japanese) invest in the local market. And for Russian companies, we were told, there would be a most favored nation treatment.

    "Without an elephant and a bull is great" Vietnamese proverb

    What is the Vietnamese market like? This is 90 million people, while the population under the age of 18 is 25 million people - in Russia there are as many. So this is a growing market. The Vietnamese are not rich, but even the poorest people have a mobile phone or a cheap tablet with Internet access, and this is different from India and China, where many do not have such needs. The Vietnamese love football (their own league is very weak, so they watch European football, and you won’t believe it is Russian), they are interested in political life. In general, the information environment is similar to ours. There is great demand for content, and CDN services in Vietnam are needed. When we get there, we can get part of the market if we are not late.

    Some situations resemble the Russian market as it was ten years ago. For example, telecom operators do not want to exchange traffic with each other. We have Rostelecom, Transtelecom and three large mobile operators that exchange traffic with each other and sell the rest. In Vietnam, the operators have not yet agreed among themselves on the terms of interaction. This is clearly in the hands of independent CDN companies like us, because because of this, every major operator seems to provide CDN service itself, but it concerns only its users, and not the entire Vietnamese Internet.

    “Whoever lies in the middle does not lose a scrap of blanket.” Vietnamese saying

    In some ways, the Vietnamese are ahead of us. For example, the institute of technology parks has been successfully working for them for ten years now. And when they told me phrases like “Well, we are still far from your Skolkovo,” I preferred not to tell the Vietnamese that the Skolkovo technology park was built and opened only this month (by the way, the other day we will move there one of the first). However, we have long-standing technology parks (for example, Strogino in Moscow or IT Park in Kazan), and Skolkovo is really more interesting than Vietnamese technology parks in terms of tax incentives and investments.

    In Vietnam, we were in two local technology parks - in Hanoi and in Saigon . Each of them has 50-60 residents, of which one is the largest. In Saigon, it's Global Equipment Services, assembly production of industrial robots for Japanese companies, built at the expense of Japanese investors. And in Hanoi - FPT Software , the largest company in Vietnam that specializes in outsourcing programming. In general, there are not many programmers in the country - only 30 thousand against our 300 thousand, and the culture of offshore programming is not developed as in India or China. But FPT even has its own university:


    Technoparks moved outside the customs space of Vietnam, this is a free economic zone. So to build and maintain such a plant in Japan would probably be worth ten times more expensive. In this sense, the Vietnamese are trying to implement the same model that works in China's Shenzhen, where many local electronics manufacturers, including Huawei, come from. Their technology parks are focused on banal outsourcing, albeit technologically advanced.

    "The son of the king will be king, the son of the poor will catch crabs day and night." Vietnamese saying

    But the main advantage of Vietnam is still cheap labor of very good quality, as in Russia in 1996. I recall starting a career around this time. And the salaries were about the same - $ 150-200, and the labor market is the same - a lot of people with a good education and difficulties with work.

    In Vietnam, it is accepted that if you were hired, you must thank. One of our compatriots, who has been living there for about three years and selling Russian information systems for hotels, told me that he had experienced this on himself. He hired a Vietnamese to be a presale consultant with a salary of $ 400. After that, the relatives of the new employee gave him gifts for an amount equal to his salary for six months.

    "He took the plum - give the peach." Vietnamese saying

    Another local feature is a special attitude towards innovators. For example, one of the Vietnamese emperors, who ruled about 1 thousand years ago, as we were told, is especially revered for having invented a more productive way of growing rice.

    For the same reason, Vietnam respects the former French colonialists. Although it is believed that for many years they robbed the country, but they taught the locals to grow coffee, and now Vietnam is the second largest exporter of coffee in the world after Brazil. It seemed to me that they also looked at us as innovators, while in the West they evaluate Russia as a source of natural resources, and certainly not as a center of technology.

    "Who knows where you will find gold, and where - toad." Vietnamese saying

    We met with the management of all the largest telecoms and television companies. I hope we will work with everyone. Outside the CIS, for Russian companies there is no more understandable market than Vietnam. However, many things we still do not understand. For example, Vietnamese “yes” does not mean “yes, I agree”, but “yes, I understand.” You have to get used to it. And yet, despite socialism and state-owned companies, Vietnam has strong family and tribal ties. For you to definitely buy, there is not enough good product and friendliness. One must be immersed in this world and understand the internal structure of society. At least so many say.

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