Businessman Tran Ba Duong: "We are stuck in the movement but forget the core values of Entrepreneurship"

Chairman of Truong Hai Auto Corporation, General Director of Dai Quang Minh JSC considers that encouragement for entrepreneurship is the right thing to do. However, along with the encouragement, there should be the orientation and clarification of each sector. Besides, it is necessary to redefine the concept of "Entrepreneurship".

Never in history is the word "Entrepreneurship" repeated as much as recently. Entrepreneurship becomes the cliché of the youth and used much increasingly at seminars and on media. The spirit of entrepreneurship is also spread strongly when the leaders at the provinces, cities, localities, etc. had the common statement of entrepreneurship, for example in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Ben Tre, etc. Especially, 2016 is also chosen as the year of "Start-up nation".
However, there are recent opinions that today start-ups only lie in encouragement with messages, such as "Screw it, let's do it" or "Stay hungry, stay foolish". Actually, the entrepreneurs are searching vigorously for the way out, and many people have fallen to not be able to keep carrying on again.

Up till now, key word "Entrepreneur" is often mentioned for the youth, the ones start to step in business. In your opinion, is it correct to understand the word "Entrepreneur" such way?

Previously, talking about entrepreneurship, we often interpret the common meaning which is starting a business. However, in business world, people always hope to venture new ideas, do something more different. Therefore, entrepreneurship should be understood in a more general way.

Entrepreneurship - should not be limited in starting a business, but should be generalized and imply encouragement. In the situation that Vietnam economy is still feeble and needs regional and international integration, an enterprise expanding its business scope, new business lines should also be called an entrepreneur. Or an individual in the enterprise who begins to lead with a new post is also considered an entrepreneur. To the businessmen, the nation, the economy or a big company, encouragement to entrepreneurship is the inevitable trend.

Is it right that the entrepreneur mindset has bonded closely with your business?

To me, the first milestone is the decision to choose entrepreneurship. Graduating in 1982, I chose to be a public servant. Then, I worked for Dong Nai Auto Repair State-owned Enterprise; this profession required a skilled engineer. And I had to teach myself to repair, to do the job that I didn't learn at school. To be able to repair broken cars, it was a big challenge for an engineer with mere theories and no practical knowledge. I have made it right and become a credited engineer and was trusted by the market, customers, and colleagues.
Up to 1986, in auto repair business, the competition between private enterprises and state-own ones were so fierce. With the business distinctiveness, the advantages come to the private garages. So our company became workless. Facing this incident, the state started to contract the factories. Obviously, I became the director of a contracted garage working as a private garage. I started my business since then.
Till 1996, the company was dismissed. I started Truong Hai Company and did my own business. But then, I did it differently. Previously, the car owners brought the cars to the garage for repair, now there were other companies importing cars for us to repair. Gradually, we imported old cars to repair and sell in our own terms. It's the end of the milestone of entrepreneurship.
The new milestone in scope and business line was from 2001, Truong Hai changed to sell and repair old cars to assembling new cars. With the factory in Bien Hoa, I soon recognized that it would not go anywhere in the long terms. With my long goal, Truong Hai has to develop its scope big enough to compete with the foreign enterprises as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, etc. So in 2003, I decided to give up what have been built in Bien Hoa to move the factory to Chu Lai. To me, moving to Chu Lai is also entrepreneurship.

The next milestone is ASEAN integration in 2018 when auto import and export tax is zero. This is a hug competition between the domestic and international auto companies. I consider 2018 is a new important milestone in my entrepreneurship.

 So what have you prepared for this next big thing?

Truong Hai has prepared well for the competitive competence improvement project at every area including showrooms, dealers, distribution, and manufacture. Regarding manufacture, we determine to persuade Mazda to partner and construct the factory with the capacity of 100,000 vehicles per year. The markets will be Vietnam and partly import to ASEAN countries.

Along with these projects are the component factories to reach the localization rate of over 40%, and logistics centers, seaports.

Not only with Mazda, we are also cooperating with Hyundai to manufacture trucks and buses with Hyundai and THACO brands. The markets will also be Vietnam and import to ASEAN countries, including 20,000 buses from 12 to 45 seats; 100,000 trucks per year.

Even KIA is implementing the research at Vietnam and exporting to ASEAN. To me, 2018 is a big and harsh milestone. In integration, will Vietnam be able to build our auto industry and what will THACO become? The whole society will look at how THACO will improve its auto industry?

In Vietnam, encouraging entrepreneurship appears to only focus on small enterprises, emphasize in supporting them but "forget" the roles of big enterprises?

As I said, the concept of entrepreneurship not only encourages the new businessmen but also encourages big companies and businessmen. The spirit of entrepreneurship, let's think it in a more comprehensive way to not only help the youth to find their ways to grow their own selves and businesses; and both for the enterprises which are striving to expand their business scope. The enterprises which have already succeeded in some industries will continue to succeed in new other industries.

And so, the structure of the economy must contain the corporations big enough to compete, lead, and has the caliber to be the flagship for smaller enterprises during integration. All take part in the value chain and create real competitive products. The number of enterprises required by the government is reasonable, but the quality of those will also be crucial. Such quality can only be obtained when the structure and system of the enterprises is really standardized and generates competition.

As a leading corporation in the auto industry, how have you supported the small enterprises?

Let me give you these figures, Truong Hai has 288 material suppliers and spare part manufacturers, 25 transport enterprises, 68 selling and repair dealers. Since 2003, every year, we add to the system 24 new enterprises. If Truong Hai can make it after 2018, this figure will become bigger. The total number of official employees is over 15,500. Truong Hai's after-tax revenue this year is more than 3 billion USD. While the country GDP is over 200 billion USD, ours accounts for 1.5% of GDP.

I have organized many seminars to invite the enterprises into Chu Lai. I have presented and explained a lot about developing supporting industries. I also promised that for anyone who has the will and efforts, I will support them to collaborate with manufacturers having foreign technologies and to be component suppliers for THACO. Although there are not so many results, I can see that nowadays, mostly youth are inclined to do business in IT, real estate, and services, but not manufacture. Before the business day 13 October, this thought minds me somehow.

So, Vietnam start-ups seem to lack concrete orientations?

We have to admit that why so many nations without advantages can develop? Let take South Korea as an example. Tens of years ago, they were poorer than Vietnam. But now, they have become a strong nation with all business lines and now they can compete equally with Japan, even United States. Or in Thailand, to this day, we are still worrying that during the 2018 integration, cars and other goods from Thailand will flood Vietnam.

They clearly determine which industries they could do and base on such industries to develop other industries. In the economy, there must be big enterprises as the leading point, but there are also small enterprises. And all of them have to be organized and structured in specialized groups.

For large foreign enterprises, when they do better, they find it necessary to call for small businesses working with them. Let's take the example of a story, in which a man opened a noodle shop very successfully. If in France, people will come to help him to open more noodle shops, they will together supply raw materials for the shop: noodle, chili, etc. to support each other for mutual development. In Vietnam, if someone opens a noodle shop successfully, there will be an exactly same noodle shop next door a few days later.

Many criticisms that start-ups are currently only stops at encouragement by the messages ...

Encouragement for entrepreneurship is the right thing to do. However, along with the encouragement, there should be the orientation and clarification of each sector. Besides, it is necessary to redefine the concept of "Entrepreneurship". Also, it is necessary to determine the context of integration, don't queue like "all opening the noodle shop", we must have the assignment and cooperation to create values. Everyone is assigned and has their interests. It's better than the competition among us which pulls us down and ultimately, nobody gets anything.

All of Vietnam economic sectors are the same as in other countries. Where is the efficiency, what are the competitive advantages can be the natural advantages of the economy. But the bigger advantage is the spirit coming from the will of the businessmen community, businesses and government policy.

South Korea, Japan or the nearest one, Thailand, they all have succeeded. Do you think that our Vietnam still has its opportunity?

For an economy and a country, the challenges and opportunities are always intertwined. Let's consider opportunity as something that we will do better than yesterday. In ASEAN, Vietnam and Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are in the bottom. In my opinion, the chances we will rise to the top are completely possible. So first, let's strive for it and we absolutely have a chance to be at the top in ASEAN.

For the young people who start to begin their business, what advices do you want to give them?

In the context that the country promotes entrepreneurship, our youth should do it with creativity and business research. One of the guideline is when you have good ideas, determination, and planning, look for large enterprises with financial and management experience for counseling support.

But I must warn the young people to always identify that business is hard. If you have errors, you have to pay! Enthusiasm is necessary but in parallel with caution. Many successful entrepreneurs in the past that only had one wrong step lose everything. Entrepreneurs are to take risks but it is the best not to let risks happen. Saying so is not that I never make mistakes, but I have realized my mistakes to correct them and prevent mistakes to occur when it is too late. That is the guiding principle for doing business, for the head of a business.

In the context of increasingly fierce competition, a different perspective on entrepreneurship in the direction of joint ventures and cooperation is a smart move which is more likely to succeed. I also recommend that those who are working in big companies should practice the mindset of a leader. When the companies expand and develop, they will choose you as the leader of their subsidiary companies. Then, you are also considered entrepreneurs.


An entrepreneur once said, "With the start-ups, the problem is not money", but other businessmen recommended, "Do not expect to start a business without money". How about your view on money in startups?

Doing business requires the minimum amount, long ago called the capital. I insist that no money, no business. But the story here is that when you start out with nothing, then where is the capital? You could think of ideas, but to implement it, you have to have money. Money can be accumulated, just go to work, then you will have the money.

But starting a business now with the accumulated money will take a long time. My view is that if you have ideas, willpower, determination, and plans, seek for people with money, with management experience to work together. Yet, today many young people are too confident, while the majority of ideas are still vague and impractical.

Listen to the advices, don't be too hasty. Otherwise, you will fail 99%.



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