Interview: Ms Tran Thi Lam

     Ms Lam: 2nd from the right;


 “Entrepreneurs capitalize on uncertainty rather than avoid it, they create simplicity where others
see comp...

“Entrepreneurs pursue opportunities with enormous disciplines. They not only are alert enough to
Investment in high-tech is not accustomed to Vietnamese entrepreneurs in Vietnam as it takes
long time to break even. Thou...
Same as Bill Gate and other drop outs, she is a billionaire but has not graduated from University.
However, like Bill Gate...
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Entrepreneur Mindset Vietnam Ms Lam Case


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Entrepreneur Mindset Vietnam Ms Lam Case

  1. 1. 2007 ENTREPRENEURSHIP & NEW VENTURE CREATION Interview: Ms Tran Thi Lam Ms Lam: 2nd from the right; Nguyen The Vinh 12/3/2007
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION “Entrepreneurs capitalize on uncertainty rather than avoid it, they create simplicity where others see complexity, and they embrace the learning that comes from taking calculated risks. They recognize that when opportunities are fleeting, it is sometimes more expensive to be slow than to be wrong”i Currently, Vietnam has many entrepreneur like Mr. Pham Trung Cang, founder of Tan Dai Hung Plastic company, he also a founder of ACB (Asia commercial bank), Mr. Phan Quoc Cong-chairman and CEO of ICP (international consumer products), owner of X-men brand or Mr. Ly Quy Trung-owner of Pho 24 chain. However, the author thinks that Ms Tran Thi Lam is one of the most prominent entrepreneurs because she has shaped the motorbike market in Vietnam and now, she is the one who enters in high-tech business which is commonly dominant by foreign companies. Born in a very poor family at Tinh Gia Commune, Quang Ngai Province, one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam, Ms Lam now is chairwoman of such companies as Hoa Lam Kymco, Vietnam Thuong Tin Bank and Vietmicro Corporation. Her asset is millions of dollars. Based on the pool of 10 entrepreneurs, the author reasons that Ms Lam is worth interviewing because she is the leader of one of the most famous and successful companies in automobile industry in Vietnam. She is also the leader of a very few private and joint-stock banks in Vietnam. However, the most critical reason is that she is the very first high-tech manufacturer in Vietnam to produce micro chip and her utmost vision is to contribute in making ‘Silicon Valley’ of Vietnam. Last but not least, she has known how to make money since she was 6 year-old, and she has started her business with 2 ‘bare hands’ SEEK NEW OPPORTUNITIES The author found out that Ms Lam knows how to seek new opportunities and to do it passionately. This is one characteristic of the habitual entrepreneurs. “Habitual entrepreneurs stay alert, always looking for the chance to profit from change and disruption in the way business is done. Their greatest impact occurs when they create entirely new business model” Ms. Lam has strong emotional intelligence to identify all the potential opportunities, at any time and everywhere. Being born in very poor land during Vietnam War, since 6 year-old, she was given two eggs but instead of eating like her siblings, she tried to feed these 2 eggs into chicken at the neighbored and feed up chicken to make herd and then she exchanged to pigs & cows. When the war broke out heavily when she was 11 year-old, she found out there was shortage of foodstuff in the highland and surplus in the lowland, she traded by hiring people to carry goods from lowland to highland and vice verse. When she came to HCM City 1st time in 1980, she recognized that there was un-met need of aloe wood (her local specialty) so she brought aloe wood to produce incense to export for accumulation. Being sharp at the age of 33 in 1990, a mature age of a woman, she saw there would be big demand of motorcycle and she started to import second-hand motorbikes from Taiwan (instead of importing from Japan like others) and sell like hot cakes. Since then, she started assembling motorbikes in Vietnam with CKD (complete knock down) imported from DAELIM – Korea 2
  3. 3. ACT ON OPPORTUNITIES “Entrepreneurs pursue opportunities with enormous disciplines. They not only are alert enough to spot opportunities, but make sure that they act on them.” In the above references, Ms Lam has been always pursuing the opportunities to be recognized, and find anyway to make them come true, despite of many threats and un-certainty. She made deal from highland to lowland during the war through borders as that was the opportunity for her and she has to act. When she imported the second-hand motorbikes from Korea, she bought additional spare-parts and put them in the containers to assemble in Vietnam. However she has not known that she was liable for import tax as they were not in the customs clearance form. She made friend with a Korean and offered him a house in exchange to take her to Korea. She went to Korea with two of her technical men; she bought land and set up a small assembly line there. The second hand motorbikes now become new and shipped to Vietnam. Again, it was very tough for Korean motorbikes as Vietnamese consumers only like Japanese. To persuade markets to use Korean motorbikes and competed with Japanese made motorbikes, she was ready to give 50% deferred payment to buyers. She was one of the first manufacturers to sell on credit. Business at the renovation (doi moi) was not easy, the new giant was coming. To compete with Samsung Trading (a subsidiary of Samsung, specializing in trading) a Korean nationality in Korea, she has prepared a quota of 8,000 sets of CKD per month and use 5,000 to order Daelim while the whole nation at the time had only quota for 6 000 sets, there was no room left for Samsung, that was a competitive advantage. That goes without saying, she won the deal with Daelim (South Korea). TARGETTING THE BEST OPPORTUNITIES “The habitual entrepreneurs pursue only the very best opportunities and avoid exhausting themselves and their organization by chasing after every option”. They establish strategy as base to consider different opportunities and the strategy must be valid for long-term. They control potential for downside losses by always considering exit strategy in worst case and preserve upside potential. When importing second-hand motorbikes from Korea, her exit strategy was that in case she could not sell, she might come back to her countryside and ask her fellow-countrymen to ride as motorbike-taxi without any loss. To save time and resources to start new business of micro-chip, she has agreed to sell to Kymco Taiwan her shares in Hoa Lam Company Ltd. to become Hoa Lam – Kymco join-stock Company. She has been preparing ideas to set up micro chip factory for 7 years and when it is ripe in terms of investment law, encouragement in high-tech, she has set up the company and deal with the American company to buy out the whole factory. FOCUS ON ADAPTIVE EXECUTION “Entrepreneurs focus on execution-specifically, adaptive execution.” Ms Lam is ready to gain new knowledge to which she may be accustomed. She is proactively prepared to search for new changes. 3
  4. 4. Investment in high-tech is not accustomed to Vietnamese entrepreneurs in Vietnam as it takes long time to break even. Though high-technology is very difficult for her because she even has not yet graduated from university, she is very ambitious to enter. She cannot speak English but she has prepared to negotiate very successfully with Korean, Taiwanese and American. She always tries to search for advantages in all scopes. She does not know how complicated the leadership is, what the motivation is about, but she knows how to get things done by talented managers. Hoang Anh Tien, championship in Robocon in Asia Pacific, for example now works for her in micro chip team. To the experience of the author in private firm (he is currently working for a fund manager), he knows that other entrepreneurs care much about cost and are short term, they try to embrace thing and not delegate to others. It is totally different from Ms Lam who knows how to empower her people. ENGAGE ENERGIES OF EVERYONE IN THE DOMAIN “Entrepreneurs engage the energies of everyone in their domain. They involve many people-both inside and outside the organization-in their pursuit of an opportunity” For Ms Lam, she chooses carefully every stake-holder. Once starting, mutual belief can keep on long time. She conveys her vision to stake-holders; when she imported Daelim motorbikes from South Korea, she trained her agents and distribution network the reasons they should sell Daelim and she provided them with benefits for business implementation. To her, relationship is very important for business implementation as information is valuable type of capitals. Information can be gathered from all sources of relations, and screened by entrepreneur sharp mind. By any means, she established her relationship with talented people, prospective clients as well as government cadres for future usage. She reasons that ‘No one can do everything alone’. She emphasized the importance to get support from capable staffs so she provided shares to her key staffs. LEARNING POINTS It is interesting to learn that she starts her business from small and grow them later. She thinks that she has to do something for her countryside in particular and for society in general, in addition, she wants to share with her stake-holders too. When she deals with other partners, she always puts herself and talks in terms of other’s interest. She simply thinks that understanding the partners’ needs will help her propose appropriate solution for long term cooperation. She applies what is said in the book of Dale Carnegie’s golden book “How to win friends and influence people” With strong self-confidence and belief, complexity will become simplicity. Ms Lam reasons that it is easy to build 100 storey building by get things done rather than she does it herself. She sees things with various views to simplify and make it happen. That is why she can set up a micro-chip factory and export the first shipment nobody has ever done before. It is of paramount importance to build and maintain her reputation as it is reliable to stake- holders. Relationship is sometimes more important than assets in hand. 4
  5. 5. Same as Bill Gate and other drop outs, she is a billionaire but has not graduated from University. However, like Bill Gate, she continues studying all her life by expansion to new business and learns from talented around her. During the interview, the author asked if she was working with financial institutions like fund manager or corporate bankers to raise more capital for her investment. She reasons that she does not want to risk other money if her business fails. Though she has millions of dollars, she has not dealt with any bank to ask more loans (but surprisingly, she bought the bank). The author thinks that if she knows the cost of equity is more expensive than debt, she might think again. (The author recommended her to think over this issue) Creating good business is more important than implementation. Once business idea is good, it is not difficult to find out stake-holder to carry out! Her thinking is somewhat different from the theory which is backed up with thousands of research that implementing a strategy is much more difficult than creating it. The author assumes that it takes time to prove her track record in doing business in the next coming years. REFERENCE i :The entrepreneur mindset, Harvard Business school press, Edition 2000, page 2 ii: The interview with Ms Tran Thi Lam at 9 AM, 10/11/2007 5