Our guest for episode 15 is Leon Cai, Regional Director of Enterprise Singapore, a government agency championing and supporting Singaporean enterprise development, innovation, transformation, and globalization. Having established its presence in HCMC for more than 25 years, Enterprise Singapore has accumulated all the insights needed to develop their bilateral relationship with Vietnam as trade and industry continues to evolve within the country's borders.
One of the most notable bilateral projects between Vietnam and Singapore is the Vietnam Singapore industrial parks, which have created more than 270,000 jobs and attracted foreign investment of more than 14 billion VND! There are also currently more than 2000 Singaporean projects in 43 of Vietnam’s 63 provinces.
Vietnam as a destination for investment
According to Leon, Vietnam has always been one of the top investment destinations for Sinapogeran companies. First, because of our proximity and second, because both countries share similar cultures. The pro-business policies from the government along with the free trade agreement and especially resilient labor force here also make Vietnam an attractive destination for investment.
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According to Leon, many companies view Vietnam as a homogenous market. But it's important to acknowledge that with each different region, you need to adapt your business strategy: “it's never one-size-fits-all.” His last piece of advice is “Bạn, Bàn, Bán.” Make friends before you talk about business over a meal, and then afterward, that's when you sign the deal. In Vietnam, it’s all about building relationships with people.
Four sectors in Vietnam evolving rapidly
1) Lifestyle and Consumers: Vietnam has a fast-growing middle class, so Singaporean brands are always looking for ways to capture them when entering the market.
2) Manufacturing: Vietnam especially is doing a great job with free trade agreements (EVFTA and CPTBD), which has drastically strengthened Vietnam as a manufacturing hub. Singaporean manufacturers have begun to consider moving to Vietnam to set up their manufacturing bases, or even to offer their industry 4.0 solutions to enhance the efficiency of manufacturers here.
3) Urban solutions and Smart Cities: Vietnam is experiencing a rate of urbanization faster than ever before. Even the government has been pushing to diversify energy sources that are renewable, green and solar, etc.
4) Startups and Innovation: Governmental policies are becoming increasingly proactive in promoting entrepreneurship with their plans to launch national startup and innovation support centers around the country. This positive push has helped increase foreign investors’ confidence (especially those in Singapore) looking to enter Vietnam's market.