As Vietnam emerges as a significant player on the global stage, diplomats like Greg Ohan find themselves at the nexus of transformation.
Greg, an entrepreneur and Honorary Consul for Armenia in Vietnam, represents the dynamic, younger wave of leaders driving domestic and international change. We caught up with Greg to discuss his work, his perspectives on the relationship between Vietnam and Armenia, and what the future holds for these two nations.
Diplomatic Relations: Could you elaborate on the importance of establishing an Honorary Consul for Armenia in Vietnam, and what do you think it could bring to improve relations between the two nations?
The relationship between Armenia and Vietnam has deep historical roots that extend back at least eight hundred years. As early as the 12th century, Armenian merchants frequented the waters off Tonkin, engaging in prosperous trade with the Vietnamese. This isn’t just a footnote in history; it has had tangible outcomes, such as the establishment of Armenian trading houses, schools, and even an Armenian Apostolic Church in Tonkin. Our relations experienced renewed vigor during Vietnam’s struggle for independence, notably marked by President Ho Chi Minh’s visit to Armenia in 1959.
The formal diplomatic relationship was established on July 14, 1992. Fast-forward to 2012, both nations agreed to open embassies in their respective capitals, with Armenia’s embassy opening in Hanoi in 2013. This marked a significant milestone, enhancing our positive political, bilateral, and multilateral relations.
Multicultural Lens: As someone with roles both in diplomacy and business, how do you navigate the cultural nuances between Armenia and Vietnam?
From our shared coffee culture to our mutual love for celebrating social and business occasions with Armenian vodka, wine, or even a bottle of Saigon Special, the friendly relations between our two countries have made Vietnam a second home for Armenians.
I find major similarities between Vietnamese and Armenian cultures and business practices, which, while different, are in some respects quite similar. Traditional family values and relationship-building remain at the core of daily life for both communities, in business or otherwise. In both cultures, a handshake still holds the weight of a written contract, a point that contrasts with many other European cultures.
Having spent over a decade in Vietnam as an entrepreneur and business owner, I’ve been fortunate to understand the fine line between business and diplomacy—both require a long-term view for collective community success.
Our shared history during Armenia’s Soviet era with Vietnam paved the way for manpower, educational, and cultural exchanges, which continue to this day. Over 2,000 Vietnamese students have studied in Armenian universities and colleges over the years, including members of the Vietnamese-Armenian Friendship Association (VAFA) and the Vietnamese Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO).
Global Impact: Can you discuss The Sentry’s mission and how it aligns or contrasts with your role as Honorary Consul?
As the CEO and co-founder of The Sentry, we are Vietnam’s leading social real estate platform. Our core business supports new FDI growth sectors such as outsourcing, e-commerce, and Vietnam’s rapidly growing startup and technology ecosystem. I spend most of my time mentoring existing companies and new business groups to set up, operate, and expand their operations in Vietnam, providing the physical real estate ecosystem.
I find that my role as Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in HCMC, Vietnam, aligns closely with the core principles of my own business—namely, The Sentry’s ethos of community connection and collaboration to foster trade and business through community building.
It is an exciting time to be driving change in an industry or market. Working closely with the Armenian Embassy and Ambassador in Hanoi, we discovered that my creative and technical background in design, construction, and private equity provides a synergy that helps us craft a fresh and innovative approach to what is a traditional diplomatic posting.
With 65% of the working population in Vietnam under 35, I like to think of my work as the “modern take” on the traditional diplomat, supporting the current generation while also understanding and developing the next generation of community and business leaders.
Economic Diplomacy: What trade or economic cooperation opportunities do you see between Armenia and Vietnam?
In this appointment, our focus is on three core objectives: 1. Diplomatic, 2. Business, 3. Community.
Diplomatic - Under the guidance of the Armenian Mission in Vietnam, we facilitate and support the Armenian diplomatic mission and engage with commercial organizations and nationals located in HCMC, in APAC, and abroad where necessary. We also provide consular services for the Armenian community in HCMC.
Business - We promote cross-border ties and establish and grow existing business networks between Armenia, Vietnam, and neighboring regions. We also work with the Armenian-Vietnamese community and vice versa.
Community - Within the diplomatic community, we work on philanthropic objectives such as sponsoring and organizing events like the Consular Club Gala in HCMC to raise money for mutual diplomatic causes and supporting the embassy to promote the brand “ARMENIA” in HCMC among the business professionals and diplomatic community.
Future Vision: What are some key milestones or initiatives you’re excited about for The Sentry and Armenia-Vietnam relations?
We have an exciting agenda ahead. Further to this, we are planning to finalize the first Vietnam-Armenia Trade & Technology Mission set to take place in Armenia in 2024. Entrepreneurs, investors, and government agencies from both sides are anticipated to join. Armenia and Vietnam have embarked on an ambitious path to multiply our trade-economic ties.
Armenia has a lot to offer Vietnam, from our famous brandies and wines to our delicious fruits, meat and dairy products, ICT, and much more.