Robin Lim Fang Min, a co-founder of Singaporean startup MadeReal, approached us recently to let us know why her healthy food technology startup is expanding to Vietnam.
Focused uniquely on delivering a healthy, high-quality snack experience based on your dietary preferences, MadeReal has generated a loyal following in Singapore. It now has its eyes set on Vietnam, given the emerging trend of healthy eating among millennial Vietnamese. MadeReal is launching operations in Vietnam with the development of the Tet Box, featuring a variety of granolas, nuts, and dried fruits.
We had the chance to get Robin’s perspective on doing business in Vietnam from her Singaporean background and why her company has decided to launch operations in Vietnam, rather than somewhere else in Southeast Asia.
If you’re interested in trying out their Tet Box product, use the code VietceteraXMR. Thanks to Robin for offering our readers a special discount!
What encouraged MadeReal to expand from Singapore to Vietnam?
We see a huge opportunity in the Vietnam market. On the demand side, we see a growing awareness of a balanced lifestyle. There is a growing community of globalized Vietnamese. Many have grown up abroad or lived abroad, returning to Vietnam. Or many Vietnamese have studied English and are consuming English-language media at rates higher than other Southeast Asian countries. They bring with them their westernized palates and concepts of healthy eating. However there is a huge gap in supply. While Vietnam has no shortage of agricultural land and producers, they have yet to catch on to these new trends in demand. That is where we see the opportunity to bridge the gap in demand and supply, while leveraging the infrastructure of farming and production that already exists.
We used Singapore as a testing bed to refine the product. Now that we have a validated concept, we’re confident in capturing the Vietnamese market.
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What were your first impressions of Vietnam? Can you break them down separately from personal and professional perspectives?
From a personal point of view, at first sight, Ho Chi Minh City seemed like any other Southeast Asian city. It was only through my interactions with people who lived and worked in Ho Chi Minh City did I start to realize the massive undercurrent of change. The city is in chrysalis and under the rundown exterior, the city pulsates with a roaring energy.
Professionally, it took me awhile to understand the opportunities here in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s such a dynamic market and changes happen so quickly. I heard a funny analogy when I first arrived, that the traffic in Vietnam is like a river: go with the current and let it flow around you. I think it applies to doing business in Vietnam too. You have to be adaptable and fluid.
Do you know any other Singaporean companies that are thinking about Vietnam?
I think that Vietnam is quickly growing to become an obvious market for startups in this region. I wouldn’t be surprised if more startups, especially Singaporean startups, hop on the bandwagon.
Who were some of the first people in the startup community in Vietnam that gave you some ideas to think about?
One of my first contacts in Vietnam was Hao from the Vietcetera team. He has been a great friend and mentor for my work in Ho Chi Minh City. His work with Vietcetera has helped our team gain a better understanding of the tone of the “new Vietnam” for a global audience, especially for myself coming from Singapore. It has given me a different perspective on modern culture and doing business in Vietnam. Many people I have met, not just in the startup scene, seem to have this incredible drive and spirit. Almost as if they feel a personal responsibility to shape the city around them. It made me realize the potential of this city. I can’t wait to be a part of it.
Based on your experience so far, what have been some of the challenges of launching operations in Vietnam?
The first challenge was unlearning everything that I know about doing business in Singapore. Having started out in a nearly utopian business environment, we took a lot of things for granted. However the one thing that helped us was our relationship with local partners who we could trust and work with.
Any learnings or experiences from your time working in Vietnam yet?
I suppose this learning wasn’t from Vietnam in particular, it had more to do with our decision to test out Vietnam. Before making this decision, I spent three months flying back and forth to Ho Chi Minh City to “fact find”. I built up my network, nurtured relationships and pitched countless of times to anyone who would listen to me and give feedback. Everyone talks about “Just do it”, but perhaps through the countless mistakes I’ve made throughout my entrepreneurship journey, I forgot this universal motto. The lessons learned made me wiser, but ironically it also made me shy. I would say this experience has re-taught me that I would never know if i never try. We’ve taken the leap of faith, now we’re hoping for the best.
If you’re interested in trying out their Tet Box product, use the code VietceteraXMR for a promotion for Vietcetera readers at https://madereal.vn/pages/tet-box.