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More than three months have passed since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China. As of 17:00 on 27 March 2020, the official worldwide count of the infected stood at 540.418 cases, with 24.423 deaths. In Vietnam, the number of positive cases has risen to 153.
The pandemic has struck the world economy a big blow. According to the latest estimates of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam, domestic airlines will suffer a drop in revenues of about VND 25,000 billion ($1 billion). Estimated losses of the tourism industry stand at about US $7 billion. Electronic, textile and footwear production lines are also heavily affected due to the shortage of raw materials.
Sweeping travel and business restrictions present domestic companies with new challenges, forcing them to adapt on the fly or face bankruptcy. Caught flat-footed, many traditional businesses are scrambling to keep operations running. For most, the only choice is to pivot to a remote business model while consolidating existing technological resources.
Alive to the threat posed by the bruising pandemic, Hung Dinh, Founder and CEO of technology companies JoomlArt and Designbold, and Chairman of Venture Capital Fund VIC Partners quickly made the decision for all his staff to work from home. In Vietnam, remote working is much less common than in the West, he argues. It is only now that the outbreak has put businesses on the brink of closure that the country has embarked on the nationwide work-from-home experiment.
The strategic direction set out by the Ministry of Information and Communications for traditional businesses and SMEs in Vietnam is to speed up the application of Industry 4.0 (technology such as cloud, internet of things, artificial intelligence).
Anticipating the difficulties many local businesses will face while transitioning, on 9 March 2020 Hung Dinh established a Facebook group called Vietnam Remote Workforce (VRW). His goal is to share expert knowledge and digital products and services essential for teleworking.
In just one day, the VRW group attracted nearly 4,000 businesses, including Vietnam’s leading technology companies such as Designbold, ELSA Speak, KiotViet, Base, Gotit, 1Office, LadiPage, TopCV, Haravan, Printgo, Matbao and Nhanhoa, among others.
To date, the group has welcomed more than 4,500 members, including business owners, founders and senior executives in both tech companies and traditional businesses. VRW has also attracted the attention of many national news agencies.
On 25 March 2020, the Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung signed Directive No.16/CT-BTTTT on the implementation of prevention and control of Covid-19. Acting on the directive, which emphasizes the role of technology in fighting the spread of the virus, VRW has invited the community to establish 50 best digital working tools.
The board is chaired by Hung Dinh (VRW Founder), Tony Le (Head of UI / UX – BeGroup, Founder of Eggcademy), Tuan Vo (Remote Software Engineer, F-secure Finland), Tung Tran (Founder of Cloud Living and TK Media) and Thao Le (QA Leader – Tinhvan Group, Product Manager – VP9.vn).
Hung Dinh brings a wealth of experience to VRW. His open source CMS (content management system) platform supports over 400,000 members working entirely online, of which 30% are freelancers from Vietnam, with a monthly revenue of about $400,000. For the past four years, the platform has been managed by a team of two employees. Furthermore, he has the experience in managing 800,000 clients, 30-80 employees and collaborators from both in and outside the country on one single platform for process efficiency.
Operating as a non-profit business community, VRW sees its mission in supporting Vietnamese businesses on the road to digital transformation. The initial operating costs were covered by Hung Dinh’s personal investment of VND 200 million.
Recently, VRW has launched Remote.vn–a website designed to provide businesses in Vietnam with free access to the cutting-edge distance learning and remote working tools. It will also make available manuals on setting up and maintaining a remote office, and guidance on running a successful online business. VRW also aims to raise awareness of local technology companies with outstanding products and services.
The project is now working as a non-profit operation, funding is being used towards social media campaigns, advertising, branding and marketing to reach and support more businesses, as well as covering personnel costs and maintaining the website and Facebook page.
Not just providing practical values for traditional businesses and local startups, the project also aims to raise awareness of local technology companies with outstanding products and services. VRW serves the Vietnamese government as a timely solution for COVID-19 pandemic prevention.