In Vietnam, 27% of all businesses are owned by women, according to a 2019 study. But despite the relatively high levels of ownership, Vietnamese women still face several challenges relating to social and gender norms around their ability to successfully run businesses.
The coronavirus pandemic may have negatively impacted the economic stability in general but it has helped a number of small and agile entrepreneurs adapt their business models and stay afloat, taking advantage of changing customer behaviors.
According to a 2019 paper by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, an additional US$4.5 trillion could be added annually to the total GDP of the Asia-Pacific region by 2025, just by accelerating female participation in the economy. In Southeast Asia, the aspirations of female micro-entrepreneurs run the rural economies of today.
Rural consumers account for 63% of the population and 60% of total GDP in Vietnam — representing a large market opportunity as e-commerce players have traditionally sidelined the lower-tier markets for having rudimentary logistics infrastructure that made them costly to fulfill.
Mio — a leading Vietnamese social commerce startup — brings financial independence to women in lower-tier and rural cities in Vietnam by enabling them to become micro-entrepreneurs through community selling and at the same time supporting them with training, order management, fulfillment, and logistics.
Founded in June 2020 by industry veterans Trung Huynh, An Pham, Tu Le, and Long Pham, Mio also focuses on product quality, pricing, and personalization to help resellers improve their sales and customer service. In fact, hundreds of Mio’s micro-entrepreneurs are making an extra VND2 million ($86.92) to VND8 million ($350) per month, which is substantial given that their monthly incomes are less than VND8 million ($350).
As one of the most exciting Vietnamese social commerce, Mio is leading female participation in the country, where the ”housewife reseller” market in lower-tier regions has been underserved for years, in favor of big players like Tiki and Shopee.
The social commerce startup has enabled hundreds of entrepreneurs, mostly women from 25-35 years old, to create their own professional identity, grow their businesses, increase income and become agents of change in their communities.
Empowered Mio to empower women
With the mission to bring financial independence to women in second-class cities and rural areas, Mio caught the eyes of international venture capitalists for support including a social commerce unicorn in India.
Just recently, Mio bagged an oversubscribed $1 million seed round funding co-led by Southeast Asia-focused firms Venturra Discovery and Golden Gate Ventures. For this funding round, Mio also had other participants including iSeed SEA, Gokul Rajaram, among others, support its mission. Vidit Aatrey & Sanjeev Barnwal, co-founders of Meesho, a social commerce unicorn in India, also invested and will join Gokul Rajaram in becoming advisors to Mio CEO Trung Huynh.
Mio’s seed capital will be used to invest in distribution centers, hire more people for its tech and product teams in order to build a suite of new customer acquisition and selling tools. The startup also plans to add more personalization options for its resellers and product categories.
With this fresh funding, Mio aims to partner with thousands of more agents and expand to more provinces in Vietnam, holding on to its mission of giving financial independence to women in rural areas.
Moving forward, Mio aims to win e-commerce by creating an alternate distribution channel through agents, who use social media channels such as Facebook, Zalo, TikTok, and Instagram, to reach end consumers, who are often the agents’ neighbors and families.
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Strong support system
With its success in their latest seed round, Mio got the support and mentorship from India’s social commerce unicorn Meesho. “We are excited to partner with Mio in their mission of providing affordable products to Vietnamese people by building a new distribution channel from micro-entrepreneurs, many of them women,” Meesho’s co-founder and CEO Vidit Aatrey said.
“We are very impressed by Mio’s management team, and strongly believe that CEO Trung Huynh and his team can build one of the most legendary companies in Vietnam.”
Furthermore, Meesho’s co-founder and CTO Sanjeev Barnwal expressed that they’re amazed by the product that the Mio team has built in such a short span of time. “We are impressed by their tech-first approach towards problem-solving and scaling the business,” he added.