By Megan Nelson
The last stop on the MIM Asia Trip was Vietnam. We stayed in Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. Vietnam is a developing country that has major growth potential, but still lacks infrastructure. The people of Vietnam are amazingly friendly and inviting. We stayed at the Caravelle Hotel downtown. Outside the hotel, thousands of motor scooters whizzed by as we attempted to cross the street without getting hit. It was an interesting obstacle and one that we had yet to encounter in Asia.
The first day was spent on a tour of the Mekong Delta. We were taken by wooden boat to a brick factory, where all of the bricks were man-made, under what could be considered a roof without walls. In the heat of southern Vietnam, it was hard to comprehend someone running the ovens that hardened the bricks. We then visited a coconut factory, where coconuts were processed by hand, from the fruit you see on the trees, into candies and cookies. Once again, we were watching hard manual labor being done by people who were in seemingly good spirits and happy to share their hard work with us. Lunch was at a local home, where we were served plates of local cuisine, including spring rolls, fish, soup, and more. Tuk tuks transported us through the jungle, along a bumpy path. Then small boats that held four people each were navigated down narrow cuts of the larger river by one small person and an oar. It was an amazing day and a great way to see the real lives of typical Vietnamese people.
The second day, we visited the War Museum. It depicted the Vietnam War, as it is known in the U.S., from the Vietnamese perspective. We were able to see tanks, helicopters, and planes used during the war, as well as many exhibits that had photos from the war. Stories were posted on the walls next to photos explaining the death and despair that was rampant during this period of time, including the lasting effects of Agent Orange. It was very sad to see the damage that was done to this beautiful country and its people, but it was an important lesson for all of us. Afterwards, a small group of people went to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was a tourist center where we were able to see how the Vietcong fought during the war. It was the other side of what was seen at the museum and really rounded out our perspective on everything that happened. The tour guides were very informative, and they led us through a small section of tunnel, which was dark, hot, and suffocating. However, it was an experience that none of us will ever forget.
The following days were spent visiting companies located in Vietnam. We visited Nike, HSBC, Starbucks, Microsoft, and Philips Lighting. The following are short summaries of those company visits.
Nike has been working with Vietnam since 1995, using them as a source country. With 50 factories and over 300,000 workers, they are producing products to meet demand throughout most of the world. Nike is looking to produce a pipeline of talent within Vietnam, ensuring more jobs and educating the workers to be more flexible and knowledgeable in different areas of the business.
Since entering Vietnam in 1995, Mercedes Benz is there to support the Vietnamese economy. Vietnam offers young, educated, hardworking employees, who can be loyal to companies who support them financially and with benefits.
HSBC has been in Saigon since 1870 and was the first foreign bank to open a local branch and incorporate their company, which happened in 2009. With a long history in the country of Vietnam, HSBC has made a name for itself in international trade, capital flows, economic development, and wealth creation.
Starbucks opened in Vietnam on February 1, 2013. There are three major competitors already in the market, but Starbucks felt like the timing was right and the market was ready for their entry. The main focus of Starbucks in Vietnam is to change the behaviors of coffee drinkers and the daily habits in the lives of Vietnamese people.
Microsoft in Vietnam is mainly focused on the front-end of the business—sales within the four mega trends: Mobility, Social, Cloud, and Big Data. Even the people in the developing regions of Vietnam are carrying multiple devices, used to connect them to the Internet and to other people.
Philips Lighting came to Vietnam in 2002. In Vietnam, Philips believes that they have a strong footprint and integration with the local society. They produce projects for the government and to enhance the lives of the people in Vietnam. Philips supports energy saving in rural areas with energy-efficient product offerings. They also install lighting in parks and along major roads for night use. Philips has even designed some of the most popularly lighted bridges in Vietnam, including the Dragon Bridge that breathes fire.