I recently had the incredible opportunity to delve into the Vietnamese market for a client eager to expand their digital distribution practices within the broadcasting industry. The entire experience was nothing short of incredible!
Our client, who already has a proven track record in the Canadian, American, and Singaporean markets, reached out for guidance on navigating the unique challenges and opportunities the Vietnamese market offers. For those who do not know, Canada and Vietnam marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, and what a year it has been!
Laying the Foundation and the Importance of Local Connections
At the outset of this project, it was crucial for us to understand the political, cultural, technological, and economic landscape in Vietnam. This knowledge would be pivotal in effectively positioning our client within the industry. The broadcasting sector in Vietnam is predominantly government-owned, making it all the more essential to present a compelling value proposition to secure meetings with industry leaders. While I have extensive experience in landing meetings with Canadian government officials in the lobbying industry, Vietnam presented a fresh set of challenges I had yet to anticipate. For instance, it was virtually impossible to establish any contact with senior officials without going through the Trade Commission. I cannot express my gratitude enough to Thanh, our Hanoi Trade Commissioner, who played an indispensable role in our endeavour. Even though my team was well-prepared and had all the necessary translated material to avoid communication gaps, Thanh's unwavering diligence, belief in our client, and commitment to connecting us with our prospects were invaluable.
My experience in Vietnam highlighted the importance of perseverance and determination in overcoming initial setbacks and securing meetings with key stakeholders. Effective networking and diligent follow-up played a critical role in forging essential connections that would serve as a foundation for future business development efforts, which included continued networking once on the ground. I had the privilege of attending CANCHAM's 50th-anniversary event at Ros Yacht Club while in-country, where, as a pleasant surprise, I met new contacts for organizations we had already secured meetings with. Notably, our key meetings with the top players were only finalized one week before our scheduled flight dates, a common occurrence in Vietnam – another lesson learned! While being advised of this tendency ahead of time, it did not alleviate the pressure or the heat as the clock ticked down before getting on my flight; the experience was exciting, and needles to say, left me with a lasting impression.
Cultural Contrasts: Reflecting on the Vietnamese Work Culture
Throughout my time in Vietnam, I was struck by the intriguing contrast between the Vietnamese and Canadian work cultures. Locals preferred minimal planning and organization, which led to a more spontaneous approach characterized by frequent last-minute requests and meetings. Adapting to this unique work style initially posed a challenge. Still, it ultimately enriched my perspective on international work, prompting me to embrace diverse approaches and re-examine my assumptions and biases. Vietnam truly tested my ability to be flexible and adaptable in the face of unexpected challenges, and to adjust our plans as needed to meet the needs of our client and stakeholders. In retrospect, the rollercoaster of emotions accompanying this entire experience made the fabulous outcome all the more rewarding!
Interestingly, a team member born and raised in a similarly fast-paced environment in India pointed out a crucial observation that had gone unnoticed. As we stood at a bustling intersection in Ho Chi Minh City amidst the chaos of oncoming traffic, preparing to step out in front of it, (with scarcely any traffic lights, to cross a street, you must calmly walk in front of a sea of oncoming vehicles as they adapt and move around you), she urged me to observe how the Vietnamese conduct their daily lives externally, which would offer me insights into their internal business practices. This revelation struck me as absolutely brilliant; she was spot-on.
Crossing Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City
As I continued to observe while navigating the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnamese way of life could be described as busy, fast-paced, last-minute, synchronous, and marked by a creative order – which incidentally mirrored the nature of my experience conducting business there.
In summary, my time in Vietnam yielded invaluable insights and lessons that contributed immensely to my personal and professional growth. The key takeaways from this project were gaining a deep understanding of the local work culture, honing communication and adaptability skills, optimizing preparation for international projects, and embracing perseverance and delegation. While Vietnam was not my first international business venture, this unique experiences will significantly enrich my future endeavours.
How Did Things Pan Out For the Client?
Ultimately, this project proved to be a resounding success, culminating in our client meeting with three of the top Vietnamese stakeholders, one of which commands a staggering 71% market share in the country's broadcasting space. We provided a robust report, and the client is currently engaged in ongoing discussions, demos and, hopefully, will soon finalize partnership agreements. The future looks incredibly bright and promising for our client, and I am grateful to have played a part in their journey.
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