My First VinFast


The Powerful Spirit of Vietnam (slogan of the VinFast Lux SA20 Turbo, which will set you back about 1.5 billion VND ($64,602 USD)

I saw my first VinFast car!  Here’s an excerpt from the “About Us” section of the VinFast website:  VinFast is a private automotive startup backed by VinGroup – Vietnam’s largest conglomerate. This allows us to take a bold new approach to design. It was our goal from the outset to create a world-class car with a Vietnamese identity.  By inviting Vietnamese people – our future customers – to be directly involved in our designs right at the start, we turned the traditional design process on its head.

VinFast stands for:

Việt Nam (Vietnam)
Phong cách (Stylish, Ph=F)
An toàn (Safety)
Sáng tạo (Creativeness)
Tiên phong (Pioneer)

For more background information about VinFast, which was founded just two years ago, have a look at this overview.

I’ll be interested to see how Vingroup’s famous brand translates into VinFast car sales in the coming year.  There’s no shortage of competition and saying your product has a “Vietnamese identity” is no guarantee of success.  The competition is fierce.  Stay tuned!

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“Now What?” TedX Hanoi May Provide a Few Answers

now what.jpg

Here’s some information about the latest TedX Hanoi event on 19 January 2019 that will attempt to provide some answers to this very timely question.  

The signs of Vietnam’s amazing progress are all around us. Increased growth from Vietnamese companies, and increased investment from international firms, lead to better jobs and rising incomes. With a new high-rise on seemingly every corner, more and more families can afford high-quality housing, and cars to keep their loved ones safe. Increasing numbers of students are studying overseas, while private schools and local universities are rapidly innovating to keep up with this demand. Rising incomes and improved education have unleashed a burst of creative energy, evidenced in the cool  cafés, quirky restaurants, and innovative start-ups that populate Hanoi.

At the same time, these developments are uneven. The benefits of better housing, private vehicles, and private education are not shared by everyone. Air pollution has steadily worsened, and Hanoi now regularly ranks among the most polluted cities in the world. The lust for growth threatens traditions. A city once defined by its ancient temples, Old Quarter, and 1,000 years of history, now looks in many areas like any other modern Asian metropolis.

As more and more people attain the quality of life that Vietnam has been striving for, let’s take a moment to ask ourselves: Now what? How has Vietnam made this amazing progress? What direction do we need to focus on for the future? And how do we get there?

I’m happy to see this kind of discussion and debate taking place though I do think they could have had more key fields represented among their chosen speakers.  Here is the official answer to this obvious question, “How do you select the speakers for TEDxHanoi?”

The answer is not a simple one. As curators,  we read everything we can find that has to do with new ideas worth sharing, and we hear recommendations from our community. There are so many great choices, women and men with ideas worth spreading and stories worth sharing

Check out the list of speakers here.

Another question is one of follow-up and finding a way to track the short- and long-term results of this conference.  Talk is cheap.  as the saying goes, but it is an important first step.  

A word about access in a country with a nominal 2018 per capita income $2,603 ($7,882, PPP).  Either the ticket cost should be much lower or the sponsor (cash) subsidy much higher. 

As of 15 January, 92.42% of the tickets had been sold.  The early bird rate was 880,000 VND ($38) and the regular ticket cost 1,080,000 VND ($46.56).  That is not a lot of money for people of means but it is for most Vietnamese, including students.  

Here’s the budget breakdown.

  • 100 guest tickets, presumably gratis.
  • 101 early bird * 880,000 = 88,880,000 VND
  • 262 standard = 1,080,000 = 282,960,000 VND

371,840,000 VND/23,193.80 VND = $16,031.87  

16K is pocket change for the event sponsor, a company with a market capitalization of $14.03 billion, as of 16 January 2019.  Speaking of which, a smart PR move by Vingroup via Vinschool The Harmony to host this high profile event.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

The Long Arm of Vingroup, Including Education

Click on this panoramic photo for a better view. From left to right:  Vinhomes condos, shops, Vinschool & Vinmec International Hospital in Times City, Hanoi.


Vingroup is a $13.87 billion Vietnamese conglomerate whose businesses cover some of the most important aspects of human existence, including healthcare (Vinmec International Hospital), housing (Vinhomes houses, condos, and serviced apartments), education (Vinschool, VinUniversity), food (VinMart convenience stores, supermarkets), animal feed (related to food), pharmaceuticals and health food/supplements, recreation (Vinpearl, Vinpearl Land), shopping (Vincom Retail) and, most recently, transportation (VinFast). 

In other words, Vingroup has a lot of bases covered in a country whose economy is on fire with a rapidly growing middle class.  Some joke that the only item missing in this nearly cradle-to-grave approach to doing business and meeting the needs of Vietnamese consumers is a chain of funeral homes.

A 1 May 2018 article that appeared in the Nikkei Asian Review entitled Vietnam’s Vingroup drives industrialization with diversification provides an excellent overview of this strategy. 

vinhomes cau giay
This complex, in the Cau Giay District of Hanoi, is called D’Capitale.  A 110 m2 three-bedroom, two-bath condo can cost $267,544.

While some, including Vietnamese and expats, have complained about the quality of some of its businesses, including the design of its homes, for example, or the emphasis on profit maximization at the cost of green space and aesthetics in its housing and shopping complexes, the fact remains that Vingroup as a whole is extraordinarily successful and that most Vietnamese heart Vingroup. (Its stock value, which increased 83% last year, is one indication of just much investors like Vingroup.  It is because of that torrid growth that Mr. Vượng, its chairman, is now worth twice as much as Donald Trump.)

Introducing VinUniversity

logo-newerVinUniversity, in partnership with Cornell University, an Ivy League school ranked 14th among national universities, is the latest addition to the Vingroup empire.  Follow this link to read a 3 April 2018 PIE News article by Matthew Camara for which I was interviewed.  (Vingroup is also working with the University of Pennsylvania, another Ivy League institution.)

Here is an unabridged version of his questions and my answers.

1. What was your general reaction to the news that Cornell will be working with VinGroup to build a new university in Hanoi?

I was not surprised in the least. This has been in the works ever since Vingroup hired a consultant a couple of years ago to explore the possibility of cooperating with a top 50 US college or university.

2. What is Vingroup trying to accomplish here?  What does Cornell get from this (beyond the financial relationship)? How does this initiative fit with Vingroup’s other education projects?

I believe that Mr. Phạm Nhật Vượng, the chairman of Vingroup, is trying to create a world-class university and he happens to have the means with which to make that happen. I don’t think it’s about making more money. My guess is it’s more about legacy, including making a significant and lasting contribution to Vietnamese society. And, yes, a fringe benefit is that it will further strengthen Vingroup’s position as one of Viet Nam premier corporations and provide yet another highly visible means of branding Vingroup not only in Viet Nam but internationally.

What does Cornell get? In addition to the obvious financial benefit, the VinUniversity project will enable selected Cornell faculty and staff to gain valuable experience in Viet Nam in an exciting period of unprecedented growth and development. Finally, this partnership, ideally culminating in the establishment of an international standard university, will be yet another feather in Cornell’s global service cap.

How does this initiative fit with Vingroup’s other education projects? It dovetails very nicely with the nationwide network of current and future Vinschools whose high school graduates may wish to attend an in country institution of higher education such as VinUniversity.

3. How might the new “VinUniversity” impact the domestic education market and the study abroad market? Are parents looking for options to keep their kids closer to home?

If it materializes as planned, it will give Vietnamese students yet another opportunity to pursue higher education at home at modest cost, in addition to other students from the region. From the perspective of Vietnamese parents, this will have the win-win benefit of saving money (for those for whom that is important) and keeping their children closer to home during their still formative undergraduate years.

4. Having worked with many Vietnamese students and parents, what do you think their reaction will be to VinUniversity? Is the idea of going to a school named after a conglomerate going to be a turn off for them? What sort of nuances or details will VinGroup need to work out to appeal to parents/students?

Again, assuming the university is able to deliver what it promises, I think that most Vietnamese parents and students will welcome VinUniversity. The entity behind it is one of the most well-known corporations in Viet Nam, including in the education sphere, e.g., Vinschool.  The partnership with Cornell University, an Ivy League institution that ranks 14th among national US universities, according to the latest US News & World Report ranking, is unique, and will certainly make VinUniversity even more attractive.

5. RMIT has been in Vietnam for 17+ years, Fulbright University plans to open soon, the Vietnamese-German University is here now, Broward College operates a partnership program.  How many international (or, in this case, semi-international) universities can Vietnam sustain?  Is the market set to become congested now that RMIT’s non-compete agreement has expired?  

As the ability to afford international standard higher education continues to grow and with large numbers of Vietnamese students studying overseas, about 150,000 in the top five host countries alone, I think that it will be a while before supply meets demand.

6. An education industry source of mine told me that study abroad will remain a must-have for wealthy families until an accessible, regional option becomes available (i.e., not NUS because it’s too selective) that families perceive as having the same quality as an overseas school. He speculated that Fulbright University might be able to do that. Do you agree with his premise and, if you do, could VinUniversity fill that niche?

I agree and believe that VinUniversity could very well fill that niche, perhaps even better and faster than Fulbright University Vietnam, especially in view of the partnership with Cornell and the amount of money Vingroup is willing to invest in the short-term. From what I’ve seen, Vingroup is fully prepared to its money where its vision is.

Peace, MAA