In the spotlight: Some prominent women entrepreneurs in Vietnam
In Vietnam, women run 1/4 of the country’s total businesses. And it is seen that Vietnamese women entrepreneurs bring in similar average annual revenue as men, and are growing at a steady pace. Interestingly, a 2020 report by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed that 1/3 of women-owned or -led businesses in Vietnam mentioned access to finance as a top barrier to doing business.
But on a clear note, over the past three decades, Vietnam has shown steady signs of progress in increasing its number of women entrepreneurs.
We bring you face-to-face with some prominent women entrepreneurs in Vietnam.
> Nguyen Thi Huyen, CEO, Vinasamex
In 2013, Nguyen Thi Huyen took over her family’s small star anise factory in Lang Son. Her sole ambition was to build Vietnam’s leading organic spice company over the next decade. By 2019, her family-run business Vinasamex had expanded into organic cinnamon production. When she took over the family business, the spices produced by the company were only sold in markets within Asia. It was a visit to an international spice fair in 2012 that gave her the idea to go global. Within five years, Vinasamex obtained four international standard certificates for its cinnamon and star anise production, that opened up access to high-value markets in Europe, East Asia and US.
Ten years since its inception, Vinasamex is now the first premium staraniseed cassia brand in Vietnam to follow a closed value chain. It has also been promoting the domestic brand in the international arena. In general, 2022 was difficult for the company but today opportunities are opening up to make breakthroughs in 2023.
> Mai Kieu Lien, CEO, Vinamilk
After 45 years with Vinamilk, Ms. Mai Kieu Lien has a strong presence as a talented and inspirational female leader today. She was born in 1953 in Paris, among a family of Vietnamese intellectuals, and her parents are both doctors. In 1957, her family returned to Vietnam, and she was appointed as the Director of the Vietnam Dairy Products Company (Vinamilk). When she led the firm in 2003, she successfully brought Vinamilk milk brand closer to domestic consumers and entered 23 countries.
She was voted as one of Asia’s outstanding CEOs in the field of investor relations; and she was also named by Forbes Magazine four times in a row in the list of the top 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia.
> Ms. Nguyen Thi Nga, Chairwoman, BRG Group
Ms. Nguyen Thi Nga, Chairwoman of BRG Group and Vice Chair of SeABank, is one of the most influential businesswomen in Vietnam. She started her business in the early 1990s. In 1993, she and her husband established BRG Group, a multi-industry investment group and one of the largest private enterprises in Vietnam. She expanded BRG Group from import and export activities to the fields of banking, hotels, golf courses and many other businesses.
It’s to her credit that she has continuously appeared in the list of influential women of Forbes Vietnam. She is also well known for her M&A deals, including equitized state- owned enterprises, private enterprises and joint ventures.
Under her leadership, BRG Group entered many fields such as golf, hotel, real estate; and in addition, she invests in a wide range of fields: finance – banking, import and export, retail, tourism and agriculture. In fact, she is considered an inspiration to the next generation of female entrepreneurs.
> Thai Huong, Founder, TH Group
Considered one of the powerful people in the financial sector of Vietnam Ms. Thai Huong entered the list of the Top 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia voted by Forbes, for two years, 2015 and 2016.
She was a former officer of Hai Phong Financial Pricing Department from 1982 to 1985, then she worked as an accountant at the Nghe An Fuel – Building Materials Company. In 1989, she worked at Huong Ha Building Materials Co. Ltd. At the end of 2017, after nearly 10 years with TH True Milk, Huong left the position of chairwoman of this group to become the General Director of Bac A Commercial Joint Stock Bank (BacABank). However, she is still a consultant for TH True Milk.
> Cao Thi Ngoc Dung, Chair, PNJ
Ms. Cao Thi Ngoc Dung is known as a ‘steel’ businesswoman in the business of gold, silver and gems. Currently the Chair of Phu Nhuan Jewellery Joint Stock Company (PNJ), she was previously, she was both Chair and CEO of PNJ from 2004 to 2018. She has many feathers in her cap. She was a founding shareholder (representative of PNJ) and the first chair of Dong A Bank in 1992-1997 after Dong A Bank was established on July 1, 1992. In 2017, Dung was the 8th richest woman in Vietnam with a fortune of VND 663 billion. Currently, she is in the Top 100 richest people on the Vietnam stock exchange. In 2016, she was in the list of 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia by Forbes Magazine. Under her leadership, the PNJ brand has a brilliant track record in both domestic and foreign markets.
> Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh, Chairwoman, REE Electromechanical Company
Ms. Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh is currently the Chairwoman of REE Electromechanical Company. It was after graduating in 1982, with a degree in mechanical and electrical engineering from Karl-Marx-Stadt University (Germany), she joined REE as an engineer, then she became the leader of this company in 1985.
Since then, she led REE through some difficult situations, thanks to the brand of Reetech air conditioners. This was the first company listed on the Vietnam stock exchange in 2000.
Distinctions came her way – for Forbes Magazine ranked her 28th in the list of 48 most powerful businesswomen in Asia 2014.