Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc believes there is no reason why the country cannot give rise to startup companies able to thrive on the level of renowned giants Facebook and Google.
PM Phuc, who pledged to build a ‘constructive government’ committed to creating positive conditions for enterprises and startups shortly after taking office in July, sat down for an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, prior to the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tet.
The premier discussed his government’s commitment to favoring the Vietnamese startup ecosystem and conveyed a powerful message that it is totally possible for Vietnamese startups to rise to international fame.
Asked if Vietnam will ever witness a startup as miraculously successful as Google or Facebook, especially in a time of rapid technological development for the country, PM Phuc simply replied, “Why not?”
The premier said he has witnessed many new business models thrive in Vietnam, namely the mobile chat app Zalo, online wallet app Momo, and the Chrome-like web browser Coc Coc, as well as Flappy Bird, an internationally recognized mobile game.
“However, I believe, and hope, that these companies are just the start [and many more successful companies are to come],” PM Phuc said.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (C) talks to Tuoi Tre deputy editor-in-chief Le Xuan Trung (R).
Confident in young generation
PM Phuc said Vietnam should first look to neighboring countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, which along with the Philippines make up the ASEAN-4, the four top Southeast Asian economies, to find breakthrough ideas and new business models.
“We are trying to have Vietnam listed among the ASEAN-4 and we should be able to do what these four countries can do,” he said.
“For instance, the popular taxi-hailing app Grab was born in Malaysia and has expanded across Southeast Asia, including into Vietnam.
“Without similar breakthrough ideas, Vietnam will soon be out of the game and will continue to lag behind its regional peers.”
The premier said he has complete faith in the younger Vietnamese generation, feeling confident that these young people will embrace the ‘4th industrial revolution’, a name given to the current boom in automation and data exchange in manufacturing.
He reiterated a recent message to students at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that “startups are the command of all industrial revolutions.”
“Because as you know, Facebook, Google, and other famous tech companies all began as startups founded by people in their 20s,” he explained.
Phuc said there are Vietnamese students who win prizes at international Olympiad contests and have math skills comparable to the creators of Facebook and Google.
“I hope that government support and the aspiration of these young talents will enable our country, from this generation onwards, to find the ‘Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page of Vietnam’ and prosper in the global arena,” PM Phuc underlined.
Founder of Vietnamese startup TicketBox Tran Tuan Anh talks to his colleagues.
The premier denied allegations that current policies and the econ-socio-cultural environment in Vietnam are not fertile grounds for innovative ideas to grow.
“By taking another look at successful Vietnamese startups, we can’t say that Vietnam is not a land where creative ideas are malnourished,” he said.
The premier added that the government not only focuses on economic growth, but also looks to “make creativity the main force behind the country’s GDP growth.”
He reiterated the commitment of his ‘constructive government’ to boost administrative reform, improve the business environment and lift the ‘startup spirit’ in the young generation.
“The government will continue issuing more policies to improve the business environment, ensure fairness among enterprises, and improve the national competitive edge,” he said.
“All of these measures meet a much larger goal of having more than 1 million businesses in Vietnam by 2020.”