Amazon Makes First Inroads to Vietnam

By: Tran Thi Minh Hieu

Amazon is on its way to set foot in the emerging e-commerce market of Vietnam, while facing fierce competition from its Asian rivals.

In March, Amazon confirmed its cooperation with Vietnam E-Commerce Association (VECOM), an NGO and industry group composed of 172 member businesses.

Amazon’s remarks centered around their interest in helping Vietnamese small and medium businesses export their products through its global online platform.

AmazonImage source: dichvumuahangmy.com

According to Business Insider, the partnership with VECOM may be the first step towards Amazon gaining an understanding of Vietnamese consumers before launching its full marketplace, as it did in Singapore, the first Southeast Asian country Amazon stepped into in July 2017.

Gijae Seong, head of Amazon Global Selling in Singapore, appeared in March at the Vietnam Online Business Forum 2018 to discuss with local businesses how to use Amazon to sell globally.

Amazon and VECOM’s cooperation was welcomed by Vietnamese businesses and consumers alike. VECOM’s president considered the support for exporting Vietnamese products globally a positive development. Meanwhile, consumers were enthusiastic about the prospect of being able to use Amazon to buy international products in the near future.

Alibaba to Respond

Less than one week after Amazon announced the partnership, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant Alibaba increased its investment in Lazada, one of the largest e-commerce platforms in Southeast Asia.

AmazonImage source: thepaymentgateway.co

Alibaba spent US$1 billion to buy 51 percent of shares in Lazada in April 2016, and another US$1 billion in 2017 to increase its total shares to 83 percent.

The most recent investment, a whopping US$2 billion, was announced on March 18 along with the decision to name Lucy Peng, one of Alibaba’s founders, as Lazada’s executive in chief.

According to VnEconomy, after two years of operation Lazada has become the top e-commerce website in Vietnam by revenues in 2014, taking up 36.1 percent of the country’s e-commerce market.

Competition and Growth

Vietnam's e-commerce market is one of the fastest growing in the world.

According to market research firm Kantar Worldpanel, Vietnam's e-commerce revenue increased 23 percent to US$5 billion in 2016, accounting for three percent of total retail revenue. The country’s e-commerce annual revenue is forecasted to reach US$10 billion by 2020, accounting for five percent of total retail revenue.

Other than Alibaba, China’s tech and investment giant Tencent also has a lot of interests in the Vietnamese market.

Financial Times reported that Tencent holds a 39.8 percent stake in Singapore-based company Sea, an enterprise that creates e-commerce platforms and services. One of Sea’s assets is online retailer Shopee, Lazada’s biggest competitor in Southeast Asia. Foody.vn, a restaurant review, booking and food delivery services platform, is also owned by Sea. In addition, Tencent is a shareholder of Chinese e-commerce company JD.com and Vietnamese tech firm VNG, a group which invested heavily in local e-commerce site Tiki.vn in January.

AmazonImage source: photo2.tinhte.vn

As Tiki.vn’s CEO Tran Ngoc Thai Son told an audience at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City in December 2017, the appearance of international e-commerce giants is proof that the Vietnamese market has a lot of potential for growth.

It remains to be seen whether Amazon will be successful in getting a foothold in Vietnam as it did in Singapore. Although Chinese competitors may have an advantage in being more familiar with the local infrastructure and customer dynamics, Amazon’s strong global presence and high brand recognition is friendly to Vietnamese consumers who have a demonstrated, strong interest in services with a well-known brand.

Banner Image source: safa.ps


Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

By: Vinh Dao

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

While French colonial architecture, exotic and cheap food along with the countless tourist attractions are the main draws to Ho Chi Minh City, the city is a mecca for shopping diehards. There are plenty of options for those looking for a high-end shopping experience or if you are searching for a bargain.

Vincom Center

Located smack dab in the middle of town, Vincom is one of Ho Chi Minh City's newest shopping centres. It boasts has eight levels that house more than 250 shops and you can find international brands such as Aldo, Armani, FCUK alongside high end local outlets such as Fanny Ice Cream . The food court at Vincom Center feels more like a collection of nice restaurants rather than a hodgepodge of unrelated greasy chains.

Local insight: They have recently opened Vincom A, which is located down the street on 171 Dong Khoi.
Address:72 Lê Thánh Tôn and 45A Lý Tự Trọng, District 1

Dong Khoi

Ho Chi Minh City’s high street, Dong Khoi has local boutique shops competing with international brands along with chic restaurants set in beautifully restored French colonial buildings.

Local insight:The street was known as Rue Catinat during the French colonial days and Tu Do in the 1960’s.

Saigon Square

A cross between a shopping mall and a bazaar,  Saigon Square is literally packed to the roof with everything from DVD’s to ersatz luxury watches and blue jeans. Frequented by expatriates and locals alike, cheap copies of designer sportswear rub shoulders with fashion brands. The quality is fake, but the price is right, that is if you can bargain hard.

Local insight: There is a second location on 7-9 Ton Duc Thang which has just slightly better prices than the original.
Address: 77 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 1

Ben Thanh Market

The granddaddy of the Saigon markets, this market opened it’s doors in 1914. A bustling affair, this is a great place to pick up a souvenir or three. As it is the main tourist market in the city, prices tend to reflect it and you have to bargain hard, even if there is a price tag on the item you would like. It is also a great place to get some local cuisine. Prices are just above what locals pay but pretty tasty all the same.

Local insight: At night, the streets outside the market turns into a night bazaar with souvenir shops and ad hoc restaurants.
Address: Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, and Le Lai

Binh Tay Market

Built in 1928, this is the central market of Cholon, which is known as the Chinese district. The largest market in town spanning four blocks, most of the business is done wholesale here. While the market doesn’t stock souvenirs and other tourist fare, it does house some of the most interesting architecture in the city and the dominant yellow clock tower makes it a photographer’s dream.

Local insight: Just down the road on Tran Hung Dao street are a swath of textile shops where you can get some of the cheapest deals in town.
Address: 57 Tháp Mười, 2, District 6

Hope this list gives you some options for shopping in Ho Chi Minh City!


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Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon



The Sweet Success of Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat

By: Lucie Sherwood

Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou joined forces and their names to create the Marou brand. Both co-founders have been dedicated to the Made in Vietnam concept from the beginningproducing their chocolate within the country and buying small batches of top quality cacao from local farmers.

Maison Marou

Samuel Maruta, explained the importance of ingredients to Marou, “We are a bit like a chef who goes to the market every morning to find the freshest products.”

The chocolatiers make it their mission to find excellent ingredients while maintaining their commitment to sourcing locally.

Marou sells mostly dark chocolate - at around 70% cacao content - a trend which Maruta believes was instigated by the increasing French taste for higher percentages. Marou also produces several other products, including a dairy-free milk chocolate made with coconut milk.

Maison Marou

At Maison Marou, the brand’s flagship Ho Chi Minh City cafe, the chefs experiment with more adventurous recipes, such as a ganache infused with the same spices that are used to make Vietnamese pho. Marou has expanded its offering at this central Saigon hub to also feature a gourmet pastry menu, which offers some of the best desserts in the city.

Maruta outlined the journey that he and Vincent Mourou have been on for the past seven years since the inception of Maroufrom two friends making chocolate in their kitchen to a business which has two shops, a factory and a team of almost one hundred people. Being an entrepreneur means both freedom and responsibility to Marutathe freedom to make decisions but also the responsibility to our customers and colleagues who have put their trust in us.

Maison Marou

Marou has become known internationally as the specialist brand of Vietnamese chocolate.

Marou’s market is both local and international. The company has a wide range of retailers in Vietnam and abroad as well as plenty of visitors to Vietnam buying the chocolate to take back overseas. Maruta pointed out that chocolate has always made a good gift because it travels well across the world.

In the future, Marou will continue to grow but Samuel Maruta highlighted, “We are big on organic growth.” He said that expansion should not happen at any price and that the company’s principles will always remain at the forefront of their business.

Video source: City Pass Guide

Image source: Maison Marou


A Dragon’s Sống: Metiseko’s New Sustainable Silk Collection

By: Molly Headley

Designing textiles that value both artistry and ethics.

The importance of a positive workplace.

Whether it’s luxurious silks or quality cottons, Metiseko has exactly what you’re looking for.

Sống - Definition: life [noun], to live [verb]

In the Metiseko silk boutique at 101 Dong Khoi in Saigon, an array of beautifully displayed garments beckons visitors to step inside and run the glossy silk through their hands. Ruby red dragon scales wind their way through cumulus clouds on a bomber jacket in Metiseko’s signature print - Long Dao, while across the room, tangerine waves awaken electric blue depths on a flowy dress in the Sunrise print. Beyond their beauty, there is an ethical advantage and underlying meaning woven into each piece in Metiseko’s new Sống collection. 

Metiseko

Vietnamese Artisans and Universal Elements 

Designed to stir the viewer to delve into the legend of Vietnam, The Land of the Dragon, the hand screen printed mulberry silk textiles are splashed with motifs from traditional folk paintings. Air, Water and Fire, the elements that are believed in the East to make up the universe, create an additional layer of meaning. 

The colour palette of the Sống collection was created to reflect the theatricality of Cải Lương, the country’s traditional opera, with shades of tangerine, carmine, black and Persian blue. This bold collection is a departure from their previous botanical prints and water coloured pastels.

Metiseko was created with the idea of designing textiles that value both artistry and ethics with a strong Made in Vietnam identity. 

Metiseko

How Positivity in the Workplace Results in Excellence at Metiseko 

One of the first truly sustainable and fair-labour fashion brands in Vietnam, Metiseko is constantly working towards complete transparency in the production process. Every piece in Metiseko’s repertoire is made by one single artisan, from the first cut into the fabric to the finishing touches. The company uses the small production motto of “Sell one piece. Make one piece.” 

As Owner and General Director Erwan Perzo put it... 

“When you buy something from us, you’re truly purchasing the work of an artisan from A to Z...” 

Metiseko

Beyond simply constructing the pieces in the collection that end up in their boutiques, there is a strong ethos behind the work at Metiseko. Organic; sustainable; ethical; handcrafted...these are buzz words that actually mean something to the company. 

Things such as fair wages, reasonable working hours, medical insurance for workers and their children, partnered with low environmental impact dyes and Global Organic Textile Standards certifications create a positive workplace and low staff turnover that is difficult to surpass in Vietnam. 

Metiseko

Two Textile Universes in Saigon 

Dong Khoi, Ho Chi Minh City’s premiere luxury shopping avenue is home to two separate Metiseko stores. One encompasses their organic cotton collections while the other showcases gorgeous mulberry silk pieces. Above Metiseko’s Silk Boutique, you can also shop the artisanal homewares of Sadéc District Boutique, as well as quality lingerie offered by Miss30, making 101 Dong Khoi a true stand-alone shopping destination, celebrating local design and local creativity. In District 2, their newly redesigned store features a curated selection of both collections. 

Metiseko

Metiseko’s screen printed textiles and ethical ideology optimise quality and consumer confidence while constantly reinventing their creations. It takes commitment and hard work, but in the Land of the Dragon the creative inspirations run deep. 

Where to Shop for Metiseko in Vietnam:

SILK BOUTIQUES 

101 Đồng Khởi, P. Bến Nghé, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
140 Trần Phú, Minh An, Hoi An

TANMY DESIGN CORNER 

61 Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi

ORGANIC COTTON BOUTIQUES

157 Đồng Khởi, P. Bến Nghé, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
142 Trần Phú, Minh An, Hoi An

SNAP CAFE BOUTIQUE

32 Tran Ngoc Dien, district 2, Ho Chi Minh City

VICTORIA CORNER

Victoria beach resort & spa, Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An

www.metiseko.com

Image source: Metiseko


An Interview with Mr. Bernard Kervyn, Mekong Quilts director

By: Fabrice Turri

MekongMekong Quilts employs Vietnamese women in communities northeast of Ho Chi Minh City and Long My in the Mekong Delta.

In addition, Mekong Quilts offers employment opportunities to Cambodian women through a similar project located in the village of Rumduol, near the Vietnam/Cambodia border.

The first quilts were sold in friends’ homes. Today there are seven shops and over 340 women in full-time employment.

An Interview with Mr. Bernard Kervyn, Mekong Quilts director

Jacques

When did you create Mekong Quilts and what are its main objectives?

The company began in 2001. Based on Mekong Quilts’ success, we decided to launch Mekong Creations in 2010. Mekong Quilts is about quilts and Mekong Creations sells other handmade products andnatural products. Both projects share the same goals: create employment through gratifying, high-skill jobs that provide good incomes for local populations. Roughly, we aim to double people’s income after they join the programme. Usually, women working for us earn 100 U.S. dollars per month. We aim to provide employment to these women in a location very close to their homes.

How do Mekong Quilts and Mekong Creations differ?

Mekong Quilts is concerned with quilts, bed covers, bags and the like and Mekong Creations is a brand new enterprise using materials like bamboo and papier-mâché. We want to create new things and see what happens. Right now, we have quite a few successful products.

We received The Good Design Award in Tokyo in June 2013. This award is supported by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP) and ASEAN-Japan Centre. The Good Design Award supports design-oriented companies that are selected on the basis of how they use traditional materials, craftsmanship and mode of production.

Mekong Creation 2
How are your products different?

Regarding bamboo, for example, we try to use it differently. We don’t want to compete with products that you can find inside Ben Thanh Market or on the streets of Hanoi. We try to make products nobody else is producing. We are deliberately focusing on the tastes of foreign customers, expats and tourists. We don’t want to compete with local businesses – they have their own skills, and we have ours.

Are all of your products made by hand?

Mekong QuiltsMost of our products are handmade, by women. Only for ourbamboo productsdo we use machines, and in that case we also employ men. We don’t want to be too dogmatic though. If the machine can make a better quality product, we’ll use the machine. We don’t want to be too focused on the handmade angle and then end up with poor quality products. Although bamboo products are also produced by craftspeople in Thailand, Philippines and Africa, the quality in Vietnam is very good. And today our price is around 25% cheaper than the competition’s.

Our bamboo products are also very resilient. For instance, in the beginning, our staff didn’t believe that our bamboo bikes would be strong enough, so I said, ‘Ok, let’s break one.’ They took a hammer to the bike to destroy it, but they got more and more impatient. They hit it repeatedly and ultimately gave up. They couldn’t break the frame! It’s really strong. It will bend but it will not break.

Mekong Plus 4Can you speak a little about Mekong Plus?

Mekong Plus is an NGO which was first created in France 20 years ago. This year, we are celebrating its 20th anniversary. We first started in Vietnam and then expanded to Cambodia.

We began from scratch, from nothing, just two or three friends, each putting 2-3000 dollars on the table for the first year, volunteering without payment for a while. We grew fast and today have 250 staff working in five districts in Vietnam and one district in Cambodia. We have roughly 180,000 beneficiaries every year and we provide scholarships for children, employment and set up minor infrastructures in the Mekong Delta such as bridges and small roads. I say, ‘we’, but that is not entirely correct: Mekong Plus relies on the participation of those we partner with. We don’t do anything if the people don’t work with us from the very beginning.

When we first went to the Mekong Delta, we never thought about bridges, but people told us, ‘We need bridges to go to schools, to go to the clinic, to the market.’ They really insisted. So, we told them, ‘Ok, but what can you contribute?’ So now, locals contribute two-thirds of the cost and Mekong Plus funds one-third. For everything, this is the same policy.

 
How do you achieve such great results in such a short time?

A lot of people can hugely benefit from a bridge. If you build a bridge, you can count the number of motorbikes crossing.Mekong Plus 3A bridge costs 4-5000 dollars to build, but if you factor in the time savings, it’s amazing. Say, for example, a person wants to sell a pig [at market] and there’s no bridge. They usually lose 20% on the regular price because they can’t bargain. The longer the route to the market, the more petrol you buy. And the longer the wait, the more you have to feed your pigs. But if there’s a bridge it’s possible to get to market faster and sell at the actual market price. The impact really is huge.

We are also working on health education in primary schools and kindergarten. Today, we reach 65,000 children and work in almost 200 schools. In Vietnam, much is learned by heart. You learn by heart how to brush your teeth, but the irony is that sometimes there is no toothbrush. Nevertheless, we noticed that people’s health was not so good, so we launched a health education programme in schools. When children go home, they tell their parents about what they learned in school. This has a huge impact on the entire community.

Where do your funds come from?

Mekong Quilts 2Mekong Quilts and Mekong Creations generate profits. If you buy something in the shops that costs 100 dollars, fifty dollars goes back to the village. Roughly, it’s half-half. But we also have fund raisers and private donors. This year we organized a Brussels-Saigon trip with 20 teams to raise money.

Is it possible to visit the villages where your products are made?

If you want to visit the villages, just ask at the shop when the best time to visit is. Then, we’ll try to group people and organise a one-day trip. The return trip takes eight hours.

Visits are not organised on a frequent, regular basis, but rather several times a month. However, prior to departure, we need to ask for police permission, as these are very poor, isolated areas. We need two-week’s notice and one copy of your visa and passport. Everything can be processed by email. You can find more information on our website www.mekong-quilts.org/our-news


Origins and Organic Cotton: Metiseko, a Sustainable Clothing Brand

By: Molly Headley

“Heatwave … The sand is lightly smoldering under our steps. Heavy palms are quivering and gently rustling in a breeze. The sun is at its highest and the carved, dark wooden doors have been shut. Naptime. It is summer in Hoi An.”

At Metiseko, poetry is crafted out of organic Indian cotton and silk that is locally produced in Vietnam. The hand-painted prints recall the scent that lifts off of flowers in the aftermath of a monsoon. Tropical fruit meets art-deco elements, hibiscus and peonies float across misty blues and greens, lotus leaves and koi fish swim through a painterly aquatic garden. The fact that Metiseko is also one of the most well-known sustainable clothing brands in Vietnam lends weight to the beauty of the sustainable textiles.

metiseko vietnam

Each of Metiseko’s clothing, accessories and soft furnishings collections is presented like a travel journal that introduces a reimagined view of Vietnam. CỘI-Origins, Metiseko’s 8th collection to date, launched on September 14, 2018. This collection takes us on a voyage to revisit the company’s roots in the ancient city of Hoi An.

Sustainable Clothing Inspired by Hoi An, Vietnam

During the collection’s launch party, a film by French filmmakers Robin and Cako, plays as models weave between the crowd. The film, a dreamy day between four friends as they experience moments with family and the intimacy of friendship, evokes the concept behind the collection.

metiseko vietnam

“It’s about spending time together”, Metiseko co-owner and Artistic Director Florence Mussou said. “Taking a break, enjoying tranquillity and reconnecting, coming back to where Metiseko started . . . to Hoi An, which is still a source of inspiration.”

Eight years ago the brand was created by Mussou and co-owner/General Director Erwan Perzo in Hoi An. Mussou brought her experience in textile design to the company, while Perzo’s passion for sustainability inspired Metiseko’s commitment to ethical work conditions and the use of organic cotton and mulberry silk. The brand is both stunning to look at and also stands out as one of the few truly sustainable clothing brands in Vietnam.

Metiseko Fashion: Tropical Gardens and Vietnamese Sunsets

The CỘI-Origins collection includes organic cotton pieces with colours and shapes that were conceived to work for both masculine and feminine styles.

Video source: Metiseko

The colour palette of the collection was created to reflect one day in Hoi An from sunrise to the sunset. The shades, like denim blue, terracotta, custard and aqua, were inspired by different times of day in the ancient Vietnamese coastal city.

Linda Mai Phung, a French-Vietnamese designer, collaborated on the collection. Phung has become known in Vietnam and Europe for her clothing designs as well as her company ethos: respect humanity and the environment while creating great fashion. She has won numerous international awards for ethical-fashion.

Phung’s designs seem simple but there is complexity in the details—a thin band collar and hidden buttons on a man’s button-down shirt and the narrow pleats made to highlight the waist on a women’s skirt are a few examples. Phung’s clothing designs combined with Metiseko’s organic fabrics manage to be contemporary and classic, French and Vietnamese at the same time.

Part of what creates client fidelity at Metiseko is the strong narrative that the company conveys. When you walk into one of the Metiseko stores it is as if you are entering another world. From the lyrical text that scrawls across the lookbooks to the hanging lanterns wrapped in Metiseko’s signature organic fabrics, each detail works together to create a sense of nostalgia for a place you may never have been to but emphatically want to experience.

metiseko vietnam

Each collection invites us to take a trip with Metiseko, to see the country in a different light. The care that is put into each piece, from the brand’s commitment to sustainability to their exquisite designs, stands as a testament to Metiseko’s ongoing love affair with Vietnam.

Where to Shop for Metiseko in Vietnam:

METISEKO HN
71 Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi

SILK BOUTIQUES
101 Đồng Khởi, P. Bến Nghé, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

ORGANIC COTTON BOUTIQUES
157 Đồng Khởi, P. Bến Nghé, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
142 Trần Phú, Minh An, Hoi An

SNAP CAFE BOUTIQUE
32 Trần Ngọc Diện, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

VICTORIA CORNER
Victoria beach resort & spa, Cua Dai Beach, Hoi An

Image source: Metiseko

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