VOV.VN - With nearly 10 years of experience operating within the huge Chinese market, Phan Thi Tra My, an overseas Vietnamese businesswoman, had plans to gather the Vietnamese business community in China under a common roof for strong development and to promote their brands.
Born in the 1980s, Tra My serves as vice chairwoman of the Board of Directors and deputy general director of Phumo Company that specialises in making Vietnamese rubber mattresses in Shandong province, China.
Born into a family that traditionally worked in medicine, Tra My initially studied traditional medicine. When working as a doctoral student at Jilin University in Northeast China, she did her thesis on autistic children as her original dream was to open a rehabilitation centre specifically for autistic children in her homeland.
However, she changed her mind after getting married in China and starting to embark on her career there.
"I wanted to bring Vietnamese brands to China," she shared her decision to open a company in China.
The Vietnamese woman explored opportunities in several different industries and considered suggestions of importing major Vietnamese products such as furniture, agarwood, and agricultural products into the mainland. Nevertheless, she was keen on developing a product related to health care, the field she loves most.
Her sister working in the rubber industry introduced Tra My to rubber mattresses that are popular among Vietnamese families. For them, lying on a rubber mattress is both insect resistant and breathable, whilst simultaneously supporting the spine.
Tra My conducted a survey in 2013 and found many Chinese people did not know about rubber mattresses. She traveled all over Northeast China, then up to Beijing, Shanghai, down to Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and found not a single shopping centre there sold rubber mattresses.
“I chose Vietnamese rubber pillow products to introduce to Chinese people. It was very difficult to start up a business, but for me it was also an opportunity,” she revealed.
Tra My negotiated with several companies under the umbrella of the Vietnam Rubber Group and became the exclusive distributor of the Group's rubber mattress products in China for two decades.
To develop a total of 17 showrooms at trading centres, the Vietnamese woman had to put in a great deal of effort, largely because Chinese people were only familiar with European, American and Thai brands. The Vietnamese products were vying with similar ones from Thailand or even China to get the lion's share.
Despite difficulty, Tra My always kept in mind that she had to develop a high-quality Vietnamese brand in China.
“I conducted a survey to cater to local consumers' taste so that they can find pillows and mattresses most suitable for their physical condition and health,” she said.
Aspiration for a strong Vietnamese business community
After years of doing business in China, Tra My has met foreign partners and attended many trade and investment promotion events and conferences in the host country. She finds that other countries have Business Associations and are capable of operating very strongly, thereby becoming an indispensable trade and investment bridge between enterprises of the two countries. So why doesn't Vietnam have one?
“Many Chinese enterprises often came to me exploring the possibililty of importing Vietnamese products such as farm produce, coffee, rice, pepper, cashew, fresh fruit, seafood. I came across an idea of establishing a association of Vietnamese entrepreneurs in China to share information and promote business opportunities with their foreign counterparts," she stressed.
Her plans and contributions have received great support from the Vietnamese Embassy in China. After a decade of not celebrating the lunar New Year holiday (Tet) at home, Tra My was honoured in early 2020 as one of the outstanding overseas Vietnamese in China to return to Hanoi for Homeland Spring - an annual programme for Vietnamese expatriates during the Tet holiday.
“Establishing a foreign business association recognised by the local government in China is quite complicated. To date, I have almost completed the procedures. Currently, I am still trying to gather at least 50 members as required for the association to take shape in 2022," she shared.
China now boasts of Business Associations of 19 countries, and Tra My hopes that the Vietnam Business Association in China will soon be established and be powerful enough to connect all Vietnamese entrepreneurs in China and their compatriots at home as well as their counterparts from China and other countries.