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Youngsters beat COVID-19 challenges to promote economic development

by NDO07 October 2020 Last updated at 20:00 PM

A young member of the Tan Vinh Agro-Forestry-Irrigation Cooperative in Hoa Binh Province ploughs to prepare for new crop cultivation. (Photo: NDO/Linh Phan)
A young member of the Tan Vinh Agro-Forestry-Irrigation Cooperative in Hoa Binh Province ploughs to prepare for new crop cultivation. (Photo: NDO/Linh Phan)

VTV.vn - Vietnamese youth have pursued their own creative ways to quickly help the country overcome the great challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and gradually regain socio-economic development pace.

Youth spare no efforts on economic front

Accompanying his visitors to the hi-tech vegetable-growing greenhouses belonging to the Tan Vinh Agro-Forestry-Irrigation Cooperative in Dong Chuyen village (Tan Vinh commune, Luong Son district, Hoa Binh province), Dinh The Ngu Ton, the cooperative’s vice chairman, proudly said: "This is the largest hi-tech vegetable farming model in Luong Son with a total area of over 10 ha, including more than 1,500 m2 of hi-technology greenhouses. The cooperative's products all meet VietGAP standards, can be traced back to origin and sold at prices listed on the internet."

Three years ago, Ton and his brother – Dinh Minh Quy established the cooperative to take advantage of a safe vegetable development project implemented by the World Bank in Luong Son district. Ton and Quy asked the local authorities to help organise meetings to gradually persuade their relatives and local farmers to join their project, as well as inviting experts to train cooperative members to familiarise them with new production processes and standards. They have been also focusing on knowledge self-improvement related to administration, business operations, legal issues and technology usage.

At first, due to mass production leading to redundancy in output, the whole village sometimes had to eat vegetables only in their meals. Cooperative members were depressed, some even wanted to quit. Ton and Quy's family were also impatient because their investment in the two brothers’ project was yet to bring about any interest yet. "We loaded the vegetables into the trucks and transported them ourselves to local restaurants and resorts every day to sell them, but they all had a supply source already. We had to sell at half price and even gave them to customers as gifts if they bought in large volume. Gradually, the cooperative has gained more contracts, helping to consume more than 50% of the total vegetable output," said Ton.

In 2018, from empty hands, Ly Kin Sinh started his business with a nearly 1,000 m2 salmon farm in Nam Pung commune (Bat Xat district, Lao Cai province). As his house was not eligible to be mortgaged, Sinh borrowed about VND700 million from his relatives to start his dream. From an accountant working in office, suddenly Sinh transformed into a farmer day and night, standing by the aquarium to care for his fish. Diseases in the hot days amid the risk of flooding in the rainy days sometimes put him off, making him think about quitting. Realising that he should not be hasty, the young ethnic H’Mong man established Nam Pung Agricultural Cooperative, inviting like-minded friends to participate in the start-up. He divided the fish into several groups to increase the ability to re-flock when there is a risk, while changing the care regime according to the instructions of other experienced farmers. By making full use of the clean water source and paying more attention to water temperatures, his model gradually became stable. However, when the first batch of fish was about to be sent to the market, a flash flood in early 2020 hit his fish farm. Sitting next to the shattered, muddy aquariums, the young entrepreneur mumbled that the damage totalled nearly VND1 billion, however, he was still not discouraged.

Amongst the young entrepreneurs who own one of the fastest growing "brainchilds" in Hanoi, there is a founder and CEO of a company who has worked many jobs such as programmer and even in laundry service. With the desire to bring peace and joy to intercity passengers, in early 2017, Mr. Phan Ba Manh opened An Vui Technology Joint Stock Company, providing management, operation and digital transformation services for long-distance passenger transportation businesses. "This was a risky move at that time, because intercity bus companies are possessive and own a number of multitude of factors tugging on particular interests," Manh said.

An Vui's first customer was a bus business on the Hanoi - Sa Pa (Lao Cai) route that was on the verge of bankruptcy. Investigating the case, the young CEO discovered a series of loopholes causing revenue losses, debt arrears, human resources issues and market saturation. An Vui had to face many difficulties such as being fiercely opposed by the company’s drivers, while the ticket agents refused to cooperate, and some shareholders even unilaterally withdraw their capital. However, in less than three months, with the effective companionship of An Vui, the enterprise regained its foothold in the market and now earns profits of billions of VND per month, with a modern digitalised service system. Victory follows success, after three years sparing no effort, An Vui now has more than 100 regular customers.

Creation stirred amid COVID-19

COVID-19 has been like an unexpected tsunami, bringing about many negative changes across all socio-economic aspects. Revenues of An Vui's client businesses dropped to zero. When the investment cash flow was no longer arriving, Manh quickly made a specific plan to overcome the epidemic under the motto of not abandoning his customers. "We cut back supporting segments, while keeping the "core" part, IT department. We cut the “hard” salary but increased revenue bonuses. At the same time, we exempted all costs for customers and organised a series of crisis training sessions for them, while focusing on researching new forms of business and services with more technological elements. While many companies were temporarily closed, An Vui's office performed strongly, even working overtime and overnight to find new products," Manh recalled.

Dynamic and daring, Manh and his associates have turned risk into opportunity. During the last nationwide social distancing order, An Vui completed many new services such as electronic tickets and contracts. Its customers also increased their "resistance" in their business operations, while promoting digital transformation to be ready to get back to the market. In other words, Manh's fledgling business is not only "self-reliant", but also supports and brings many other businesses and customers out of the crisis caused by the pandemic, contributing to the development of the transport industry.

Facing the "frozen" status of the tourism industry, the chairman of the Nam Pung Agricultural Cooperative, Ly Kin Sinh also actively innovated to deal with the COVID-19 epidemic. Instead of waiting for traders to come to the farm to pick up goods, Sinh learnt how to peck fishes and bought equipment for vacuum packaging, packed his finished products and hired vehicles to transport them to both wholesale and retail customers. Sinh also promoted advertising on social networks to introduce his products at preferential prices. The revenue collected was reinvested into the farm to help improve the quality of feed and the living conditions of the salmon. He has experimented with more varieties of fish farming, including sturgeon, thus creating more jobs for the local youth amidst the pandemic. Currently, agricultural products from the cooperative formed by the "agricultural accountant" are protected under a specific trademark and are to be found in many provinces and cities, such as Hanoi, Son La and Dien Bien.

Not inferior to the young entrepreneurs mentioned above, when COVID-19 appeared, Ton and Quy quickly encouraged and guided local farmers in their cooperative to sell vegetables in the form of "home shipping" at lower prices. In his role as secretary of the cooperative’s Youth Union, Ton devised an initiative to advertise and introduce products via the personal social network pages of all members and youths in the cooperative. When the social distancing order ended, the cooperative immediately reactivated its entire sales system, while consolidating the local market and at the same time advancing to penetrate into the capital city’s market. Up until now, the monthly revenue of the cooperative has been nearly VND250 million, of which net profit is about VND160 million.

More support needed

Possessing advantages in entrepreneurship, creativity and strong adaptability, Youth Union members and young people in general who are passionate about starting a business still need more support and effective companionship from the concerned units and local government. More importantly, the support must be quick and come to the right beneficiaries.

Problems during start-ups are not uncommon for the upland youth. In large models, youngsters must have collateral for a mortgage, but in reality, they – especially young people in mountainous areas – do not own assets that are eligible to be mortgaged. According to Deputy Secretary of the Bat Xat District Youth Union Nguyen Xuan Hung, for many years, many young promising entrepreneurs in Bat Xat have not been able to access capital from the National Fund for Employment run by the Central Committee of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union. Meanwhile, young people starting a business are not supported by the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies. Even if they are poor, near poor, from newly-escaped from poverty households or policy beneficiaries, they can only access loans of up to VND50 million, not to mention the complicated assessment procedures, Hung said.

Policy barriers are not only causing difficulties for upland youth, even in the major provinces and cities, most young businesses cannot easily access support policies for the young business community. This is also the reason why many young businesses, though having capabilities and being secured with capital, have not been able to develop as expected. Commenting on this issue, Deputy Secretary of the Hanoi Youth Union Tran Quang Hung said: "The start-up community in general and young entrepreneurs in particular really need a separate mechanism with specific policies to develop in the context of increasingly fierce competition. In order to join hands to support the young start-up community, the Hanoi Youth Union has outlined a project for a professional start-up support centre that is expected to make its debut in the near future."

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