He decided to forgo a scholarship to study in USA, and instead seized the opportunity at the age of 23 to be assistant to the General Director of the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP). Twelve and a half years on, Mr Huynh Quang Hai (GDBA 1999 and MSc (MOT) 2000), now Executive Director of VSIP shares with Jeanine Chen, Manager of GANO during her visit to VSIP in February 2008 his carpe diem moment, what’s keeping him busy these days and his recipe for success.
Tell us about your “Carpe diem” moment. What opportunities did you see then when you decided to “seize the day”?
I was working for a freight forwarding company and happened to sell some of my company’s services to VSIP. I met the then-CEO of VSIP, Mr Cheong Kai Kong from Singapore. We spoke and that was when he asked me to join VSIP.
Apparently Mr Cheong had interviewed more than 10 people then, but couldn’t find a suitable candidate for the job.
Back then, I wanted to grab the opportunity to ravel and explore the US with a scholarship in hand, but Mr Cheong assured me that I would be traveling around many other places other than the US! Recognizing the interesting nature of the appointment, I thought about it for one week before accepting the job offer.
Over the years, VSIP has grown tremendously through your contribution and efforts. VSIP has attracted more than 380 projects from 22 countries through VSIP1 and VSIP 2, creating more than 60,000 jobs (more than 120,000 when the 3 parks in the South are fully developed) and bringing in over US$2 billion worth of investment. You’ve also set up a model of industrialization for Vietnam. What else are you busy with lately?
For the last 6 months, I’ve had two roles. I am the Executive Director of VSIP JV and also the Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer of Vietnam Singapore Park & Township Development Joint Stock Company (VSIP JSC).
VSIP started out as a joint venture industrial park in Southern Vietnam in 1996. After 10 successful years, the two Prime Ministers of Singapore and Vietnam decided to extend VSIP to the North.
The Board nominated me as CEO of the new company, VSIP JSC, a township and property developer, which would create commercial and residential areas as well. As such, I assume these two roles, as Executive Director of my ‘old’ company and ED cum CEO of my ‘new’ company. The two companies are different in name, in legal entities and territories but are essentially in the same business and managed by the same top management people under the support of same key shareholders.
The old company in Binh Duong Province, South Vietnam started on as an industrial park and is now the leading industrial park developer in Vietnam. The new company in the North is focusing more on township development besides maximizing industrial park expertise and we will see the building of villas and shopping centers in the new township projects too. I do hope for the company to be brought into the world financial market, and to be listed eventually.
What are some of the challenges you face as you assume these two roles?
VSIP JSC has not developed townships before, and this proves to be a challenge for the company. However, we have great experiences in building industrial park infrastructure and hence it is very useful to build integrated township infrastructure.
We have progressed from building industrial parks to building villas, condominiums, high-rise buildings and shopping centers. The skill set required is quite different from the ones we had formerly. We therefore need to bridge these set of skills in a short span of time!
In relation to this, my other challenge is to attract continuous talent to keep up with the exponential growth of work. In fact, we would like to bring people with experience in urban infrastructure into Vietnam through VSIP.
A big part of your job involves investment marketing. This is a relatively niche area. What exactly do you do in investment marketing?
Investment marketing is about giving a perfect business solution to the investor. For example, if someone is looking for a factory space, you must find the right location. If he requires a government permit, you must inform him and facilitate the process for him. This is in order to save time and cost. Thus, investment marketing requires knowing about various industries, recognizing that they are relevant to customers, and that customers are knowledgeable business investors.
VSIP is just a master developer of big projects and requires secondary developers to work with us as partners on win-win partnerships thus a greater need for the expertise of investment marketing. My travels to countries in ASEAN, and others such as Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, China and USA where investment is strong allowed me to gain exposure and experience in this area.
Having traveled extensively, what are some of the useful learning points you think can be brought back to Vietnam from your experience in other countries?
I have traveled to many places but still feel that Singapore’s education system and environment is the best model for Vietnam. Furthermore, it has proven itself to be a small but globalized country. The Singapore model is therefore useful to replicate.
Vietnam is rich in its resources but lacks the professional manpower to develop the country. There is also much to learn from Singapore in doing business as it is considered more “open” as compared to Vietnam.
In 1999 you pursed a Graduate Diploma and a Masters degree at the NUS. How have you benefited from the program?
My career has changed a lot since my graduation from NUS. The course provided me with a good foundation in management and made me more confident in managing a big job – especially in dealing with high-profile people. It has also equipped me with theories and real-life case studies, which were important for me to learn and apply in my daily work.
How do you think Vietnamese students can benefit from studying in the NUS Business School?
The education system in Vietnam is considered rote-based as compared to what I’ve gone through in NUS Business School, which allows for experiential learning.
The good mix of alumni and international students, and excellent consultants and professors in the teaching community provides for a rich education. Vietnamese know that a degree from the NUS Business School carries a lot of weight. It almost means that a good career is in store for you if you are armed with a degree from NUS Business School.
What did you enjoy most whilst studying in NUS during your Masters program?
I enjoyed the use of the good facilities and infrastructure, and resources that were readily available. The broadband Internet access in hostels allowed me to stay well-connected with peers and renowned professors within the University.
I also enjoyed traveling around the country. Every Sunday, I would make it a point not to study. I would take a trip out on the bus or Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and explore one HDB town after another. I visited Pulau Ubin as well as Punggol when it was vacant land. I would talk to people, observe details and significant developments of that particular area.
This put me in good stead when I joined VSIP as on many of the occasions, I stood in as a tour guide to Vietnamese government officials visiting Singapore!
What would you say is your recipe for success?
Seeing myself as a corporate leader who looks beyond the future, building a long-term relationship with the people I know. I value my partners and staff, and I strongly believe in growing together holistically. At VSIP, I find my job meaningful as I see the people and company growing in tandem with Vietnam’s economy.
The Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) is a world-class industrial park that was initiated by the governments of Vietnam and Singapore. First proposed by Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet of Viet Nam to then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore in March 1994, it has since proven to be an attractive destination for multinational companies wishing to establish manufacturing bases.
Since taking up his position at VSIP, Mr Hai has been instrumental in laying the foundation, building and expanding the industrial park. Serving both the domestic as well as export markets, the VSIP has since completed two industrial parks – VSIP 1 and VSIP 2.
A third project commencing this year, an expansion of VSIP 2, will encompass an area of 1600 hectares. VSIP Bac Ninh, the fourth VSIP project in the North, will involve a development of both industrial parks and townships on an area of 700 hectares. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai graced the project’s ground breaking in December 2007.
The fifth project, an integrated township that will probably be the largest of its size in the North, will be opened by the third quarter of 2008 in Vietnam’s third largest cit Haiphong, known as the sea gateway of the North. This will make VSIP the single largest industrial park and township developer in North Vietnam.