Mekong Delta provinces join forces to bolster startups

13-Sep-2018 Intellasia | The Saigon Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Localities in the Mekong Delta region have set a target to boost startup development to support new generations of young, proactive and creative entrepreneurs, in light of the rising number of new innovative startups in the country that are able to leverage advanced technology in running their businesses, heard a conference on startups in Ben Tre City in the province of the same name.

The conference, titled “To increase the effectiveness of startups in the Mekong Delta,” was co-organised by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Can Tho Branch (VCCI Can Tho), the provincial People’s Committee, Saigon Times Group and Mekong Delta Startup Network on September 11.

Localities in the region have performed multiple activities since 2016 to build a startup ecosystem and foster startup communities in making a contribution to the socioeconomic growth of each province in particular and the Mekong Delta region as a whole. However, the results have yet to match expectations.

The conference was launched to address hurdles hindering local startup development, review the existing startup movement and then map out solutions to facilitate startup operations in the coming period.

Achievements reviewed

Addressing the conference, Nguyen Phuong Lam, deputy director of VCCI Can Tho and president of the Mekong Delta Startup Network, stressed that startup businesses in the region need encouragement to achieve stable development.

VCCI Can Tho had organised “Mekong Startup” in 2016, a regional startup project to awaken the entrepreneurial spirit in the youth, labourers and the community and form a new wave of firms. Initially, it had introduced the Mekong Delta Startup Network, Mentor Club, and an ICT Innovation centre in Can Tho City, said Lam.

Mekong Startup has hosted startup contests for three consecutive years since its debut, attracting a rapidly increasing number of contestants comprising college students. In addition, many training and sharing programmes or seminars involving startup businesses have been held, creating a solid foundation for project participants, Lam added.

Phan Van Mai, standing deputy secretary of the Ben Tre Party Committee and chair of the Ben Tre Startup Council, remarked that traditional startup activities in the province had witnessed robust growth, and innovative startups are taking shape, following the positive results of the programme “Ben TreDong Khoi start-up business,” which has been in operation since 2016.

According to Mai, the programme has achieved some notable outcomes within two years of its launch. For instance, the startup spirit has gained wide traction and has made a considerable contribution to changing the mindset and awareness of State officers. Besides this, a startup environment is emerging, and startup ecosystems have been created in each locality.

Also, over 12,000 household businesses have been formed, while the total number of enterprises in the province has increased to some 3,900 units, including four science and technology firms, stated Mai. As for startup activities to eradicate poverty, more than 4,000 participating families among a total of 12,000 have managed to escape the poverty trap.

Within the last two years, this Mekong Delta province has introduced 195 domestic investment projects, with total registered capital reaching some VND36 trillion, Mai noted.

Obstacles hindering local startups

Most provinces in the Mekong Delta region are still lacking multiple critical factors, compared with other localities across the country, that are required to facilitate startup progress.

The region is in need of additional support from enterprise communities, and newly founded companies, no matter how large their investment capital, need the guidance of experienced predecessors to find the path to success, remarked Lam.

The Mekong Delta region has a sizeable consumption market, but it lacks diversity in its commodities, and startup products have yet to be broadly welcomed. Regarding the human factor, young people, including college students, have not prepared themselves with essential soft skills, such as methods of persuading customers and investors to try their products or invest in their companies. They are typically either over-confident or lacking confidence in their startup products.

Apart from this, many startups have faced financial hurdles, along with loose connections among startups and the market, according to Lam.

Speaking at the conference, Tu Minh Thien, deputy head of the management board of the HCM City Agricultural Hi-Tech Park, added that startups, in his experience, face multiple challenges.

Agricultural startups are evolving, especially in terms of hi-tech applications. However, many people do not have an adequate foundation of knowledge to efficiently apply modern technology to their operations.

Many startups are inexperienced in developing and managing their firms. In addition, they do not place emphasis on recruiting personnel and forming a corporate culture. Notably, they pay less attention to intellectual property rights and their creative ideas are easily stolen as a result, said Thien.

Solutions for successful startups

To increase the effectiveness of startup activities, Thien suggested that agricultural startups leverage the available resources, such as by collaborating with other key sectors, including the marine economy, manufacturing and processing, tourism, or renewable energy.

Besides this, startups should be fully aware of the ongoing challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, climate change and world integration.

Meanwhile, Mai recommended that each locality in the region constantly enhance their business environment by organising more meetings for individuals, organisations and enterprises to share their experience, network with each other and call for investment.

Mai cited the adage, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” to emphasize the power of teamwork in the startup movement. Every province, organisation and company should join forces to roll out many more activities to aid startup businesses.

Cu Van Thanh, director of Luong Quoi Coconut Processing Company, noted that people who start their own businesses need to have great passion and patience and must not be afraid of failure. The path to running a startup business presents a host of risks and challenges, requiring the owner to have a strong will, constantly update operations and train qualified manpower to create quality products for consumers.


Category: Economy, Vietnam

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