Budget carrier VietJet’s CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao has become Southeast Asia’s only woman billionaire to be named on this year’s FORBES World’s Self-Made Women Billionaires list.
The list comprises of those women who built their own ten-figure fortunes and Thao’s name was included on account of the carrier’s success.
A record 56 self-made female billionaires from around the world made it to the list this year, up from 42 in 2016. Their combined wealth is US$129.1 billion.
This year also marks the first year the wealth of self-made-women billionaires surpassed $100 billion. An all-time high of 25 per cent of the world’s women billionaires are self-made, compared with 21 per cent in 2016. This percentage has more than doubled since 2009.
Thao ranks 45th and appears on the list with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion. FORBES currently pegs her fortune at $1.7 billion.
In December 2011, Thao launched Viet Nam’s first budget airline, betting she could disrupt an industry dominated by a nationally owned carrier. Just five years later, VietJet Air, which went public last month, is operating more than 40 per cent of the country’s flights and boasts $1.2 billion in revenue.
The airline currently offers 300 flights a day, including 63 local routes and dozens of international ones, and operates 45 jets. Since it went public on Viet Nam’s stock exchange on February 28, the company’s shares are up 47 per cent. More than 35 million passengers have flown with VietJet. The company recently ordered more than 200 aircraft worth nearly $23 billion from Airbus and Boeing.
Thao has even bigger plans, and the competition will only get stiffer. “VietJet aims to be an international airline, not just a local one,” she said.
Thao doesn’t think her entrepreneurial success is just a matter of instinct. “Some say that anything I put my hands on will be profitable. But I don’t think it’s that simple,” she told CNBC. “There’s no easy path to success. I studied and I did my research. It was a lot of hard work, and to be successful you need to be passionate about the business that you invest in.”
The richest self-made woman in the world is Zhou Qunfei, whose publicly traded company Lens Technology makes glass covers for mobile phones and tablets for customers such as Apple and Samsung. She’s one of 29 self-made women billionaires in Asia.
“More women entrepreneurs than ever before have entered the ten-figure club. A record 56 self-made women are now billionaires, including the first-ever from countries like Viet Nam and Japan,” Luisa Kroll, managing editor of Wealth at Forbes Media, said.
“In fact, more than half of these enterprising women hail from Asia. Women are still the much rarer sex when it comes to wealth creation, but they are moving in the right direction.”
Other notable women include media powerhouse Oprah Winfrey, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.
China has 21 women or 37.5 per cent of self-made women billionaires on the list. It’s followed by the United State with 17 women, Hong Kong with five women and the United Kingdom with three women. — VNS