Viettel still aiming high after 30 years

Monday, Sep 09, 2019 08:30

Burundian users at a Lumicash office. Lumicash is an electronic wallet developed by Viettel's Burundi-based unit Lumitel in September 2016. — Photo

After growing for 13 years and now covering Southeast Asia to South America, it can be said "the sun never sets" on the Viettel Military Industry and Telecoms Group (Viettel).

In 2006, Viet Nam had less than five billion-dollar enterprises and none of them were among the world’s top 20 businesses. The same year, the 17-year-old Viettel established its branch Viettel Cambodia, marking the group’s first step abroad.

Viettel was then a freshman in Viet Nam’s telecommunications industry with about two million users and it was completely unknown to the world. It had VND7 trillion (US$301 million) worth of revenue and nearly VND1.5 trillion worth of profit.

Thirteen years later, Viettel has risen to become one of the world’s 15 biggest telecommunications businesses by the number of users and one of the 40 biggest telecoms firms by revenue.

The brand value of Viettel is $4.3 billion and it is among the top 500 most valuable brands in the world, according to Brand Finance.

Its international business arm, Viettel Global (UPCoM: VGI), is valued at $2.4 billion on the Vietnamese stock market.

After 13 years, the group is now present in 10 foreign markets ranging from Southeast Asia to South America and Africa, reaching a total of 35 million users.

In Africa, Viettel sets up its business in Cameroon, Tanzania, Mozambique and Burundi – holding the biggest market shares in the latter two.

In Burundi, it took Viettel only six months to top the domestic market share. The company’s brand Lumitel became profitable after just one month of operation and reached one million users – 10 per cent of Burundi’s total population – after four months.

In Mozambique, Viettel’s Movitel brand is called “An African Miracle” as it won six international awards for offering low-cost telecoms and internet services for local people.

When cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in March 2019 and devastated the country, Movitel was the first telecoms business that attempted to repair and bring connection back.

The miracle Viettel has made in the last 13 years is based on one principle: first comes infrastructure and first comes rural areas. That principle has helped Viettel cover every corner and user of the 10 foreign markets.

“The endurance of Viettel in overseas markets for years has helped reposition Viet Nam in the global telecommunications industry,” said Nguyen Luu Ly, Marketing Director at Viettel Global.

Ly is one of Viettel’s third generation in its 30 years of development. Her generation is considered the key for Viettel’s “go global” strategy after the first two built the group’s firm foundation in the domestic market.

In each foreign market, Viettel opted to localise its name. “It (the choice) was more costly,” Ly recalled. “But if we had done the same thing (keeping the group's name) as many other international players, we could have lost the game.”

“It might be a little bit more costly and effort-demanding for us, but the opportunity was huge. Viettel’s core value was the differentiation,” she said.

“We made the right decision. We were well-received and highly-appreciated in foreign markets because our brands were attached closely to those markets” and somehow demonstrated the pride of local people, Ly added.

What Viettel had been doing in the last 13 years was to make Viet Nam and its people more well-known to the international community, she said.

“Dare to think and dare to do” is a consistent attitude for all employees during Viettel’s 30 years of development. “We have to do so because we are still humble,” Ly said, adding there was still a big gap between Viettel and the world’s leading companies.

“We have done well in Viet Nam and some foreign markets. We have to be better and go more global. We have many stairs to climb and without taking the risk, we won’t succeed.” – VNS

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