Thinking globally, Viettel grows stronger

State-owned telecommunications firm Viettel Group has over the past few years been extending its economic reach to far-flung nations in three continents. Viettel deputy general director Duong Van Tinh recently described its international activities with VIR’s Thanh Tung.

Viettel is said to be now involved in serving more than 60 million customers in six markets in three continents. What are Viettel's plans regarding more joint ventures far from home?Viettel is said to be now involved in serving more than 60 million customers in six markets in three continents. What are Viettel’s plans regarding more joint ventures far from home?

In our target, we will be doing business in 10 or 15 nations by 2015. The nations that have been on our radar include Myanmar, Kenya, Venezuela, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Argentina, Cuba, and Swaziland. However, whether we can perform well in these nations or not still depends on many factors. So we cannot make any forecast now.

Why does Viettel focus its investments largely on developing nations, not developed nations?

If we have opportunities, we will be not hesitant in investing into developed nations. However, these developed markets have already been saturated and have not had new frequency resources. The way to penetrate these markets is to acquire operational companies. But owners of these companies will not sell their companies. If they do, the prices they offer will be very high because of the companies’ big profits. In spite of that, we have been exploring investment opportunities in some developed markets.

How different is Viettel’s investment strategy from that of other investors in foreign markets?

When we conduct investment in an overseas nation, we have to study its culture and living habits, as well as business practices. Thus we have no common investment formula. Nevertheless, being a successful investor in some markets with harsh competition, we also have some experience. Specifically, we should have a broad and deep telecommunications infrastructure network. In the nations home to Viettel’s investments, we often have the biggest and most stable telecommunications infrastructure works right from we begin our investments.

While other investors focus on only big populous cities, we extend our services to 80-95 per cent of the market’s population right at the time we begin our projects. In another case, while other investors use viba waves for their projects’ transmission to save costs and time, we use fiber for our projects’ transmission.

Another experience is that in a foreign market, we spur pride of its people and transfer our technology to them. In the markets that Viettel has been investing for some years, the rate of Vietnamese people managing our projects is 5 per cent averagely. That means we empower the management and monitoring of the projects to these markets’ natives. Our Vietnamese personnel hold only key leading positions in the projects. When the natives join the projects’ management teams, they will consider their companies their own home and can whole-heartedly devote themselves to the companies.

Besides, we link our business with social corporate responsibility (CSR). To be successful in a foreign market, we have to win confidence of this market’s people and society. Viettel’s CSR programmes have always been highly valued by people in the nations home to Viettel’s investments. These programmes are aimed to benefit young generations and the poor, while improving educational and health care services in these nations.

Viettel is now also boosting its investment in Myanmar. Could you elaborate more on this plan?

Viettel currently has a representative office in Myanmar. We have been studying this nation’s economic situation, market and culture. And we have also submitted our investment portfolios here. Viettel has bested more than 80 rivals including the world’s big telecommunications developers to be listed by Myanmar among 12 top investors that will continue being selected. We will submit our bidding dossier [to Myanmar's government] on June 3, 2013. The organising board will announce the name of the operator winning the bidding on June 27, 2013.

What is the group’s target revenue from foreign markets this year?

Viettel’s total revenue last year sat at VND141 trillion ($6.78 billion) including 10.6 per cent – or VND15 trillion ($721.15 million) – from overseas markets. The group’s revenue from overseas markets this year is expected to be VND25 trillion ($1.2 billion), up 68 per cent against last year.

By Thanh Tung