PANO – A driver of Movitel had tried to open his eyes as wide as to avoid falling asleep while holding firmly the steering wheel and controlling the accelerator pedal. Our car pierced the darkness on a deserted road with flooded fields along either side. With experiences of working in during storms and floods hitting in Vietnam, I sill felt being very fragile, tiny and lonely in the impressive strength of the African nature.
Standing firm in flooded areas
We arrived at the HQs of Movitel’s branch in Gaza province when all employees were engaged in rescuing the flooded Base Transmission Stations (BTS).
Head of the Branch’s Planning Department Mr. Nguyen Trung Phuong told us that the whole province had been struggling with the flood which had claimed the lives of dozens of local residents and paralyzed 41 BTSs and threatened 50 others. Floodwater had isolated 5 out of 11 districts in the province and they had to stay here as no boats could be found.
Phuong further said Movitel’s employees had to struggle with the flood for 6 days and nights and they only wished to have a good sleep immediately finishing their work. After briefing us with the critical situation, Phuong immediately hurried to an online conference. In fact not only Gaza but other provinces in Mozambique also suffered from the severe flood damage and all of the participants in the online meeting were exhausted due to of lack of food and sleep.
Meanwhile, local people’s convoys with all sorts of belongings were evacuating to safe areas before the flood arrival as they had been informed that the flood would hit the province very soon. However, in the mean time, Movitel’s offices and shops were till operating as usual.
I got into a shop ran by Mr. Nguyen Van Quyet in Gaza at 8:00pm while he was calmly typing a report without a shirt on. Asked why he did not evacuate, Quyet said that he had to stay there to watch the shop as he had been used to similar situation before and all computers and facilities had been chocked up already.
Quyet is only Vietnamese of the shop while others are local employees. According to Movitel’s principle, each district-level office has only one Vietnamese staff while others are locals and Quyet is the only Vietnamese to undertake the heavy tasks in the shop. It is necessary to remind you that each district in Mozambique is as large as a province in Vietnam.
We left Quyet’s shop and kept driving in the dark along the road for hundreds of km crossing the flooded field that was still dry in the morning. We could see neither houses nor people on the two sides of the road. Suddenly, the car leaped forward to a high slope. At the time, the driver could sigh with relief and said that they were blessed to get rid of the flood already.
We found so many cars taking refuge at a filling station, and met a 6-member support team of Movitel, led by the company’s Vice CEO Huynh Quang Nghia. After exchanging some courtesies, they got on a pickup truck to head the dreadful road that we had just left and the driver predicted by that time the road might be flooded.
The flood caused a heavy damage to Mozambique’s economy, especially in Gaza province where 91 people were killed, 175,000 others must be evacuated and many houses and public facilities were destroyed. We were really lucky to escape from the road – the artery Gaza and neighboring provinces before it was flooded.
Despite all these, thanks for great efforts of Movitel’s officials and employees, cell phone waves still remained strong. A group of 20 Vietnamese experts and technicians were immediately deployed from Vietnam to ‘battlefields’ to fight the flood in Mozambique.
After the flood, on the first days of April 2013, Movitel’s employees donated US$ 200,000 to help local people in Gaza stabilize their lives.
Noble characters to overcome difficulties
‘Decoding’ the great efforts to develop business of Viettel in foreign markets, its CEO Lieutenant-General Hoang Anh Xuan said that: “It comes from strength of Viettel’s staff.”
“Investing abroad, international telecom companies used to bring along their own staff with well-paid salary and luxurious living conditions while Vietnamese experts were ready to stand hardships to work overseas with high sense of responsibility”, added General Xuan.
Visiting the house where about 40 Vietnamese technicians of Movitel in the capital city of Maputo, I could understand better what the Viettel’s CEO said.
The 4-storey building is located on an area of 200sq.m. 7 female Vietnamese live in a separate room while male technicians share a big hall, like the student life. For this big collective, they have hired local cooks but Vietnamese employees in Movitel’s district-level branches have to cook themselves.
Learning a foreign language is a common challenge for Vietnamese people overseas. Viettel’s employees had their own ways to fix the language gap. Head of the Department of Planning and Administration of Movitel Ho Van Hao shared that he arrived in Mozambique 2 years ago with only few English words and no Portuguese at all but at present, he could communicate fluently in both English and Portuguese.
Hao said the most important thing was to make local partners understand what he said and vise verse.
In order to narrow the language gap, Vietnamese employees also teach local ones Vietnamese. For example, when they do not know a terminology, they combined Vietnamese and English in a sentence. It seems ridiculous but quite effective for them to fulfill their tasks.
As a result, Viettel has required its employees to improve their own strength to fill the language gap to satisfy its international market penetration goal. The group regularly hosted serious tests to check its staff’s command of foreign language despite their demanding work.
“Vietnamese often fear changes and many wanted to leave Viettel for fear of being sent to work overseas”, said Major-General Duong Van Tinh, Vice CEO of Viettel. The company had to encourage the staff to take challenges and most of Viettel’s employees working abroad are young and many of them were married ones. They were required to work abroad for 3 years and Viettel had see to every details to ensure the adequate life for their staff abroad, added General Tinh.
Running business abroad is to swim at high sea. The trend for overseas investment is considered an active way to enter the global playground. Consequently, Vietnamese should prove their virtues to stand firm on their feet in the severe economic environment. Major-General Nguyen Manh Hung, Vice CEO of Viettel said that at home, the military-run telecom group only competes with 7 rivals. However, when it runs business abroad, Viettel has to take on other 10,000 international telecom companies. Thus, Viettel must effectively and comprehensively run business in foreign markets to ensure its investment a success.
Working abroad, Viettel has to cope with strong opponents. However, its employees will horn their professionalism and promote their competitiveness. It has nothing to hide the target to become a global-scale telecom group by making up concrete and effective steps. Realities have proved that Viettel’s efforts have been paid off and its employees, who are working days and nights in foreign markets, have been contributing to fostering the national construction cause and to increasing the Vietnamese people’s position in the international arena.
Written by Ho Quang Phuong
Translated by Van Hieu