Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Business Plans of the Wild and Delusional in Vietnam - How Not To Market in Asia IV

If I hear of another website business idea in Vietnam for foreigners without a valid business plan or revenue model I'm gonna spit! Because I should be making good money helping people write plans for things like this. Or at least getting paid for recommending they NOT do silly things. The most recent is from VietnamOnline and they're already on the web. It's a nice enough site but they have no advertising and not really any content that you can't already find. Also, their use of Google Maps is unfortunate (Google Maps don't work in Vietnam). Yes, it's a website about Vietnam tourism, but unfortunately other sites like TripAdvisor do an adequate and profitable job already. The question about this site or any other proposed is, "But how are they going to make any money?" My introduction to VietnamOnline came through a job advertisement they had posted on VietnamWorks. They were looking for full-time writers and editors. I sent my samples and credentials and received the following reply:

Dear David,

Thank you for your interest in our company. While you are an outstanding applicant we are unable to offer you a position with our organization at this time. 

With your permission, we would like to keep your resume on file in the event that another position that could match with your ability as well as offer your expected salary becomes available.

We sincerely appreciate your interest in our position and hope that you continue to come back and read Vietnam Online often. 

We wish you success in your career endeavors in Vietnam.


Translation: "We don't have enough money to pay you." And probably don't have enough to pay anyone else either - not anyone who can really help them. So companies tend to look for cheap, or college kids, or Viet Kieu who are supported from home or anyone who thinks writing is glamourous and will do it for free. Good luck. To many, websites seem to look like the holy grail until you work out a business plan and hire a sales team to work on income, because writers and content alone, won't make you any money. But a business plan might. 

And that would be the same for any business. Unfortunately, I've seen this a lot in Vietnam. From design  schools to consulting enterprises to who knows what. What is it that get's people to launch business ideas with no plan whatsoever? Only delusion, possibly. I covered this two years ago in a post called Big Dreams, Big Plans, Small Money, No Commitment: How Not to Market in Asia III. Guess a few people still haven't read that one yet. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Livin' On Rooster Time

A few weeks ago my building decided to enter a full renovation without telling anyone. My Internet went spotty immediately and was replaced by jackhammers, drills, saws, all manner of Vietnamese arguments between construction and management in the hallways and the removal of my old American style window air conditioner leaving a large hole in the wall where no window had previously been. Then came the roosters. In a visual sense the rooster is a positively regal fowl. Decked out from head to toe in a rainbow of colours and strutting about like Mick Jagger you would think Keith Richards was lurking right around the corner. But just like a runway model what a rooster slays with looks is immediately knocked down when they open their mouth (or beak as it may be). And they like to open their beaks starting at around 4am and continuing past 10, as if they aren't quite sure the whole world is awake yet.

But how did I get from living in a city of 8 million to roosters in the flash of a renovation? Answer: There are two sides to every building.

In the area of Saigon in which I live there are hundreds of guest houses on every street - the kind of places that usually cater to tourists, have a travel service of some sort in the lobby and plenty of garish signage out front to make sure they are keeping up with the Nguyen's next door who have even more garish signage, and of course, roosters - but nobody knows that until they get to the back of the building. I live in a building like that - a building that thrives in a flood of neon to the street but basically fronts a barnyard out back - a sort of cruel reversal of the Universal Studios Wild Wild West town. Except, this in the Wild Wild East.

My move to the back, after having already become accustomed to sleeping through Bon Jovi at 4am every night from the bar across the street came with a knock on the door one day. "You move room one hour. We change everything. Two days. You move back". That was a week ago. But rooster time came immediately.

A Vietnamese professor explained in a newspaper recently that migration to the cities in Vietnam came differently from that in North America 100 years ago or more. "In America", he said, "people moved to the cities because that's where the factories were. In Vietnam, we have no factories in the cities, but people move anyway because they think they can make money." And so we live in a nation of farmers - who are all busy becoming millionaires of one sort or another, even if it's finding a way to make a million chickens. I guess that's what the roosters are for. Every Sunday I walk through the back alley here and see a man carefully washing his rooster. He loves that damn bird - because it's more than one meal for his family in the future. And there are ducks too. I can hear them now - but if I went out front, I'd get Bon Jovi, only he's no Mick Jagger, I can tell you that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

WWED Stories Now Available for Syndication

The Wild Wild East Dailies (WWED) is a collection of over 500 stories relating to Asia, Korea and Vietnam over the past 3 1/2 years, from an American expatriate POV. All stories are protected under a Creative Commons license that encourages reuse but only for non-commercial enterprises. Our stories have been linked or quoted by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post and New York Magazine but not reprinted in full.

If you are a commercial print publication, webzine or other site and have interest in reprinting WWED stories, please contact us. We offer very reasonable rates and can even write on demand for Asian related issues. Contact for more information.

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