Despite being called “stupid” when pouring investment capital, developing organic material area for a long time without harvesting, Ms. Nguyen Thi Huyen and Vinasamex Company are working with highland farmers to affirm their position. of cinnamon, star anise in Vietnam in the most advanced, fastidious markets in the world.
General Director of Vinasamex Nguyen Thi Huyen
In Vietnam, cinnamon and star anise are still just low-value products while abroad, these are valuable raw materials used to process many valuable products in the field of food and pharmaceuticals. .
Few people know that in the world today there are only five countries growing cinnamon, including Vietnam. And more specifically, only Vietnam and China are the only two countries in the world lucky to own anise.
Reportedly, the area planted in Vietnam is about 40,000 ha, concentrated mainly in Lang Son; while cinnamon area is up to 80,000 ha, concentrated mainly in Yen Bai and Quang Nam. In 2007, the Lang Son border gate was filled with piles of cinnamon bark on trucks waiting to be exported to China. Trained by Chinese traders, who did not know who to sell to, could not return empty-handed, Vietnamese businessmen pityed and accepted to sell cheaply.
At this time, Mr. Nguyen Que Anh and a friend who are trading electronic components imported from China decided to move to work with traders at the border, cinnamon production, and sold to some. State-owned companies for export.
In 2012, Mr. Que Anh and his wife, Nguyen Thi Huyen, started a business by buying cinnamon and exporting it to foreign countries. Vinasamex Company based in Gia Lam, Hanoi was established, Ms. Huyen held the position of General Director.
Remember the first day with the cinnamon tree, star anise in 2011 when just finished the old job is also the first day Huyen led foreign visitors to the survey area. In front of the immense nature, she realized her heart had missed the beat, devoted her love for that particular fragrance, in her appeared a kind of emotion that could not be described in words.
At this time, the English accrued from the days sitting on her university lecture hall was promoted, a large number of visitors flocked but mostly Indians and Bangladeshi. A year after its inception, Vinasamex started shipping goods to South Korea and the United States. Products made from cinnamon and star anise have great potential.
Hardly participating in many domestic and international fairs, Huyen realized that, besides India and Bangladesh, many other markets in the world also have demand for cinnamon and star anise products. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s exports are still heavily dependent on India. This is a great risk.
Ms. Huyen recalled, in 2011 the price dropped sharply to only 1/3; Indian visitors stopped importing within a year, Vietnamese enterprises were unable to export goods.
Moreover, the area and production of cinnamon is very large, but it is the farmers who grow the trees and the farmers do not know their true uses; they have no idea what Chinese traders buy cinnamon for.
“Obviously not good! I decided to expand the market and started working with farmers, ”Huyen recalled.
Cooperate with sustainable business farmers
Lack of knowledge, planting trees but not knowing the value of the product is the reason why the sincere, honest, disadvantaged farmers are forced to price. Life, their piece of rice is almost in the hands of traders from China.
That is probably one of the biggest motivations for Vinasamex to decide to change direction in 2015. Ms. Huyen and her colleagues went into raw material areas, working with local people on the process of planting, consuming, Cinnamon aims to make the best quality organic products, meeting the requirements of the most demanding markets in the world.
“Before that, Vietnamese cinnamon and star anise could only be exported to low-end markets but could not access to high-end markets due to uncontrolled quality while those markets were very demanding and very demanding. ”, Huyen said.
Since working with her company, her income has been much higher due to her commitment to buying at least 10% higher than the market price. For example, the average income of people growing anise has increased from 30 million / year to 35 million, even 40 million / year.
In addition, when building the value chain, Vinasamex determined to dare to confront Chinese traders, guarantee the interests of farmers and sometimes push prices up very high. Last year, the market price doubled, partly because of lower production every year, on the other hand, Vinasamex was willing to buy higher than Chinese traders’ prices.
However, Ms. Huyen said that the road to successfully building an organic material area, sticking with farmers is extremely arduous and difficult but if she does not persevere, she may have given up for a long time. The biggest difficulty is to create trust for people because at first, they are constantly skeptical and questioning why to work with businesses; Why must change how to grow and care for cinnamon and star anise; is there any benefit or not.
“At first only a few households followed me. After a while seeing the former people bring in the profits, other households also gradually asked to follow. When farmers trust, working with them will be very easy because they are not too concerned about money, but mainly because of belief and passion, ”Huyen shared.
In order to create trust for people, at first, she had to rely on the authorities and advocacy. Although not all authorities help, she feels lucky because there are district and commune officials who recognize the problem and agree to support the business.
Vinasamex is willing to provide additional support for farmers to attend training sessions held with the help of non-governmental organizations, and express their aspiration to cooperate with them in regional development. raw materials and commitments to buy and sell products at high prices, so that they will not have to worry about stocking or suffering from crop – devaluation.
In addition, Vinasamex also supports farmers in packaging, fertilizer, plant varieties … as well as implementing policies on the occasion of holidays and New Year. Realizing that manual collection is very dangerous as before, Huyen’s company has provided tools to ensure safety for farmers.
Seeing the affection and concern of the business, the people were ready to open their hearts, trust and together with Vinasamex assert, improve the quality of cinnamon, in Vietnam. From a few households, Huyen’s company has now expanded its network to nearly 450 households growing anise and cinnamon in Lang Son and Yen Bai.
Huyen Huyen and Vinasamex are determined to stick with the farmers.
“I am very happy that people finally understand. I have to raise awareness for them to understand, they believe and then consolidate their knowledge and technology, ”Huyen said.
After cooperating with farmers to develop the material area, in 2017, Vinasamex applied for international organic certification of the United States, Japan and Europe. By the end of 2017, Ms. Huyen also gained some international certificates on food safety and certification of international food standards (IFS).
Vinasamex’s cinnamon and star anise products have also received Fair Trade (Fair trade) and Fair For Life (fair life, farmers) certification, ensuring benefits for both customers and producers. . Ms. Huyen said that big markets not only care about product quality but also appreciate the social value that products and businesses bring.
Currently, Vinasamex has built a 15,000 m2 factory with modern machinery. Last year, the Company’s export volume reached 1,000 tons. Although previous production may have reached 2,000 tons in traditional markets, due to the focus on high-end goods, the current 1,000 tons can reach the value of 2,000 or even 3,000 tons previously.
“Once upon a time, export to India with low grade cinnamon was only 2,000 USD but when it was exported to high class market, the price could reach 5,000 USD, sometimes up to 7,000 USD. We determined that we cannot focus on output but invest on product value. Sell a little but the value must be high, ”Huyen affirmed.
Towards those who know “play”, know to enjoy
Although Vietnam is one of the rare countries in the world to have cinnamon, Ms Huyen admitted that from the beginning, Vinasamex’s products were directed to the international market and ignored the Vietnamese market.
Ms. Huyen explained that demand for cinnamon and star anise in the world at that time was very large, while in Vietnam, demand was low, growers did not know the value of the product. When foreigners never stop rubbing and admiring cinnamon and star anise trees, Vietnamese people, even though they are given a gift, also wonder what to do, so the product is considered as not valuable.
“At first we did not fully understand but gradually we realized that it must be those who have used and know the uses to see the essence of it,” Huyen said.
Accordingly, cinnamon and star anise products of Vinasamex are aimed at those who can play and enjoy instead of selling rampant. Saying that doesn’t mean you overlook the potential market of over 90 million people right before your eyes. Over the past two years, Huyen has conceived the idea and the desire to spread the value of cinnamon, back to the Vietnamese people because she believes that Vietnamese people also need to enjoy the best products.
Vinasamex CEO said that in the immediate future, he had to find a way for Vietnamese people to understand the use and value of cinnamon products, anise, but cannot sell rampant. The plan is to have a showroom to introduce products, give customers the experience of using and seeing the essence of the product before displaying it at retail chains of clean products, organic products, airports …
It is no coincidence that for the past two years, it has just stopped at the idea. Ms. Huyen said that due to export, it is quite difficult to return to Vietnam market because the first is not much experience; On the other hand, Vietnamese tastes are quite plentiful, classified by class so no most suitable approach has been found.
“I myself just want Vietnamese people to use good products and to make profits, I still rely mainly on exports, each container exported has reached 7-15 tons already. In addition, I also want to promote my brand image in my homeland because there are many people who know and appreciate in the world, but it is too faint in the country, ”Huyen shared.
‘I don’t like to succeed so easily’
Having a business blood very early, from secondary school, Huyen went to Hanoi to take chocolate to Hai Duong to sell on Valentine’s Day. When she went to university, she worked all kinds of jobs from selling clothes, selling sweet potato cakes, spring rolls to tutoring. Along with the dynamic qualities available to D-class students, she quickly immersed herself and fell in love with her business only after she graduated.
However, operating a company is not as simple as a business story, Huyen faces many difficulties related to important issues including human resources, business strategy, production, and resources. raw materials, markets, customers … must be sensitive, catch up with the market and must have a separate competitive strategy for their businesses.
“It is a long story, too many difficulties, challenges and lessons. I also had to pay for the lessons, ”Huyen recalls thoughtfully.
Ms. Huyen said that the knowledge trained in schools in Vietnam is quite good, but the path from theory to reality is very long while the reality is important. Ms. Huyen said that all her skills and knowledge of business and management have been accumulated during the working process. Although she did not major in business or management in university, she had the opportunity to participate in training courses of international and Vietnamese experts working in large foreign corporations. Once you have worked in practice, it is easy to grasp and apply theory.
Thanks to many years working with major partners in the world, she has the opportunity to accumulate and train many other skills such as working style, communication skills, negotiation, import and export expertise …
As a young woman, personality and dare to do other, Huyen said the time when the insiders told her “crazy” because of unprofitable investment in a long time instead of buying-exporting With profits as before, she is determined to work to the end, being a pioneer in developing organic material areas with farmers.
“I define this as a profession. I have loved and wanted to work for a long time, able to pass from generation to generation. We have determined that when traveling a long way, we must accept investment and accept overcoming difficulties. I think success never comes easily, and if it does come easily, I don’t like it. Success must be difficult, there must be challenges so that when it comes to the results, I see you are valuable and worthy of the efforts you have made, ”said the 8x businesswoman.
Always accompanying and sharing her vision with employees, Ms. Huyen said that besides the desire for profits, Vinasamex must always focus on ethical business, creating good values for society.
“Doing business must put yourself in the shoes of others. If others are satisfied, their mind will be comfortable. If you do it with your mind, you will surely succeed. If you think too much about profits, your business will not be sustainable, ”Huyen shared.
According to Vinasamex CEO, Vietnamese products and businesses are getting more and more foothold in the world. People have referred to Vietnam with quality products, with hard-working, creative and daring people. Many people after 20 years of refusing to do business with Vietnamese enterprises now have to admire for a new generation of Vietnamese businesses, dare to assert themselves with quality and prestige.
However, Huyen also admitted that Vietnamese enterprises were too small when they entered the international market. Therefore, it is necessary to hold the fists for each step to be more solid, for the Vietnamese brand to spread more strongly. Obviously, Vietnam has a good product, good people, good material resources; Only thing is not known how to do, machinery and technology are still poor and importantly, the business owner himself is not ready to change, not ready to invest.
“If we are determined, we will do it all, the Vietnamese name will be mentioned more. I have an ambition that in the near future, international friends will have to call Vietnam’s name when mentioning cinnamon, anise, ”Huyen shared.
Young businesswomen desire to contribute to spreading the culture and national identity of Vietnam hidden in the scent of cinnamon and star anise all over the world. (Dang Hoa – Theleader Newspaper)