(Vietnam) – On March 29th, the US-ASEAN Business Council (the Council) in partnership with The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) of Vietnam conducted a half-day hybrid workshop for Vietnamese Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It was the second hybrid event in Vietnam after a program in November 2020. Around 100 owners and executives of Vietnamese SMEs virtually joined the webinar on, “Advancing Greater Participation by Vietnam SMEs in the Digital Economy Era.” The event was part of a broader webinar series in response to the COVID-19 crisis, focused on supporting digitalization plans for SMEs in Vietnam. A few officials also attended the event in-person at the MPI Office in Ha Noi.
The webinar began with opening remarks from Ambassador Michael W. Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the Council. “Today is our second hybrid program in Vietnam. As I have said before, I believe all Vietnamese should be very proud of how the Vietnamese people and Government have handled the COVID-19 situation.” said Amb. Michalak in his opening remarks, “The pandemic has accelerated the digital transition and the Government of Vietnam has instituted a number of measures to help SMEs adapt. I hope that today’s webinar will be a useful opportunity for participating SMEs to further enhance their digital skills to participate in ASEAN’s evolving commercial ecosystem.”
Ms. Bui Thu Thuy, the Deputy Director-General Agency for Enterprise Development, MPI, delivered a keynote address, where she shared the Vietnam Government’s program to support enterprises’ digital transformation from 2021-2025. “The program aims to promote science and technology development, innovation, and more specifically, digital transformation, an inevitable step for a developing country like Vietnam and an inevitable trend for businesses to survive, accelerate and develop,” said Ms. Bui Thu Thuy in her opening remarks.
This program, organized by the Council, provided a collaborative intervention for Vietnamese SMEs to understand the full scale of government programs supporting SME digitalization. In Vietnam, SMEs account for 98% of all enterprises in Vietnam, contribute to 40% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and 50% of employment. Given the context of COVID-19, adopting digital technology has become a more important to help SMEs adapt. The Council is committed to supporting Vietnamese SMEs to become more competitive, cohesive and responsive to the opportunities and challenges presented by COVID-19.
The program was supported by Visa and Amazon. Addressing the webinar, Ms. Dang Tuyet Dung, Visa Country Manager for Vietnam and Laos, said: “We are proud to be part of this initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the US-ASEAN Business Council. As the sustained growth in online shopping behaviors and the shift towards digital payments continues to gain traction, businesses will need to adapt quickly to offer ideal solutions. Visa's expertise and available resources, especially via the Practical Business Skills program, can help SMEs understand and improve the payment experience of the Vietnamese consumers, thus gaining momentum for digital economy growth."
Ms. Say Ling Ng, Head of Small Business at Visa Asia Pacific raised the topic of ‘Digital Payments Solution for Small Business’ and presented trends relating to the impact of COVID-19 on consumer preferences and small business. She also highlighted how small businesses can navigate the changing landscape and go digital.
Amazon’s presentation on ‘Cross-Border Sales Opportunities with Amazon’ covered Amazon’s global infrastructure and resources for helping SMEs actively develop a global business by leveraging cross-border e-commerce. Since setting up a dedicated team in Ho Chi Minh City in 2019, Amazon Global Selling has supported Vietnamese manufacturers, brand owners and traders by offering professional training, learning opportunities, and information on how to sell on Amazon, both offline and online. In fact, Amazon Global Selling just announced the decision to set up a dedicated team in Hanoi to strengthen local support and foster development of cross-border e-commerce. With this team, Amazon Global Selling aims to help more SMEs in Vietnam to develop a global business by diversifying their selling strategies and expanding across borders.
Capacity building of SMEs in ASEAN Member States (AMS) has been a key pillar of the Council for one decade now. In 2011, the Council established a training program for ASEAN SMEs in response to a request by ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) to support ASEAN SMEs in leveraging technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. Currently, nearly 10,000 SMEs have benefitted from Council’s SME programs in all ten AMS. In Vietnam alone, the Council has conducted 15 training programs since 2014.
In line with making material on the SME Academy more accessible to entrepreneurs, the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy in 2016. The Online Academy is a self-help and self-paced learning platform for SMEs that provides access to free courses and resources from the Council’s member companies. The Academy is co-administered with the Philippines Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). To read more about the academy or should you want to know more on how to develop your SME, please visit the link www.asean-sme-academy.org for more information.