Our Head of Marketing, Aurèle Tabuchi, is back from Vietnam to share her thoughts on the country’s network infrastructure, IoT, and tech ecosystem.
Aurèle, you’ve just returned from Vietnam, can you tell us a bit about your trip ?
I mainly went to investigate and understand different aspects of the Vietnamese market: customer habits – what people do with their smartphones, which apps they love-, network quality, the level of tech and developer community, the IoT market, etc. I had a lot of very interesting meetings with our established partners and other potentially new ones, and of course my field observations!
The trip as a whole helped me discover a more about Vietnam’s tech ecosystem, which is experiencing a period of strong growth right now.
Can you describe the quality of Vietnam’s network infrastructure?
I have to admit that in the beginning I was very surprised. I didn’t expect to have 3G working almost everywhere in the country, but I quickly realized that the connection was slow and the user experience wasn’t ideal, mostly because the network would get saturated too quickly. Another element that surprised me, was that all of the cafés and many public spaces offer free WiFi, something that’s not always the case in France!
You’re kind of Be-Bound’s world traveler – you’ve been to many countries to study the market : South Africa, Tanzania, Philippines, Algeria, and you’ve done a lot of analysis on the Asian and African markets in general. How would you compare Vietnam’s level of network infrastructure?
I would say in terms of Asian countries, it’s a bit above the average. In comparison to the other Asian countries that I’ve personally been to, Vietnam seemed to be at the same level as the Philippines, slightly above India and Bangladesh. In terms of Africa, it’s not really possible to make a comparison, the Vietnam network is definitely better than what’s found anywhere on the African continent and users are a step ahead because they’re already equipped with smartphones. The tech ecosystem is also more advanced. The country’s proximity to India, China, Korea, Japan, each quite advanced in terms of tech, definitely has an influence on Vietnam.
Is there a viable IoT market in Vietnam?
Yes, the IoT market in Vietnam presents several opportunities, and the one that really caught my attention was black boxes. The country has just voted on a law that requires all trucks and taxis from now on to have these black boxes, so that the government can analyze the traffic, the speed of vehicles, the degree of pollution, traffic jams, etc. The black boxes send their data every 10-15 seconds to government servers, from any location in the country. That said, there are certain locations in Vietnam that are definitely isolated, so certain data points are most likely lacking, and this is where we believe Be-Bound’s technology can help. Another example is that motorcycles are very popular in Vietnam (about 42 million mobile scooters per 90 million inhabitants), and only some of them have a black box for geolocation which can be useful in case of theft, or accident. It’s easy to imagine how our tech could help send compressed information, no matter where the motorcycle is located, even in heavily saturated or very rural areas.
Name one thing that surprised you in Vietnam
One thing that really struck me was how many Vietnamese people have a smartphone that’s equipped with the latest trendy apps, and they’re always looking to be connected, and yet they don’t sign up for any Internet plans! I found that somewhat contradictory. To get an Internet connection, people would opt to go to cafés and public places with Wifi instead of just getting data plan to have mobile Internet everywhere with them! This is something that I found quite different from what we do in France. Generally speaking, in France, we more or less all have data included in our subscription plans.
Was there any app that was particularly popular in Vietnam?
Yes – Zalo! It’s an instant messaging app that’s really popular in Vietnam, and that rivals Messenger and is even ahead of Whatsapp according to App Annie! Many congrats to the Vietnamese developer who created Zalo – they’ve seen a lot of success with that app!
What did you think of the tech ecosystem in Vietnam?
It’s an ecosystem that’s quickly developing, overflowing with geeks, skilled developers, and engineers with high-level diplomas. That’s why we see Korean and Japanese companies coming to Vietnam for outsourcing, and subcontracting apps in Vietnam. This in turn boosts the tech level in Vietnam, and helps developers to improve their all-around skills, attracting even more international businesses. It’s a virtuous cycle. As proof of the growing interest from foreign companies, there are many French Tech companies in Ho Chi Minh city. The CNRS (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique) even has an antenna in the country and organizes conferences there.