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Infographic: Tailored Cosmetics – Customization Is a New Trend

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In the last five years, the beauty and cosmetics industry has witnessed a considerable demand for bespoke or tailored beauty products, which offer an alternative to “one-size-fits-all” cosmetics. The bespoke cosmetics companies allow customizing ingredients, colors, and fragrances, among others, to provide products tailored to an individual’s skincare routine or requirements. With consumers being increasingly selective, more engaged, and aware about ingredient and formula benefits, the appetite for customization to meet their distinct needs has grown.

Presently, the market for tailored beauty products is relatively small, dominated by small-sized players and start-ups, with a few established beauty brands such as Estée Lauder, Shiseido, Lancôme, among others, operating in the market. As demand grows, several other players are expected to venture into the market.

Despite challenges such as limited accessibility and high product prices, bespoke cosmetics market has tremendous growth potential and is certainly more than just a fad. The concept of customization catering to every individual’s requirements is increasingly luring more customers and could take bespoke cosmetics from being a novelty to mainstream sooner than later.

tailored cosmetics


Headquarter locations of tailored cosmetics manufacturers (refer to the infographic)

  • Function of Beauty and Kiehl’s – New York, USA
  • Ittsē and eSalon – California, USA
  • Cover Girl – Maryland, USA
  • Skin Inc. – Singapore
  • GeneU – London, UK
  • Ioma and Lancôme – Paris, France
by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

China’s Wine Market: Will Challenges Crush the Growing Appetite for Imported Wines?

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Over the past decade, China’s wine industry has evolved significantly and is at the forefront of becoming one of the most promising emerging wine markets globally. Globalization and massive socio-economic transformations among Chinese population have revolutionized consumers’ preferences and taste, which in turn created demand for high quality foreign wines in the country. Imported wines have been pouring into China, with approximately one out of every five wine bottles opened being imported. In 2016, China imported 638 million (15% y-o-y growth) liters of wine, valued at US$ 2.4 billion (16% y-o-y growth). The Chinese wine buyers are enthusiastically purchasing a variety of labels across all price ranges, making it an important market for global wine sellers. However, the burgeoning imported wine industry in China faces a few impediments. Faced with stringent import regulations, supply chain impairments, language barrier, counterfeit products, and exorbitant tariff rates, importing wine into China is not a simple process. Nevertheless, importers and producers need to overcome these challenges to establish themselves in the flourishing imported wine business in China.

China is one of the ten largest wine consumers in the world with over 2,000 brands of wine sold in the country, out of which 1,500 were imported in 2015. Consumption of imported wine is the highest in tier I cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, which together account for 53% of imported wine sales volume. These cities are populated with expatriates, western-educated young professionals, and consumers, who prefer imported wines. France has consistently been the key wine exporter, accounting for a share of 40% in total wine imports (by volume) to China in 2016, followed by Australia, Spain, and Chile.

China’s Wine Market

Imported wines are quickly trickling down among the wealthy Chinese citizens in urban areas, as consumption of wine is considered a status symbol, influenced by westernization. Growth is further driven by youth population and growing middle class learning about foreign liquor brands and demanding imported wines. In addition, increased consumer spending and government’s promotion of wine as a healthy substitute to the traditional alcohol ‘baijiu’ have accelerated demand for wine in the country.

Despite the growing wine demand, the imported wine industry faces several challenges including dealing with high import tariff rates and circulation of fake wine, breaking through the language and cultural barrier in China, and facing the complex distribution system along with strict import regulations.

EOS Perspective

Chinese consumers are typically interested and enthusiastic about overseas goods which explains their yearning for imported wines. The growing demand for foreign wines is driving the import business, with over 24,000 wine importers present in China, located mostly in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. Although obstacles continue to hover above the imported wine market, certain steps have been taken to ease the hassles and this could help alleviate challenges to some extent.

What steps have been taken to overcome challenges?

The Chinese government is actively trying to curb the counterfeiting issue in the country and has introduced an anti-fraud initiative called Protected Eco-origin Product (PEOP) which is a label placed on wine bottles that acts as a guarantee of authenticity by the government. Several technologies are being adopted, including radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, Near Field Communication (NFC) chips, QR codes, etc., to combat counterfeiting. RFID tags and NFC chips offering unique serial identifiers are incorporated into wine bottle’s capsule. Using an app, users can quickly check the authenticity of wine bottles.

The government is also focusing on infrastructural development of tier II cities, which is likely to improve distribution channel across these cities, resulting in better access to imported wines.

What does the future hold for imported wine market in China?

Over 2016-2019, the Chinese wine market is forecast to reach US$ 69.3 billion, growing at a CAGR of 15.4%, with imported wines likely to occupy a significant portion of the market. In near term, imported wines are likely to filter down to tier II cities, as consumers’ knowledge and preference for imported wines is growing amidst government’s efforts to make wine more accessible across these cities.

Further, the imported wine market is likely to undergo certain structural changes. Presently, the Chinese imported wine market is very fragmented, comprising several small importers focusing and operating locally within one city. These smaller importers might realign themselves by joining forces through mergers and acquisitions, in order to take advantage of economies of scale to be able to better compete on price.

Online distribution of wines is likely to gain more popularity, as China offers highly developed e-commerce infrastructure to sell products online. Consumers are slowly opting for online channel to purchase imported wines due to the availability of wide selection, transparency of information, and ease of comparing different brands with each other through information available online. Some producers started selling their wines through marketplaces such as Tmall and JD.com, as well as through specialized alcohol platforms such as Yesmywine, Jiuxian, and Wangjiu. Further, importers use delivery apps such as Dianping and ELeMe to sell imported wines.

The foreign wine market is expected to continue thriving in China and remain an attractive proposition for importers and producers. However, the key challenges will most likely persist in the market amidst other weaknesses including slow implementation of regulations, corruption, and weak administration.

Nevertheless, wine importers and producers foresee tremendous growth opportunity in China’s imported wine industry, and they are likely to continue making efforts to navigate through all obstacles, hoping to make the struggle worthwhile in the long term.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Refurbished Smartphones – the Future of High-end Devices in Emerging Markets

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An anticipated slowdown in the global smartphone sales forecast for 2016 due to lack of new first-time buyers in large markets such as the USA, China, and Europe, has been alarming for large players who have turned their focus to other emerging markets. To fit the expectations and financial capabilities of price-sensitive consumers in these markets, companies are lining up to sell refurbished smartphones as a strategic move to increase sales volume. However, competition – primarily from new smartphones – in these markets is still fierce, due to some smartphone makers (such as Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Tecno Mobile) reaching consumers with more economic devices. Are second-hand smartphones capable of outshining new devices in emerging markets?

The global smartphone market has been witnessing a slowdown in sales during 2016 in comparison to previous years, partially because some markets, such as the USA, China, and Europe have become saturated (in large part with mid-range and high-end models, such as Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy). Therefore, to avoid a decrease in sales and a subsequent loss in profits, smartphone makers are readjusting their strategies to focus on marketing economic second-hand sets in developing countries.

Refurbished Smartphones - Market Growth

 

 

According to a 2016 Deloitte report, refurbished smartphones global sales volume is expected to increase from 56 million units sold in 2014 to 120 million in 2017, growing at a CAGR of 29%. Large part of this growth is likely to occur in emerging markets, such as India, South Africa, or Nigeria, which is a sound reason for large players to venture into these geographies.

Most smartphone buyers in these markets are highly price-sensitive and frequently precede their phone purchasing decisions with intensive online research to get a good understanding of options that are available to them based on their financial capabilities. These consumers are likely to prioritize price over features and appearance of a smartphone. Therefore, refurbished devices from well-known brands, such as Samsung or Apple, need to offer satisfying functionalities yet be available at affordable price in order to be attractive for buyers in these emerging economies.

Refurbished Smartphones - India, South Africa, Nigeria

Refurbished smartphones hit obstacles across the markets

Emerging markets, despite their favorable dynamics that should at least in theory offer a great environment for refurbished phones sales to skyrocket, are not easy to navigate through, especially for high-end devices makers.

Some markets are becoming protective of their local manufacturing sectors, and introduce regulations that make it difficult to import smartphones, especially refurbished ones. India is one such case. In 2014, the Indian government rolled out the Make in India program, with the idea to promote local manufacturing in 25 sectors of various industries, one of them being electronic devices (including smartphones).

Coincidentally, two years later, when Apple initiated efforts to start importing and selling its refurbished smartphones as a way to increase the iPhone’s market share in the country, these efforts were unsuccessful. The Indian government rejected Apple’s plan, justifying its decision with a concern about the electronic waste increase caused by a deluge of refurbished smartphones entering the country. As a result, the refurbished version of Apple’s iPhone is currently sold only by online commercial platforms (e.g. Amazon, Snapdeal) from vendors that are not always official company retail stores. This could fuel sales in a parallel market, not necessarily benefiting either India’s local manufacturing or Apple.

In case of South Africa and Nigeria, both markets share similarities in terms of advantages as well as potential barriers for refurbished smartphone sales volume to grow. Nigeria’s GDP contracted by 2.06% in the second quarter of 2016, causing wary consumers to maintain their old phones or purchase very economic options due to decreasing disposable income. In South Africa, consumers are also highly price-sensitive with a very limited brand consciousness.

The rapid level of smartphone adoption registered in both markets is seen mainly in handsets with retail price of US$150 or less in South Africa and US$100 or less in Nigeria. Therefore, refurbished high-end models may dazzle local consumers, but low-cost devices can be expected to represent an obstacle for brands such as Samsung or Apple, as these smartphone makers are likely to sell their refurbished devices for half the original price which is still above the consumer-accepted purchase price in these two markets.

EOS Perspective

In case of India, the recent rejection of Apple’s plan to import and sell refurbished smartphones is an indicator that similar issues might be faced by other large players willing to do the same in the future. However, as one of the world’s largest smartphone markets, India is likely to continue building a strong sense of brand loyalty among consumers, especially towards Samsung’s and Apple’s brands in general (smartphones and beyond), and consumers will demand access to these brands (Samsung and Apple already held a 44% and a 27.3% market shares, respectively, in 2016).

The risk of India’s market being flooded with refurbished smartphones sold in a parallel market or online commercial platforms without proper regulation by authorities could result in lost control over excessive e-waste in the country, without necessarily driving local production of competitive products. Consequently, India’s government might have to consider the possibility of allowing large manufacturers to import factory-certified second-hand smartphones into the country, perhaps under the condition of refurbishing the devices in India.

In Nigeria and South Africa, the consumer price sensitivity and limited brand loyalty seem to be the most pressing issues for large players such as Apple or Samsung intending to sell their refurbished phones. In both markets, the rivalry is rather fierce, mainly due to a relatively strong presence of smaller regional manufacturers and large Chinese companies (e.g. Xiaomi) that offer affordable smart devices. While consumers in these markets are willing to spend up to US$100-150 for a device, in most cases they lack brand loyalty.

Apple or Samsung are likely to be negatively affected by this when launching their refurbished high-end handsets at half of the device’s original retail price, which in most likelihood would still be above the price consumers in these markets can and are willing to spend. As a result, large players may have to set their eyes on a long-term horizon, and slowly build the brand loyalty sense in local consumers and temporarily relinquish on large profits in order to enter these markets and settle among their potential customers.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

CPG Companies – Facing the Load

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For companies operating in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, 2014 marked the start of a difficult time, especially with growing supply chain challenges that have been augmented by greater uncertainty around the state of OTR transportation. Due to this, the industry has witnessed several hard-earned supply chain gains being washed away by external factors. Moreover, rising expectations and demand from consumers are translating into SKU proliferation as well as growing number of retail channels. This has further lead to operational complexity. While these issues are real and should be dealt with now, only very few companies have managed to overcome these supply chain pressures and emerge with solutions that balance supply chain costs as well as service levels. Some of the measures adopted by companies managing to successfully handle these supply chain issues include consolidating shipments and shifting towards drop trailers. Moreover, companies are also making more strategic shifts, such as adopting intermodal transportation at a greater rate and cutting down on distribution centers (to ship directly from plants) to improve supply chain efficiencies.

CPG companies are witnessing intense pressure throughout their supply chain, from raw-material supply to shipping finished products to distribution centers, wholesalers, as well as retailers. While some of these pressures accrue from the customer end, others arise from intensified inorganic growth in the industry, as well as the ongoing transportation shortage (especially in case of ‘over the road’ (OTR) transportation). This has further resulted in higher freight costs for shipments and is also forcing companies to maintain higher inventory levels (especially to outweigh the transportation crunch).

1-CPG Industry – Supply Chain Challenges

2-Challenges

3-Challenges

4-Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges

5-Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges

Case Studies

EOS Perspective

As the CPG supply chains have been shedding many of their gains owing to ongoing complexities, companies must come up with long-term strategic solutions to handle supply chain pressures. While short-term solutions may help companies overcome cost pressures temporarily, they may not provide companies with a holistic solution that helps balance supply chain costs and service levels. Therefore, companies may need to commit to long-term strategic solutions such as collaborative supply-chain approach and network redesign to unlock supply chain efficiencies.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Succeeding in Myanmar’s Fragmented Grocery Retail Industry

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In recent years, several reports have talked about how the rapid economic growth, expanding middle class, and consumer spending have fueled growth in Myanmar’s retail industry. Although the growth potential is very lucrative, retailers should also look closely at the industry challenges that currently exist. These challenges must be carefully assessed and addressed in order to capture the growth opportunities and succeed in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s rapidly improving growth indicators and demographics have attracted the attention of several investors as well as business consulting firms globally. The country’s growing urbanization, middle class population, and rising disposable income point towards tremendous retail opportunities for players looking for new growth markets.

Slide1 - What’s Attracting Retailers to Myanmar

In the past three years, companies such as Coca-Cola, Carlsberg, PepsiCo, KFC, etc., have already entered and started their business operations in Myanmar, while several others are looking at ways to enter the nation’s lucrative retail market, and to be the part of its growth story. Many industry experts remain upbeat on the nation’s future economic growth prospects, and have projected the retail industry to grow at a strong pace in the future.

Slide2 - M&A, JV, and Investment Deals

Slide3 - Store Expansion

Slide4 - Challenges

Slide5 - Challenges 2

Slide6 - Hurdles

EOS Perspective

Rapid economic growth, urbanization, and growing purchasing power, along with consumerization of IT are bringing bigger exposure to international brands for Myanmar’s rising middle class. This is expected to boost the demand for fast moving consumer goods. In addition, the evolving buying preferences of young and aspiring middle-class population, who are looking to spend their rising incomes on bigger and better brands are set to trigger improvements in the range and quality of retail products and services.

Recent FDI reforms and the influx of foreign capital are likely to dramatically change Myanmar’s retail industry landscape in the coming years. International retailers are expected to spur industry growth by creating more jobs, improving supply chain networks and infrastructure, bringing cutting-edge technologies, processes, and management best practices. Furthermore, the increased competition between local and foreign retailers is likely to promote market efficiency, which might also result in better portfolio of grocery products and services on offer.

For foreign players, Myanmar’s retail industry still remains relatively unknown. As the market remains highly fragmented with lack of structured data on consumer preferences and market segmentation, companies need to spend time to study the market.

The best strategy for foreign retailers should be to form a joint-venture with the right local partner, who has comprehensive understanding of the market and its consumers’ buying behavior. Joint ventures remain the preferred strategy for many multinational retailers to enter Myanmar’s retail industry. With the help of trade fairs and road-shows, companies can identify and engage with potential partners. This will help them conduct due diligence, at the same time gain better understanding of the industry as well as first hand market insights. Many companies from Japan and Singapore have successfully reaped the benefits of this approach.

Proven as very challenging, retailing in rural Myanmar remains untapped. There are plenty of growth opportunities for grocery retailers as consumer and market dynamics are expected to continuously improve in the long run. By offering value added services such as bill payments, mobile recharge and top-up cards, and postal services, retailers can truly create a competitive advantage. Retailers can start investing in partnerships with wholesalers and independent retailers to grow their current network. Once the opportunities become ripe, retailers can scale up their operations by acquiring these partners, and thus expand their footprint in new geographies.

Slide7 - Opportunity

In order to succeed in Myanmar’s grocery retailing, foreign and local players will have to form strategic alliances and create a win-win relationship through exchanging technologies and global best practices with sales network and market intelligence. Furthermore, retailers must be agile, flexible, and adaptable enough to seize market opportunities in Myanmar’s fragmented retail sector. Succeeding in Myanmar’s grocery retailing requires unique solutions tailored to meet the evolving demands of various consumer segments.

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Brazil’s Personal Care and Cosmetics Market: Transitioning from Physical to Digital?

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Brazil’s personal care and cosmetics market is skyrocketing with growing sales driven by a fashion-conscious and beauty-obsessed population. Brazil, the cosmetics industry veteran, is the third largest consumer of beauty products worldwide and relies heavily on traditional channels for distribution. Online retailing has made inroads into the personal care market in Brazil and is on a slow but steady growth trajectory with immense potential in the future.

Brazilian consumers have long exhibited strong interest in personal care and beauty products, mostly purchased through traditional distribution channels. Over the past couple of years, these consumers have gradually also begun shopping for beauty products online, however, they are still skeptical about payment security as well as delayed delivery and quality of products.

Brazil’s Personal Care and Cosmetics Market-1

 

 

Despite the obstacles, some online retailers — such as Natura, Men’s Market, and BelezaNaWeb — have stepped up to overcome hurdles and develop robust strategies to initiate online purchase of personal care products. After realizing potential of online retailing in the personal care and cosmetics segment, investors have started pouring in money in e-commerce websites to reap benefits.

Brazil’s Personal Care and Cosmetics Market-2

 

Personal care segment can benefit from numerous growth opportunities in the e-commerce market with consumers’ rising inclination towards special offers attracting them to shop online, beauty product segment’s growing share in the emerging online shopping market, m-commerce boosting online sales, etc. E-retailers should exploit these opportunities to penetrate the market and improve sales.

Brazil’s Personal Care and Cosmetics Market-3

 

Brazil’s Personal Care and Cosmetics Market-4

EOS Perspective

While the e-commerce industry faces various obstacles, a robust online strategy along with a balanced eco-system — comprising fraud protection arrangement, better payment mechanism, developed infrastructure, as well as clear understanding of consumer behavior — is likely to improve e-commerce adoption and increase sales.

The market is slowly overcoming some of the hurdles — to combat logistics issue, government has started investing in air and shipping ports to facilitate parcel deliveries through these modes. This is likely to improve shipment timelines and consumers, as desired, can avail quick delivery of personal care products. Further, online retailers have started assessing consumer behavior and responded by improving shopping experience by re-designing websites, launching m-commerce applications for convenient mobile browsing, and implementing loyalty programs. The Brazilian government is working towards implementing stringent regulations to protect consumers against online frauds and formulating robust e-commerce policies.

Paving way into the Brazilian e-commerce market to sell personal care products has been challenging, however, with improvement initiatives slowly gaining momentum, the market is on an upswing to witness a stellar growth.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Consumer Goods in Sub-Saharan Africa: Think Local, Act Local.

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Sub-Saharan Africa’s strong GDP growth, growing middle-class, and fast urbanization have attracted many investors and foreign retailers to the region in recent years. There is no doubt that the region’s demographics offer massive opportunities for consumer goods industry. But, a closer look at the ground reality and recent experiences from multinational companies operating in the region reveals the magnitude of challenges that need to be carefully assessed.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) recent growth, expanding middle class, rapid urbanization, and growing household incomes have made it a promising market for the consumer goods industry. In recent years, several reports and industry experts have labeled the region as the ‘next big thing’ with massive potential. Although there is no denying that the growth outlook and market opportunities in the region are promising, there are considerable challenges that firms have to assess and overcome in order to succeed in these frontier markets.

Reality Checks

“… we have realized the middle class here in the region is extremely small and it is not really growing.” – Cornel Krummenach, Chief Executive equatorial Africa region, Nestle (June 2015)


Industry Challenges

“If you look at how difficult it can be in Africa to move goods across a border, the fees and expenditure involved, the red tape, and the lack of suppliers for supermarkets, it’s discouraging.” – Boris Planer, Chief Economist, Planet Retail (March 2014)

Beyond the well-known infrastructure challenges, one of the more overwhelming challenges for consumer companies is to gain a complete understanding of the highly fragmented retail industry. As retailers and consumers remain widely scattered, effective route-to-market and distribution becomes a daunting task. In addition, the complex procedures, and bureaucratic obstacles result in supply disruptions and higher operating costs. For instance, Shoprite, a leading regional retailer, spends nearly US$ 20,000 weekly on import permits to transport goods for its stores in Zambia alone. In Nigeria, Shoprite keeps a warehouse full of flour, while PZ Cussons keeps up to three months of stock in Nigerian factories to ensure a constant supply.


How to Succeed

“To operate successfully beyond our home border we had to learn to trade over vast distances,” he explains. “We had to invest heavily in supply chains, information technology capabilities and international sourcing skills, as trading in Africa is still logistically difficult.” – Whitey Basson, CEO, Shoprite Group


The famous song ‘Africa’s not for sissies’ holds so true for the region’s consumer goods industry. As SSA is a culturally diverse region with its heterogeneous consumer goods market, retailers need to think local and act local. They need to develop a comprehensive understanding of consumers, their spending behavior, and shopping habits. As traditional retailing will continue to hold significant market share for quite some time, succeeding in SSA’s consumer goods markets will be challenging. The key for retailers is to assess the various challenges against the market opportunities. Companies will have to be agile to respond to sudden industry changes, at the same time flexible in tailoring their strategies as per needs of the evolving market.

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1) African Development Bank in 2011 estimated middle-class population in SSA to be over 300 million and defined “middle-class” as individuals earning between US$4 and US$20 a day. Standard Chartered Bank in its 2014 report projected the middle class in 11 major SSA economies to be around 15 million and estimated this figure to surpass 40 million by 2030. Standard Chartered Bank defined “middle class” as those earning between US$8,500 and US$42,000 a year.

2) Coca-Cola designed an innovative distribution model for African markets where bottlers deliver directly to distribution centers, who in turn deliver to retailers. This resulted in win-win situation for all as everybody in the supply chain ecosystem earns profit. Shoprite Group’s growth is heavily linked to its central distribution model that helped the firm to improve customer services and ensure smooth supply across the region.

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In May 2013, in our article ‘Africa is Ready For You. Are You Ready For Africa?‘, we also discussed six aspects that companies must consider when planning their Africa strategy and offerings.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Vietnam’s Macroeconomic Environment: FDI Paving the Way for Growth

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2013 was the sixth consecutive year since Vietnam first witnessed macroeconomic instability. With high inflation levels, a collapse of the banking system, and relatively lower growth levels compared with its Asia-Pacific peers, the economy faced immense pressures. However, thanks to continuous efforts by the government to uplift the economy as well as the presence of several inherent benefits that Vietnam offers to foreign corporations, the economy has been resurging, largely on the back of soaring FDI.

Vietnam has faced several economic pressures since 2008, which resulted in high levels of inflation, stagnated growth, and a crumbling financial system primarily led by rising bad debts and loss of liquidity. This also brought a negative impact on the real estate sector and its periphery industries. Over the past few years, the country has struggled to find its ground and has undertaken several policy measures to instigate investor interests. In fact, the Vietnamese government is largely focusing on increasing FDI investment levels and exports as the key tools to pull its economy out of stagnation.

The government made substantial moves with regards to economic policies. These initiatives, which led to a boost in the country’s FDI in 2013, included:

  • Equitization of 573 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), wherein foreign investors are eligible to hold stake in SOEs with few conditions

  • Tax allowance that reduces corporate income tax from 25% to 22% from January 2014 and further to 20% in January 2016

  • The approval of a scheme to enhance FDI management in Vietnam

These efforts by the government appear to have started yielding results, as the registered FDI rose by 95.8% to US$13.1 billion during the first 10 months of 2013, and the disbursed FDI rose by 6.4% year-over-year to $9.6 billion for the first 10 months of the year.

In addition to these initiatives, the government has stepped up to strengthen the country’s banking sector since 2012. Over the past two years it has significantly reduced average lending rates, equitized four state-owned commercial banks, and set up Vietnam Asset Management Company, a state-owned company created solely to purchase bad debt from existing banks in order to clear their books. This company purchased bad loans worth about US$1.6 billion in 2013. In an effort to further speed up the restructuring of the banking system, the government announced that it would increase the allowed limit for foreign strategic investors to invest in a domestic financial institution from 15% to 20% in February 2014.

VietnamInvestmentEnvironment


The government efforts to stimulate FDI have also been supplemented by the existence of several positive intrinsic factors that Vietnam boasts off. The country remains an attractive investment destination thanks to its abundance of natural resources and cheap labor availability (according to JETRO report, monthly pay for general workers in Vietnam is about 32% of levels in China, 43% of that in Malaysia and Thailand, and 62% of that in Indonesia). The country also offers a young and dynamic consumer base domestically, as well as favorable conditions and location to supply within the subcontinent. It also enjoys a stable political environment, a significant advantage over several of its neighbors.

The resurfacing of negotiation talks regarding Vietnam becoming a member of The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is also positive news for the export sector, which is expected to receive a significant boost with the signing of the agreement (especially in the area of garments, footwear, and wooden furniture). This will also ease investment inflow in Vietnam from other TPP members.

Backed by the aforementioned factors and a robust young population, several sectors in the country are registering a double digit growth and intensified attention from foreign investors.

  • Vietnam’s aviation sector, for instance, is expected to be the third-fastest growing sector globally with regards to international travel and freight, and the second-fastest with respect to domestic travel in 2014.

  • The electronics sector has also witnessed keen interest from foreign players. Nokia, a leading telecom handset player, opened its first factory in Vietnam in 2013. Samsung and LG have announced plans to build factories in the country primarily for export purposes.

  • Retail, consumer goods, and tourism are some of the other best performing sectors with strong growth potential in the near future.

  • Moreover, in anticipation of the TPP agreement, Wal-Mart is also exploring investment opportunities in Vietnam that would entail sourcing of several products, such as clothing and footwear, entertainment, home appliances, toys and seasonal goods.


It is clearly visible that Vietnam is on the right path of growth and expansion, nevertheless, there is still a long way to go. While the FDI levels rise, the government has to channelize this investment to develop support industries and high-quality workforce to sustain growth. Moreover, while Vietnam enjoys abundant natural resources and cheap labor that attracts FDI, these factors remain exhaustible, especially in the light of new investment hotspots (such as Myanmar) emerging. Therefore, in addition to just focusing on economic policies, Vietnam must work towards creating better investment climate to lure FDI. The country’s legal framework still presents several hurdles to foreign investment and the country ranks very poorly on the global corruption index (114 out of 177 countries). While it is almost certain that Vietnam will continue to see an inflow of foreign investments, it is to be seen if it can use this to achieve sustainable growth for its economy.

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