From War Babies to Billionaires: Vietnam's Wealthiest Women

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 173
  • Published : April 2, 2013
Open Document
Text Preview
From war babies to billionaires: Vietnam's wealthiest women
Female entrepreneurs own 25% of all private enterprises in Vietnam – Asia's fastest-growing economy after China. But those at the top have often overcome extraordinary hardship to get there. Abigail Haworth meets three of Vietnam's wealthiest women * Share1714

*
*
* inShare0
* -------------------------------------------------
Email
* -------------------------------------------------

* -------------------------------------------------

* -------------------------------------------------
Abigail Haworth
* -------------------------------------------------
The Observer, Sunday 24 March 2013
* -------------------------------------------------
Jump to comments (84)

Leading the charge: Thuy Tien, president of Imex Pan Pacific and one of Vietnam's wealthiest women, at home in Ho Chi Minh City. Photograph: Nana Chen "What's the first designer item you ever bought?" I ask 42-year-old Vietnamese tycoon Le Hong Thuy Tien as we cruise through Ho Chi Minh City in her beast-like black Bentley. It has come to this. I have been asking about her childhood during the Vietnam War (or the American War, as it's known here) for the past half an hour. She has politely refused to be drawn. Fawning questions about how filthy rich she is are all I have left. "That's a great question!" she exclaims, her perfect eyebrows arching with delight. Sadly, it is only half great. The purchase was so many hundreds of Louis Vuitton tote bags, Bulgari watches and Chanel dresses ago that Thuy Tien can't remember the answer. She searches her memory in vain as motorcycles buzz past like flies outside the tinted windows. Whatever the item was, we establish that she most likely bought it in Paris in the mid-1990s. Back then she was a flight attendant for the national carrier Vietnam Airlines. It was such a coveted job at a time when few Vietnamese could travel that she'd chosen it over a fledgling career as a movie starlet. Today she is the president of a huge trading company, Imex Pan Pacific Group. "I run 25 private equity and venture capital firms that distribute luxury brands and invest in local shopping malls," she says in her girlish, slightly Americanised English. Unlike some of Vietnam's super-rich, who are reluctant to flaunt their success in a country run by an increasingly jittery and repressive Communist regime, Thuy Tien is all about the money. Her mission, she adds, is to generate annual revenue of US$1bn. How close is she? "I'm over half way there." Welcome to modern Vietnam – one side of it, at least – where the pinnacle of achievement is to snare the exclusive rights to distribute Burberry or (Thuy Tien's newest acquisition) the franchise for Dunkin' Donuts. The city formerly known as Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate national unity after two decades of civil strife, including the war with America from 1965-75. Now it is Vietnam's commercial hub. Gleaming billboards and five-star hotels signal the country's status as Asia's fastest-growing economy after China. Since liberalisation began in the 1980s, founding father Ho's Communist mantra "Success, Success, Great Success" has become the creed of hardcore capitalism. The number of multimillionaires has jumped 150% in the past five years alone. There is no breakdown by gender, probably because women like Thuy Tien are still rare. Vietnam remains overwhelmingly male-dominated. There is only one woman in the 14-member ruling Communist politburo and overall equality is badly lacking. Problems such as bride trafficking and forced prostitution are rife. Yet, for better or worse, women have been playing a hidden role in the breakneck development. Up to three million Vietnamese died in the war, many of them male soldiers who left behind wives and young children (although women fought and died, too). When the war ended, failed collectivisation policies plunged the country into...
tracking img