Friday, May 28, 2010

What the Hell Is Going on in Vietnam?

I have just read this: What the Hell Is Going on in Indonesia via TechCrunch. The author (Sarah Lacy, one of my favourite) took her chance in Indonesia to find out why there is such a great growth in Internet usage in that South East Asia country. It was a good read.

There are some interesting parts like

I grilled them on some basic questions to bring you a Web-in-Indonesia primer. But before we get to those, here’s what impressed me the most about this small-but-tightly-knit community: It’s incredibly collegial. Plenty of research has shown that the biggest reason Silicon Valley beat Boston as a venture capital and startup hot spot was because culturally it was open, trading employees, funding, mentorship and ideas among competitors. It’s not uncommon to see Web competitors in the Valley having dinner together and generally discussing business challenges, before they go back to the office for some late night coding to bury one another in the market.
I laughed so hard reading this!  But then it was eye opening when the author found they do the same thing in Indonesia. Maybe, just maybe, that's the key point to listen to competitors and improve ourself to be better than them? Hmm, it's a little tricky here, better than but not, please don't try to become something alike. By that way, the whole competitions will become more and more competitive and then finally, users will benefit from that. Such a great way of doing thing, at least in theory.

Also, as Indonesia is a (going strong) developing country, its Internet userbase is also growing with 8% of the population, approximate 20 million people (the numbers in Vietnam are 23% and almost 20 million, limited to users using computers only). The pricing in Indonesia is also low with even prepaid BES/BIS (really?) and Blackberries (read: smartphones) are used commonly.

Okie, that's the infrastructure (signal coverage, services and devices) but actually, I think there are problems with our (Vietnamese) developers, with entrepreneurs' business plan. In Indonesia, the situation is quite the same: people don't want to pay for web, most of them don't have credit cards or any other electrical-enabled paying methods. So, what did they (Indonesian developers) do? They build a useful service for free initially and plan ahead to generate revenue later. Twitter as an example, it's 4 years old with cash flow positive (recently) but it hasn't been being profit, just yet. Of course, taking Twitter - a global phenomenon - as an example is not really appropriate but the point is: it takes time to be successful in web business (it also takes a lot of money, needless to say).

Okie, that how others did things, how Vietnamese companies are doing now? I think we are being influenced by Chinese ways of doing thing (yes, those fcukers!). Chinese companies have the tradition of ripping off Western success models and make their own versions in Chinese and for Chinese people. Journalists even have a word for that: copycat. We are doing the same. Exactly the same way. Both in web businesses and a few others (I think it's not correct to say "everything", hopefully). Anybody heard about Go.vn social network? It sucks. And the new FPT mobile, F99? It sucks, too. Those 2 examples are from Vietnam, let's take a look at our fellows from China. Check out this two sites: Groupon (made in US) and Groupon (made in China) (the Chinese clone managed to rip off the domain name as well). Another lovely couple: Facebook and Xiaonei or Renren. Oh, don't forget those low price iPhone clones from China also. China is the master of cloning and Vietnam is learning from the friendly neighbor really fast. Real fast...

We will see how everything's going. In the mean time, check out the special corner for 3G customers from VietNamNet with a lot of hot sh!t: http://vietnamnet.vn/3g/