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Born and raised in Europe but Liisi has a special passion for Vietnamese Ao Dai (traditional gown) and Vietnamese silk products.
Liisi next to silk garments from her own brand.
Business started from the love for Ao Dai
Liisi Mari (born 1990) was born and raised in Estonia. Liisi’s family had been painters for three generations, so she inherited some of that talent.
Living in the cradle of art, since childhood Liisi has always been immersed in paintbrushes and canvases. Her favorite technique is drawing on silk.
Later, Liisi graduated from the University of Arts in Estonia and went to Hong Kong (China) to study. Here, she met the man of her dreams and got married to a Vietnamese.
“When we first met, I often shared with my husband Ngoc my hobbies. He said Vietnam is a famous country for its silk. We talked about a lot of things but I was really fascinated when he had the same aspirations,” Liisi said.
When she was introduced to Ngoc’s family, his mother brought her to a tailor to make an Ao Dai as a gift.
The first time she held the Ao Dai in her hands, Liisi felt a strange sensation. In Liisi’s head, the image of paint brushes dancing on her shirt appeared. Just like that, she was infatuated with Ao Dai in all its magnificence.
Since then, Liisi has spent most of her time studying silk and Ao Dai.
The young Estonian woman decided to choose silk to start a business thanks to her love of the Vietnamese Ao Dai.
In 2018, she got married and moved to Vietnam to live with her husband. In addition to painting, Liisi occasionally does modeling work.
Liisi is so “addicted” to Ao Dai that she wears them whenever a special occasion comes up, whether it is Tet or a wedding or party.
“Ao Dai contains the essence of national identity. I feel confident wearing them,” Liisi said.
Liisi saw that Vietnamese silk had a lot of potential so she started a business in her husband’s hometown with her own silk brand.
Liisi’s husband was then working for a company with a monthly salary of thousands of dollars, but decided to quit his job to cooperate with his wife on the business.
“My husband studied business administration, but I was inclined to art. We have different personalities but have the same orientation and support each other in our work,” said Liisi.
According to Liisi, silk is a great material for painting. The natural softness of the silk fibers helps the colors to spread and blend together into attractive new colors.
“My products contain my love and passion for silk. The motifs on the Ao Dai are all hand drawn by me so each set is unique, nothing is mass produced,” Liisi said.
|In the contest “Charming Ao Dai 2019”, Liisi won 4th place with the Ao Dai she designed.|
In addition to the Ao Dai, Liisi also developed a hand-painted silk scarf and silk pillows. Just like the Ao Dai, there is only one version for each piece.
In addition to the products drawn by Liisi, the couple also organizes sessions for customers who want to hand-draw the motifs of their scarf or Ao Dai at the sewing factory.
“Painting on silk is an artistic activity that helps people find relaxation, tranquility, stress relief as well as training persistence and creativity,” Liisi said.
Bringing Vietnamese silk to the world
|Drawing on canvas class for children.|
The Estonian woman added that, although the business is stable, the couple’s silk brand has not officially had a store, but only accepts orders via online form.
In order for customers to choose easily, couple are using a smart fashion app with a “Try-on” feature – allowing buyers to try on clothes and accessories on models virtually.
After being welcomed by the Vietnamese market, the couple brought “made in Vietnam” products to other countries. However, the distribution stops at retail activities.
According to Liisi, customers in Finland, Estonia, Germany, the US, and China find Vietnamese silk products through the couple’s sales page.
|A phoenix silk scarf hand drawn by Liisi.|
Mr. Tran Ngoc, Liisi’s husband, said that in 2020, the couple intends to export through a large distribution channel, but due to the epidemic, it has been postponed. Currently, this plan has just been restarted. He will focus on exporting to Estonia and Germany.
“Because of limited capital and the lack of conditions to invest in large factories, my wife and I have developed the model of linking, sewing scarves and silk robes with traditional craft villages.
For standard product line, we order outsourcing. High-end line, exclusive design, we bring them to a small self-production workshop. However, the source of silk fabric must always ensure the standards of Vietnam. Because the foreign market is quite careful,” Mr. Ngoc said.
|Liisi inside the canvas studio.|
Mr. Ngoc shared that the couple started a business entirely with their own capital and did not seek funds from others.
The brand name this may not be widely developed but the production is there. The quantity of goods is not high but he believes this is a sustainable way to go.
At the beginning, Ngoc and his wife also faced many difficulties in finding markets and approaching customers.
With business knowledge and brand development acquired for many years, Ngoc and his wife promote themselves through social networks. At the same time, the couple brings their products to travel fairs, world consumer fairs, and art shows.
“Silk is woven from insect silk. From this material, we can create many different fabrics, shiny like satin, rough like linen and burlap, hard like organza … “, the owner added.
|Liisi and her husband introduce the silk brand to the world to promote Vietnamese culture.|
People often consider silk as a glossy fabric, loose and not for the young, but this material can be used for all ages, different in color and design.
Liisi said the developing the silk brand is not simply a business. The main purpose is to promote Vietnamese traditional culture, and elevate products to art.
“My husband and I are determined to move around and live in both countries – Vietnam and Estonia. So, everyone has the opportunity to be close to their family. In the future, I plan to open a representative office in Estonia. My mother also likes Vietnamese silk products,” said Liisi.
The Hanoitimes – Hanoi will have to materialize with long-term programs and action plans the city’s vision and policies, create favorable conditions to take the field of design to new heights.
Twenty years after being honored as the City for Peace by UNESCO, Hanoi became a member of UNESCO’s Network of Creative Cities in the “Design” category in 2019, which brings the capital city to a new height and opens up opportunities for it to develop the cultural industry, Kinh Te & Do Thi reported.
These titles will enhance the position of Hanoi, with a forward-looking vision and the national aspiration to become an innovative and responsible member in the regional and in the world community.
|Hanoi book street. Photo: Nam Nguyen|
Hanoi became one of the 66 cities in the world to be recognized as UNESCO Creative City in October 2019, on the occasion of World Cities’ Day (October 31).
Hanoi chose the “Design” category for the postulation to the title of Creative City because this field may give the capital more opportunities when it comes to international integration.
The “Design” was also chosen for running by other 31 cities worldwide, of which 12 cities chose the category as a pillar field to develop into creative cities.
According to UNESCO Chief Representative in Vietnam Michael Croft, a vision of Hanoi as a Creative Capital will act as a catalyst to create new development opportunities as well as help to drive inclusive and sustainable growth in a time of economic uncertainty.
Following two decades of profound expansion, Hanoi now seeks to position itself at the forefront of the rapid socio-economic transformation of Vietnam through its cultural legacy to define a new model of economic activity based on creativity and strong youth empowerment, wrote Michael Croft in an article.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs cum Chairman of the Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO Le Hoai Trung said that Hanoi can meet all the criteria of creativity. However, only the “Design” category can show the vision and strategy for sustainable development which is inclusive of the other criteria and promote all of the city’s resources.
The fact that Hanoi has officially become one of the UNESCO Creative Cities has facilitated the city to turn creativity and cultural industry into the core of development; created opportunities for Hanoi to strengthen international integration; mobilized resources, knowledge and learned experiences from other member cities and from UNESCO.
“Hanoi will have to materialize with long-term programs and action plans the city’s vision and policies, create favorable conditions to take the field of design to new heights, raise people’s awareness on the matter and attach it to the community to gradually realize the initiatives,” Secretary of the municipal Party Committee Vuong Dinh Hue emphasized at a high-level seminar in early October to celebrate the 1,010th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi and the 17th Congress of the city Party.
The “UNESCO Creative Cities” network was established in 2004 to promote international cooperation among the recognized cities. With the latest designation, UNESCO Creative Cities Network is currently comprising of 264 city members which have invested in culture and creativity in such fields as music, traditional handicraft, design, literature, digital art, and cuisine as an accelerator of sustainable development.
The Hanoitimes – KB Securities predicted there would be flat growth in foreign tourist arrivals to Vietnam in 2020, compared to 15% growth in 2019.
Vietnam major airlines such as national carrier Vietnam Airlines and budget airline Vietjet Air are predicted to face a no-growth scenario in 2020, due to slower growth or even a decline in the number of international tourists on fear of the outbreak of the new coronavirus (nCoV), according to KB Securities.
This is not to mention the joining of new airlines in the aviation market, making the competition fiercer.
According to KB Securities, international flights accounted for 66% of revenue for Vietjet Air (2019) and 65% for Vietnam Airlines (2017). In recent years, major driving forces for local airlines mainly came from opening new international flight routes as the domestic market become saturated.
Amid the ongoing outbreak of nCoV in China and countries around the world that claimed 362 deaths and 17,297 cases of infection as of today, the Vietnamese government requested the Ministry of Transport (MoT) to suspend flights to and from nCoV-stricken areas, while Vietnam will stop receiving Chinese tourists.
Meanwhile, Hanoi’s authorities have stopped issuing visas for foreigners, including Chinese nationals, who have been in China for the last two weeks.
KB Securities expected the nCoV outbreak to cause severe consequences to the aviation industry and tourism similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) from November 2002 to July 2003.
Countries in East Asia – Pacific witnessed a boom in their respective aviation industries during the 1999 – 2002 period with the average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9%. However, SARS plummeted the growth number of tourists via air transportation to 0.7% in the region in 2003, however, the number rebounded strongly to 39% in 2004.
In case of nCoV, KB Securities predicted the impact to be more difficult to evaluate for Vietnam, due to (1) the close proximity between Vietnam and China and the spread of the disease which is faster than SARS; (2) the ratio of Chinese tourists to foreign arrivals coming to Vietnam is increasing every year, reaching 32% in 2019 as airlines open more flight routes to Chinese provinces and cities.
It is predicted that the number of Chinese tourists to Vietnam would decline 75% and no growth in the number of foreign tourists during the outbreak, while the disease would last shorter than SARS (six months) due to the quick responses from the international community. For the final months of the nCoV epidemic, KB Securities assumed the number of tourists to grow at an average of 15%, equivalent to growth rate in the whole 2019.
With such assumption, KB Securities predicted there would be no growth in foreign tourists arrival to Vietnam in 2020, ranging from -1% to 2%.
Vietnam is currently going through a growth spurt while entering an era with more modern and people-centred considerations rising in prevalence. What role does “soft power” play in GDP growth as well as regional and global success?
|Vu Ba Phu, director general of the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade|
Vietnam’s soft power stems from not only the promotion of its own values such as the heroic history, rich culture and traditions, and pacifist foreign policy but also the development and optimisation of a range of new positions and advantages.
Amid the difficulties of 2020, the successful dispensing of its dual role as both ASEAN chair and non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council is testament to the successful application of soft power in Vietnam’s foreign policy. In 2020, the world lauded Vietnam’s rapid response and contributions to regional and international affairs thanks to its ability to grasp opportunities, taking the initiative in coping with dynamic situations and ensuring economic recovery while promoting multilateralism and international solidarity to get through the COVID-19 crisis.
Vietnam not only dived deeper into the global economy and made increasing contributions to shaping the ground rules of international organisations, it also prepared for further comprehensive integration. Possibly the greatest achievements were extending Vietnam’s diplomatic relations to 187 out of 193 member states of the United Nations while completing negotiating and signing new-generation free trade agreements (FTAs), making the country an integral factor in all regional and intra-regional economic links.
With these steps, Vietnam is now one of the most open economies in the world, with the ratio of foreign trade to GDP increasing from 136 per cent in 2010 to approximately 200 per cent in 2019. Amid COVID-19 shutdowns in early 2020, Vietnam was among the very few countries to achieve positive GDP growth of nearly 3 per cent.
Vietnam’s soft power is a combination of many factors and has made significant contributions to increasing its prestige and position in the regional and international arena.
Branding is a strong tool for advocacy among global stakeholders. How is Vietnam globalising its homegrown brands?
In today’s continuously evolving economy, the greater a brand’s recognition in the international market, the more strength it provides to its country. Notably, branding will play a crucial role as Vietnam steps up participation in more and more new-generation FTAs.
Recognising this, the Vietnam Value Programme, launched in 2003, is the government’s unique and long-term trade promotion programme aiming to build Vietnam’s image as a country of high-quality products and services, to increase the pride and attraction of the country and its people, and to boost foreign trade and national competitiveness.
As the programme management agency, the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam (MoIT) has been actively supporting Vietnamese enterprises to improve their capacity through business development consultancy, establishing information systems, and updating branding knowledge. Promotion and public relations have also received a lot of attention to increase public and international awareness about the programme and Vietnam Value products through various channels.
The MoIT also builds and promotes geographical indications and collective trademarks from across the country in foreign markets, improving competitiveness of businesses based on a reputation for quality, environmentally-friendly production, and professionalism, thereby consolidating the position of Vietnamese brands globally.
Thanks to the support of the programme, many Vietnamese corporations and businesses have become aware of the importance of branding. Enterprises have gradually learned to promote their brands professionally, improving their competitiveness and reaffirming their position in the domestic and foreign markets.
Many outstanding Vietnamese brands have resonated with regional and international consumers and partners. For example, Viettel is in the globe’s top 15 in terms of mobile subscribers and the top 40 in terms of revenue. Meanwhile, Truong Hai Auto Corporation is gradually rising to the top position in the ASEAN region and state-owned Khanh Hoa Salanganes Nest One Member LLC has the largest swiftlet exploitation output. TH Group is the first Vietnamese company to successfully penetrate the Chinese market, the second-largest dairy consumption market in the world.
All these successes by individual brands have been continuously raising Vietnam’s national brand to a stronger global position.
How has COVID-19 impacted Vietnam’s international relations?
The far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed many countries into a health and economic crisis. Despite the unprecedented challenges, Vietnam has been one of the world’s success stories in getting the outbreak under control, maintaining socioeconomic stability, and promoting bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activities. The initial great successes in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic were due to the successful combination of the nation’s strength, in which soft power played a significant role.
Vietnam has proactively deployed its diplomatic strategy to orchestrate COVID-19 response, committed and stood ready to share information, and donated medical supplies to countries in need. The message of leaving no-one behind is one of the most vivid demonstrations of Vietnam’s wielding of soft power, proving the Vietnamese spirit of solidarity. That humanitarian spirit is also reflected in the help provided to overseas Vietnamese to return or the messages foreigners have posted about how fortunate they feel to be staying in the country during the outbreak.
Its effective anti-pandemic policies, along with the responsibility and dignity Vietnam has shown on the international stage, have been highly appreciated by international friends.
How will this successful use of soft power be turned into economic gains?
With the efforts of the government and the collaboration of the Vietnamese people to prevent and control the pandemic, Vietnam is now well-known as a safe country. This renown makes it easy for Vietnam to draw international investment, events, and tourists, which bring great opportunities for economic development.
Not only that, Vietnam has succeeded in turning the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis into advantages to enhance the image of Vietnamese products and national brands. Vietnam has defied the global trend with its brand value skyrocketing 29 per cent on-year, from $247 billion to $319 billion, ranking 33rd among the world’s top 100 national brands, and being the fastest-growing national brand in 2020.
Soft power is an extremely valuable asset for Vietnam to turn challenges into opportunities. In the midst of difficulties, Vietnam’s use of soft power was not weakened but became stronger than ever. Thanks to strong social consensus, national solidarity, and unity, Vietnam has gained impressive achievements which effectively improved its image in the international arena.
What are Vietnam’s goals for the next decade in terms of building up its soft power capabilities?
Vietnam aspires to achieve comprehensive innovation and extensive international integration, to become a country with modern industries and high average income by 2030, then a developed country with high income by 2045. To reach higher international stature, soft power will play an even more cardinal role, requiring efforts from the entire political system, each enterprise, and each Vietnamese citizen.
Firstly, Vietnam needs to create a systematic and long-term plan to promote soft power. It is also necessary to improve growth quality and labour productivity, and to promote creative industries, thereby improving the competitiveness of the economy as a whole.
At the same time, it is necessary to continue to preserve and promote the diverse and rich values of Vietnamese culture. Concurrently, studies and assessments by experts drawing comments from the community will also pave the way to pick out the unique, remarkable cultural elements for focused investment and development, thereby making great contributions to Vietnam’s socioeconomic development.
Vietnam should also increase its use of soft power in diplomacy. Globalisation is creating ever more complex interdependencies and in this environment, regional and global diplomacy should concentrate on leadership and mediation through softer means.
It will also be necessary to prioritise and focus investment on scientific and technological development to ensure Vietnam’s competitiveness. The creation of high-quality and highly competitive products requires proper appreciation of ICT in building national soft power as well as applying new and innovative technologies in production.
In addition to building and promoting soft power, Vietnam also needs to strengthen its hard power to create synergies, creating “smart power” in the new era to enhance integration and enhance its global strategic and economic position.
Vietnam rises in global soft power rankings
Vietnam has moved up three places to 47th in the Global Soft Power Index for 2021, which ranks the world’s top 60 soft power nations, it was revealed last week.
According to the Brand Finance report, Vietnam was the only country in ASEAN to earn an upgrade in the rankings.
Vietnam has been considered a bright spot globally thanks to the increasing value of its national brand, along with socioeconomic results reached during a tough 2020. As an obvious highlight, according to the report, Vietnam objectively managed COVID-19 extremely well. The country was spared a year of lockdowns and besieged hospitals, and has one of the lowest infection and death rates in the world.
Not only has the response to the pandemic been impressive, given its shared border with China, but Vietnam also experienced one of the highest economic growth rates globally in 2020.
Commenting on the achievement, Samir Dixit, managing director of Brand Finance Asia-Pacific, stressed that economic growth in the 21st century is all about sustained collaborations amongst various stakeholders and the correlation of perceptions of the nation brand with the brands from the country, which can truly enhance the country’s soft power, both internally and externally – something which Dixit says Vietnam seems to be managing well.
At a national level, Vietnam had established diplomatic relations with 187 out of 193 member states of the United Nations and completed the process of negotiating and signing new-generation free trade agreements, making the country an important factor in all regional and intra-regional economic links, which is a booster for Vietnam’s imports and exports.
Dixit added that the Vietnam Value Programme management agency, through the Ministry of Industry and Trade, has actively supported Vietnamese enterprises to improve their capacity through consulting business development, establishing information systems, and updating branding knowledge.
All these initiatives and efforts have helped increase the awareness of the public, international consumers, and customers about the programme and products through various domestic and international media channels.
“Thanks to the efforts of the Vietnam Value Programme, Vietnam’s processed food industry now contributes upwards of $17 billion of the country’s exports, and the apparel industry makes up over $22 billion of Vietnam’s exports. These economic contributions are absolutely crucial for Vietnam’s overall growth, its reputation, and contribution to Vietnam’s soft power,” he added.
The Global Soft Power Index covers over 75,000 respondents in 100 countries, and aggregates how the world views the top soft power nations, as well as enables a more granular snapshot of nation-to-nation attitudes. The findings are often deemed crucial for governments seeking to better manage their national brands and improves their soft power metrics.
By Van Nguyen
The Hanoitimes – Foreign digital content providers in Vietnam have some payment options.
Facebook and Google are likely required to pay tax in Vietnam after years of operations in the country without fulfilling their tax obligation as claimed by the Vietnamese government.
Percentage of new digital consumers out of total service consumers in Southeast Asia countries. Source: Google, Temasek, Bain & Company
The foreign digital content providers might make tax payment online via taxation department’s portal or through authorized agents following the Ministry of Finance’s Draft Circular, which is made available for public consultation.
Under Vietnamese rules, foreign firms, which have no fixed business facilities in Vietnam but provide e-commerce services and digital-based business with local partner, are regarded as having residential offices in Vietnam.
Accordingly, Facebook, Google, or Netflix are subject to the new regulation.
With the new regulation, tax agency will provide tax code and payment options, including direct payment or via authorized agents to foreign taxpayers.
So far, a number of foreign e-commerce providers and technology firms working in Vietnam like Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Netflix (the US), iflix (Malaysia), WeTV, iQiYi, Alibaba (China) make good profit worth billion dollars.
Speaking at an interpellation at the National Assembly in November 2020, Vietnam’s Minister of Information and Communications (MIC) Nguyen Manh Hung said Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple earned billions of dollars in Vietnam but paid no tax.
The situation has prompted some actions by the MIC and the Ministry of Finance.
Vietnam’s Internet economy is expected to reach US$14 billion in 2020 and likely US$52 billion by 2025 with a 29% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to the “e-Conomy SEA 2020” report by Google, Temasek, Bain & Company.
|Vietnam’s Internet economy likely doubles in 2025. Source: Google, Temasek, Bain & Company|