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Promoting Tay Ninh specialties overseas

Released at: 07:12, 16/09/2018

Promoting Tay Ninh specialties overseas

Photo: VET Magazine

Ms. Tran Hanh Thu left a successful career to pursue her dream of taking specialties from Tay Ninh province to the world.

by Hai Van

Back when she was a senior executive at different large groups, Ms. Tran Hanh Thu would often go overseas for work and at times for a vacation. On Asian trips, she always noticed how few Vietnamese products were available at supermarkets, which is the opposite of the case in Vietnam. It remained in her mind, and she eventually quit her high-paying job at a multinational corporation to get her startup, Tanisa, off the ground.

Tanisa manufactures and distributes specialty products from her birthplace, southern Tay Ninh province, including its famed rice paper, shrimp salt, and spices, to distributors nationwide as well as several countries overseas. With a love for her hometown’s products and a desire to grow Vietnamese brands worldwide, she herself selects safe raw materials such as rice, pepper, and garlic, which are then machine-processed. Tanisa also packages the products, including adding brand quality verification stamps, and then distributes them domestically and internationally.

Export pioneer

She also advertises her specialties online to approach a wider foreign client base. The advertisements are important, she explained, as they include full product information to targeted clients. Industry 4.0 and digital marketing make this process easier than it once was, and more than 95 per cent of Tanisa’s revenue is indeed from exports.

Though her shrimp salt exports are lower than for rice paper, Tanisa is still proud to be the first Vietnamese company to take the product overseas. Tanisa has found many new customers in the US and Malaysia recently, making Ms. Thu happy to a pioneer its export.

The idea behind the startup is a dream of introducing Vietnamese specialties to international markets, and she believes her knowledge of Tay Ninh specialties means she can adapt as necessary. Exporting these types of food is more difficult than selling them in the local market, because each country has different standards to meet. In order to ensure the quality of her export products, Tanisa must select safe and fresh raw materials. Ms. Thu purchases ingredients from Vietnamese suppliers that meet Vietnamese export standards and the strict requirements found around the world, including those in particularly-fastidious markets such as Japan.

The journey to winning over new clients is not easy and Ms. Thu has had her share of ups and downs. Her parents opposed her decision to leave a good job and take a risk on the startup. Capital has been an issue since getting going, and she was forced in the early days to delay payments for as long possible.

Finding good employees has also proven problematic. Though Ms. Thu wants to recruit professional staff, she finds it hard to compete on salary. Such problems have made her, at times, doubt her decision to start Tanisa, but she and her shareholders have worked hard to overcome any and all issues. “Being a CEO is about problem solving, so I have to be better at handling problems than avoiding them,” she emphasized.

Despite the serious problems in the early days, she remained determined to distribute export-quality products. Three years after launching, such products are now sold in over 1,000 supermarkets and shops in Vietnam, such as Co-Op Mart, Vinmart, Satrafoods, Family Mart, and Bsmart. They are also present in France, South Korea, the US, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Brunei, and Russia, and are finding favor.

Ceaseless improvements

Because tastes differ so much, Ms. Thu explained, product exports also differ. While Tanisa’s largest markets for shrimp salt are Japan and South Korea, rice paper is popular in France and also in South Korea. Tanisa now has overseas customers ordering every month and sales and profit are growing. Growth in the first half of 2018 was 127 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Rice paper will be a major export under its plans for the years to come, but shrimp salt and other Vietnamese specialties also hold appeal around the world. In markets with competition, Tanisa will focus on developing products with different characteristics, such as being organic, and will also conduct research and development (R&D) to expand its portfolio and offer different products. 

It will also develop the local market for specialty products from Tay Ninh, especially in the high-end organic segment, with a goal of eventually bringing the rate of domestic sales to the same level as exports. Value chains are also a key point in development, and Tanisa expects to cooperate with a partner in France with a franchise chain. For Ms. Thu, passion and strategy are the elements needed for success.

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