Exporter - - COVER STORY -

of chas­ing low cost labour mar­kets is al­most over due to per­ceived po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity, frag­men­ta­tion and brand risk as­so­ci­ated with newly-de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, and that fu­ture ef­fi­cien­cies will be gained pre­dom­i­nantly through tech­nol­ogy. “This presents sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties for soft­ware in the fu­ture.”

It's still early days for ShapeShifter in Viet­nam. How­ever, the com­pany now has a grow­ing group of qual­i­fied Viet­namese ‘op­er­a­tors' who know its so­lu­tions in­ti­mately.

White's ad­vice on Viet­nam is to firstly, un­der­stand and seg­ment your mar­ket – it's about fo­cus. “For ex­am­ple, we seg­ment into lo­cal­ly­owned and for­eign-in­vested firms. For­eign-in­vested man­u­fac­tur­ers are then bro­ken down into Chi­nese, Tai­wanese, Korean, etcetera.

“Un­der­stand the role of gov­ern­ment, pri­vate ver­sus joint stock com­pa­nies, and the dif­fer­ence do­ing busi­ness be­tween the North, South and Cen­tral parts of the coun­try.

“Also, un­der­stand who you're deal­ing with and if it doesn't smell right then it prob­a­bly isn't. We came across the is­sue of ‘cof­fee money' (graft) early on and dealt with it head-on. Be pre­pared to walk away.

“Be­come an ex­pert on labour re­la­tions if you're em­ploy­ing staff too. Cer­tain as­pects of the Viet­namese Labour Code are quite dif­fer­ent than here in New Zealand.”

White firmly be­lieves the Viet­namese econ­omy is on the cusp of a step-change in for­tunes. “De­spite still hav­ing a num­ber of struc­tural is­sues there is a very young, highly tal­ented and mo­ti­vated labour force who are des­per­ate for change and have great hopes.”

As the ini­tial ‘rush' into China starts to tail off the likes of Viet­nam will re­ally be­gin to make trac­tion, he says.

“There is also clear ev­i­dence – and good rea­son – that New Zealand is now put­ting more at­ten­tion on ge­o­graph­i­cal diversification of our ex­ports. Viet­nam should be at the top of the South­east Asian list in my view.

“I can see trade be­tween our two coun­tries grow­ing well over the next decade – prob­a­bly much of this on ex­ports of pro­tein and fi­bre. How­ever, I also think that there'll be greater op­por­tu­nity for in­vest­ment too. Viet­nam may not sim­ply be an ex­port story.”

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