Asia’s ris­ing star re­veals its po­ten­tial for Kiwi tech ex­porters.

Exporter - - FRONT PAGE - By Glenn Baker.

Asia’s ris­ing star re­veals its po­ten­tial for Kiwi tech ex­porters.

When Saigon fell to the North Viet­namese Army in April 1975, it marked the end of a bru­tal war that ex­acted a mas­sive hu­man cost. In the fol­low­ing year North and South Viet­nam were re­uni­fied, but the largely agri­cul­tural-based econ­omy would strug­gle on for decades.

Just ten years after the sur­ren­der of South Viet­nam, after mil­lions of flee­ing Viet­namese per­ished at sea or in Cam­bo­dian jun­gles, 13-year-old refugee Mitchell Pham ar­rived alone in New Zealand, leav­ing his par­ents and sib­lings be­hind in Ho Chi Minh City (for­merly Saigon).

Over the next three years he lived with four dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies in Auck­land. One can only imag­ine how dif­fi­cult it must have been ad­just­ing to a new life thou­sands of kilo­me­tres from im­me­di­ate fam­ily and friends.

To­day Pham is a di­rec­tor of the Au­gen Soft­ware Group, a soft­ware in­no­va­tion group of com­pa­nies he ini­tially co-founded with uni­ver­sity buddy Peter Vile in 1993.

Although based in Auck­land, Pham has long since re­con­nected with his home­land, and nowa­days an in­creas­ing amount of his time is taken up help­ing busi­nesses en­gage be­tween the two coun­tries. In 2005 Au­gen Viet­nam was es­tab­lished as a fully-owned sub­sidiary of Au­gen New Zealand. As chair­man and di­rec­tor of the Ho Chi Minh Ci­ty­based sub­sidiary, he now trav­els to Viet­nam at least four times a year. A fully in­te­grated en­gage­ment model be­tween their Viet­nam staff and New Zealand staff and cus­tomers, sees ev­ery­one work­ing to­gether as one vir­tual team.

No­body has such a unique per­spec­tive of the Viet­nam econ­omy and ex­port op­por­tu­nity as Mitchell Pham, and he's ex­cited by it.

“As Viet­nam's econ­omy con­tin­ues to grow, op­por­tu­ni­ties come from not just the ex­pand­ing mid­dle class in­come group and over­all con­sumer ap­petite for goods and ser­vices, but also the fact that all sec­tors are grow­ing and in­creas­ingly en­gag­ing and com­pet­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally,” he ex­plains. “This means there is a huge op­por­tu­nity in help­ing Viet­nam's in­dus­try sec­tors ad­vance with knowl­edge, IP and tech­nol­ogy that we have in New Zealand.”

It's the ICT and hi-tech sec­tors he's par­tic­u­larly keen on en­cour­ag­ing – which is why Pham and Vile have set up Kiwi Con­nec­tion as an ex­ten­sion of their Ho Chi Minh City op­er­a­tions.

An idea sev­eral years in the mak­ing, Kiwi Con­nec­tion is an Au­gen ini­tia­tive that lever­ages off their 11-year Viet­nam pres­ence

Mitchell Pham was re­cently in­ducted into the World Class New Zealand net­work by KEA.

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