Businesses adopt survival tactics amid epidemic

By Vien Thong, Dat Nguyen   February 26, 2020 | 08:45 pm PT
Businesses adopt survival tactics amid epidemic
Containers at Kim Thanh No.2 Border Gate with China in Lao Cai Province on February 16, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Vietnamese businesses are adopting diverse survival strategies as the novel coronavirus epidemic gnaws at their bottom line.

Truong Giang has seen sales plummet at his 16 restaurant chain outlets in Ho Chi Minh City, and knows he has to do something to keep things going.

"If the customers won’t come to us, we’ll go to them," he says. Giang has seen the number of customers at his Otoke Chicken chain drop 30-50 percent following the Covid-19 outbreak.

His company has begun prioritizing takeaways and delivery, offering free shipping for orders over VND150,000 ($6.5) to all districts in Vietnam’s largest city.

Giang is among many entrepreneurs in Vietnam who are trying different things to save their business from succumbing to the slowdown that has followed the outbreak, severely denting sales and revenues.

Major tour company Saigontourist has announced discounts of up to 50 percent for its tour packages from March to May in one of its largest campaigns ever.

Vietnamese carriers who have estimated epidemic wrought losses of VND10 trillion ($430.5 million), have been significantly lowering ticket prices to attract passengers.

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines now offers Hanoi-HCMC tickets from VND589,000 ($25) onwards, 60 percent lower than its usual rates.

Budget carriers like Vietjet, Jetstar Pacific and Bamboo Airways have also lowered fares on what was the world’s sixth busiest domestic route last year.

Smaller businesses are also trying to adapt to the new situation. Oanh, owner of a footwear manufacturing firm in HCMC, has been hit hard because her main export market has been China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Instead of lowering prices or looking for new markets, she has decided to manufacture masks at her factory. Making around 1,000 masks a day will keep her workers engaged, and it is a product in high demand right now.

Desserted restaurants seen in downtown Hanoi on February 9, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Desserted restaurants in downtown Hanoi on February 9, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Ngan Hoang, who owns a spa in HCMC’s District 1, has decided to close her business for 45 days, with infection fears keeping most customers away. But neither she nor her employees will be idle during the long break. She plans to innovate and expand her spa.

"I believe that more customers will come after the outbreak, so I am taking this time to expand my facility and train my employees."

Some event organizers have been sterilizing meeting places and providing free masks for participants to ensure forums and conferences go on as usual.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment estimates that almost 900 companies in the country have stopped operating or scaled down their business considerably because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Manufacturing firms are struggling to import materials from China, while restaurants and pubs report dwindling number of customers as people refrain from gathering in public places, it noted.

Vietnam’s GDP growth could fall to a 7-year low of 5.96 percent this year, the ministry said in its latest report on the epidemic.

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