Pandemic creates new breed of young online entrepreneurs

By Dat Nguyen   November 26, 2020 | 11:45 pm PT
Pandemic creates new breed of young online entrepreneurs
A person shops for clothes on social media in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Dat Nguyen.
With salaries falling and job prospects becoming uncertain amid the Covid-19 pandemic, young Vietnamese are looking to e-commerce for sustainable incomes.

With most people in the marketing industry suffering a decline in income this year because of the outbreak, Nguyen Bich Ngoc of Hanoi, who works for a marketing company, began to sell clothes online.

The 26-year old started selling dresses, pajamas and shirts on her Facebook account two months ago while still keeping her day job. As most of the business happened online, she could juggle the two jobs without difficulty.

"I was able to add VND8 million ($346) to my monthly income, which is the same I earn at the company."

By partnering with a fashion store in the capital, she did not have to make a big investment on inventory. Instead, she visits the store to take pictures of clothes she thinks are attractive, posts them online and takes orders with customers.

"I make on average two sales a day and up to seven on weekends. If I spend more time on this job, those numbers will surely increase."

Tran Thuy Duong, 24, also of Hanoi started an online business in the second quarter of this year, selling cheesecakes on social media and e-commerce platforms.

"I started out baking for friends and family members, but word got around and people started asking me to price the cakes," she says.

Using her mother’s equipment and recipes from Youtube videos, Duong is able to make eight to 10 cakes every evening and sell them the next day for VND80,000 each.

It gives her an extra income of VND3-4 million a month on top of her VND10-million salary as a secretary.

"People seem to be more interested in online shopping during the pandemic, which means good business for people like me."

The two women are among an increasing number of young people who are taking advantage of the Covid-19 situation to do business online as the pandemic robs jobs and incomes across industries.

In the first nine months of the year 31.8 million people lost their jobs (14 percent), saw their working hours and salaries reduced or had to take unpaid leave, according to the General Statistics Office.

Urban unemployment hit a 10-year high of 4 percent in the third quarter.

The booming e-commerce industry in Vietnam is another factor that spurs people to try their hand at doing business online. Vietnam’s Internet economy has grown by 16 percent this year, the highest rate in Southeast Asia, to be worth $14 billion, a Google report said.

Forty-one percent of online consumers in Vietnam this year have been first-timers who came due to the pandemic, it said.

The number of online selling-related searches rose six fold amid the pandemic, it added.

Ngoc, who only has to pay around VND20,000 as shipping fee for an order, says: "It is so easy to deliver products to customers these days. There are many delivery companies which offer low rates."

Duong saw her orders increase by around 20 percent after she started selling on an e-commerce platform.

"E-commerce websites have chat features for customers to ask questions, and their positive reviews make new customers trust my shop more," she explains.

Data from market research firm Kantar shows that in the first half of this year consumers’ spending on most out-of-home services fell, except for food delivery services which saw triple-digit growth.

Nguyen Thi Nhu Ngoc, marketing manager at Kantar Vietnam, says people are likely to stay home for the rest of the year since fears of a contagion remain and carry out most of their entertainment activities indoors.

This is why some online sellers are considering expanding their business further amid the pandemic.

Hanoi’s Quynh Anh, who used an alias since she does not want details of her finances revealed, is thinking about investing more in online marketing to expand her ladies’ underwear sales to more customers in the central region.

The 29-year old has two years’ experience selling online, and the shop she co-manages with a partner saw monthly revenues grow by 30 percent to VND130 million in April during the social distancing period.

"I had to ask my husband to help with managing orders from early morning to midnight for a couple of weeks to meet the surging demand."

She is even considering opening a brick and mortar store in the capital early next year to strengthen her brand though most revenues are likely to remain online.

Ngoc is following a similar path as she sees great potential in her online clothes selling business. Her plan is to set up a Facebook page for her shop in the first half next year, quit her job and focus entirely on this business by the end of next year.

"I am keeping my day job to educate myself more on marketing, but when the time is right I will be ready to leave."

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