Switch to new products helps businesses survive coronavirus crisis

By Vien Thong   April 12, 2020 | 07:11 pm PT
Switch to new products helps businesses survive coronavirus crisis
Vua Cua's employees making seafood buns. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Nguyen.
Some businesses in Vietnam are adapting to the coronavirus lockdown by switching to new products and services.

Doan Anh Thu, owner Vua Cua, a chain of five seafood restaurants, turned to selling steamed buns stuffed with seafood (banh bao) after local authorities ordered restaurants to stop serving guests to prevent the spread of Covid-19. She is hiring more employees since the product is becoming popular.

Thu said the restaurants sold 300 of them in the first three days, and the number is on the rise.

"I chose to make this dish because I believe it can be eaten at any time of the day, fills your belly and has a reasonable price."

She has been wanting to put steamed buns on her restaurants’ menu, but her kitchen staff were too busy during normal times to make them, she said. 

Thu is also preparing to offer two kinds of hotpot broth and 10 new seafood sauces, and hopes to launch them next week for takeout orders. Two of her restaurants are closed and the rest are open, doing deliveries and takeout. Thu said she plans to cut her workers’ salaries by 30 percent.

"We get a steady flow of online orders. It is difficult to make any profit but is enough to cover expenses. At this rate we can probably  survive until June."

iVIVU, a Vietnamese online travel booking service, no longer sends emails offering combination tickets for flights and tours: it has switched to food delivery. Meanwhile, its competitors and other business in the industry are struggling amid the current crisis. It is offering the service in Hanoi and Saigon.

Nguyen Trung Cong, director of iVIVU.com, saying the response during the trial period was good, expects to deliver 100,000 meals a day to customers in big cities before expanding countrywide.

Asked why it decided to enter this business, iVIVU said it had always been on the cards, but the pandemic forced an earlier than expected start.

Cong said the long-term vision is to be able to earn revenues of VND1 trillion ($42.4 million) a year.

"The company's traditional businesses such as travel combos, tours and air tickets have earned virtually no revenues since the outbreak. This is really a dark period for the travel industry."

Hoang Tien, founder of Coffee Bike, which operates mobile coffee stalls, said business is not as good as it used to be, especially for F&B since the industry sees a 60-70 percent drop in the amount of products sold. 

"Therefore, companies tend to sell more products to sustain the cash flow and survive this situation."

The company switched from selling beverages to coffee powder used in filters to maintain its customer base.

"With 80 percent of beverage retail stores closed, Coffee Bike’s main revenue now is from sales of coffee powder."

An employee of Quala flower shop hands Hoa Coffee to a delivery driver. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Thanh.

An employee of Quala flower shop hands "Hoa Coffee" to a delivery driver. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Thanh.

The flower industry is another victim of Covid-19 since consumers have shifted their concerns to more basic necessities.

Quala, a flower shop in Saigon, had to think of a way to incentivize customers to buy since spending money on flowers amid a pandemic would be seen as a luxury.

It has launched a product, "Hoa Coffee", that comes with flowers atop a takeout coffee cup. Hoa in Vietnamese means flowers.

Dao Duc Thanh, the owner, said he had planned to launch the product in September but changed his strategy and decided to advance the launch due to the pandemic.

It is not only for friends to gift each other, but also for bosses to send to their subordinates and couples.

It has already received a lot of positive feedback, he said. "After the outbreak ends, "Hoa Coffee" will become a featured product of Quala."

Vietnam is still in a 15-day social distancing campaign launched on April 1. People have been told not to venture outside home except for essential reasons like buying food or medicines, emergencies or working at factories, production facilities and businesses that involve trade in essential goods and services.

The country's Covid-19 count rose to 262 Monday morning with two new cases in Hanoi’s Ha Loi Village, locked down since April 7. Of the patients so far 144 have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. There have been no deaths.

Globally, the Covid-19’s death toll has jumped to more than 114,000 as it attacked 210 countries and territories.

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