'I've never aimed at being a billionaire' - Vietjet CEO

By Vien Thong   April 12, 2017 | 08:00 pm PT
Vietnam's richest woman with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion says she's not used to the new title yet.

CEO of Vietnam’s rising budget carrier VietJet said her main goal in business is not money or a “billionaire” title, which she received last month as the only self-made woman billionaire from Southeast Asia.

“To be honest, I’m not used to it yet,” Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, 46, said during the Forbes Vietnam Women Summit 2017 on Wednesday.

“During my 30 years in business, I’ve never counted my money and I’ve never aimed at being a millionaire or billionaire,” Thao said.

She said she did not grow up poor and thus earning money was never her primary goal. Her main concern, she said, is to build a strong stand for her business.

Thao studied economics and finance in Soviet Russia in the 1980s. She founded VietJet, the country’s only private airline, in December 2011, after starting her career trading commodities in Eastern Europe and Asia.

The “bikini” airline, nicknamed after its unique yet controversial promotional campaign for depicting a female crew in bikinis, now makes up 41 percent of the domestic air travel market, only one percentage point behind the national carrier Vietnam Airlines.

It went public on February 28 and, in less than a week, reached the market value of $1.8 billion, ahead of Vietnam Airlines’ $1.7 billion.

Thao said her carrier is not competing directly with Vietnam Airlines. “We create our own customers. We do not take them from others.”

She said around 30 percent of VietJet’s passengers never flew before and more than half of their air routes are brand new.

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