Facebook, the 800-pound gorilla homegrown Vietnamese social media cannot take on

By Nguyen Ha   September 18, 2019 | 07:59 pm GMT+7
Facebook, the 800-pound gorilla homegrown Vietnamese social media cannot take on
Social network apps are seen on smartphones. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Tu.
Vietnam got its latest in a long line of social networks Tuesday but doubts remain about the viability of homegrown players in a Facebook-dominated country.

Lotus belongs to media company Vietnam Communications Corporation (VCCorp), which has invested VND700 billion ($30.2 million) in it and is seeking to raise another VND500 billion ($21.6 million). 

VCCorp hopes to have four million regular users within a year and partner with 500 content creators in various areas.

Many Vietnamese social networks have made their debut this year after Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said the country needs to have its own social media, which should garner at least 60 million accounts and 60-70 percent of the country’s social network pie by 2022.

In February Nhat Viet Manufacturing and Investment company, which makes metal tools, launched VietNamTa, which is said to have an almost identical interface as Facebook. But it loads slower and there are also concerns about security.

In June tourism-oriented social network Hahalolo debuted, and it seeks to have two billion users within five years and list on Nasdaq in the U.S.

In July Gapo was launched after getting VND500 billion ($21.6 million) from investment firm G-Capital. The developers aim to pay users who contribute attractive content, and claimed to have reached two million users this month out of a target of 50 million by 2021.

The Ministry of Information and Communications said 436 social networks had been licensed as of last year, but many have failed to attract a reasonable number of people and few survived for more than a year.

Go.vn, which debuted nine years ago, promised to usurp Facebook’s position within six months with five million users. Its founders aimed for a 40-50 percent share of Vietnam’s social network traffic by 2015, but it is now no longer active.

Others such as Zingme, Tamtay.vn and Yume.vn have followed the same path.

Competing with Facebook appears to be a bridge too far for local players. Tran Anh Dung, CEO and founder of digital content startup MOG, said it would be virtually impossible for Vietnamese social networks to surpass Facebook unless the government makes specific policy changes to incentivize them.

Niche markets could offer them opportunities, but they are not distinguishing themselves enough, he said.

"Some players are trying to be different but I’m not sure if they are special enough to attract users."

Another challenge is resources. If a social network does not get a big infusion of funds in the beginning, it could be fatal, he added.

Vietnam ranks seventh in the world in number of Facebook users with 58 million, or 75 percent of the population aged 13 or more, according to a report released in July by U.K. advertising agency We Are Social.

An average Vietnamese uses social media for two hours and 23 minutes a day, same as the global average, according to market research firm GlobalWebIndex.

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