People in pandemic-hit industries find where there’s a will there’s a way

By Quynh Nguyen   October 3, 2021 | 08:38 pm PT
Many people in the travel industry who lost their livelihoods to the Covid-19 pandemic have forged new career paths.

On the day of filing for the dissolution of her travel company because of the pandemic, Nguyen Kim Oanh, 27, of HCMC's Tan Binh District, turned to her husband and asked, "What do we do now for a living?"

Until March 2020 the business had monthly revenues of VND1-2 billion ($44,000-88,000). But tourism had been one of industries hardest hit by the global pandemic.

"I didn't think my career, which I had spent three years building, would end so quickly," Oanh says.

Nguyen Kim Oanh during a Japan trip guided by her in Oct. 2019. Photo courtesy of Oanh

Nguyen Kim Oanh during a trip to Japan with customers in Oct. 2019. Photo courtesy of Oanh

According to the General Statistics Office, on average nearly 8,500 businesses pulled out of the market every month in 2020. As of December last year 32.1 million people aged 15 years and above were affected, including in the form of jobs or working hours and incomes, by the Covid-19 outbreak.

With the sudden loss of livelihood, Oanh and her husband considered various new options.

Oanh discovered that while many businesses struggled amid the epidemic, online retail grew at 30 percent. So in August 2020 she started importing nuts and diet foods and selling them on their Facebook accounts.

In the first month they were overjoyed to see their profits top VND10 million. Seeing the potential for development, Oanh enrolled in e-commerce courses. From five to 10 orders a day in the beginning their business has grown to hundreds of orders.

She says in the last 30 days she had sales of VND900 million on e-commerce platforms and nearly VND100 million on social media, with profits of 15-30 percent.

Oanh (middle) and two employees are packing goods before shipping to customers, June 2021. Photo courtesy of Oanh

Oanh (middle) and two employees pack goods before shipping to customers in June 2021. Photo courtesy of Oanh

A report titled ‘World Employment and Social Outlook’ published in June this year by the International Labor Organization said quarterly data for middle-income countries in 2020 indicated that partial employment recovery was skewed toward self-employment.

"This suggested that self-employment acted as a buffer for workers who lost their job and found themselves without sufficient sources of income."

Thanh Tam, 25, of Vung Tau Town believes that selling is not the only way to generate income online.

The bar she worked in in Da Lat had to close down because of Covid. Before the epidemic began she was earning VND10-15 million a month along with some extra income from a translation side job, enabling her to live comfortably.

But after being stuck at home for two months, she realized that the epidemic had changed everything, and she had to buy everything online.

So, taking advantage of her writing skills and existing travel blogs, she made a list of topics to write about and researched search engine optimization and affiliate marketing programs.

Every time a reader reads her blog post and clicks on a link to a store that sells a product, she receives a "small reward for referring a customer."

"The amount is not much, but if you focus on it there will be more opportunities to develop than through the job at the bar," she says.

Phung Thi Thao Nhung, a well-known teacher of online marketing on social networks, said since February she has had nearly 1,000 new students, many of whom are low-paid office workers who have lost their jobs and want shift to doing online business.

Nguyen Ngoc Dung, vice chairman of the Vietnam E-commerce Association, says, "While Covid-19 dampened the economy, it also created motivation for development".

It has created many online sellers.

According to Dr Bach Ngoc Thang of the National Economics University in Hanoi’s Institute of Sustainable Development, the pandemic has changed employment trends, the strongest being a shift to occupations based on technology platforms, adding self-employment and working from home would also emerge as trends.

Pham Mai Linh of Hanoi's Dong Da District has found an opportunity to start a business right from home.

She used to be an employee of a multinational travel group headquartered in HCMC earning a salary of nearly VND20 million a month. But she became unemployed after six months’ maternity leave, throwing her life into a spin.

"I got depressed whenever I thought about work," she says.

"The expenses for two adults and three children cannot be met solely by my husband's income."

Pham Mai Linh attends a cake making class in 2018. Photo courtesy of Linh

Pham Mai Linh attends a cake making class in 2018. Photo courtesy of Linh

Before the outbreak she used to make cakes for acquaintances, but had to stop due to her busy schedule.

Now at home, she practices to improve her skills and tries to come up with new recipes. Taking advantage of home appliances and ovens, she set up an online bakery in May. Her first cake orders received a lot of positive feedback.

At first she made only jellies. Seeing the increased demand for cakes amid the epidemic, she started making birthday cakes and also dumplings, snacks and other items, all priced at VND100,000-600,000, so that customers would have more options to choose from.

Last month she received three to 10 orders every day. Three days before the Mid-Autumn Festival she sold 200 jelly cakes, earning VND10 million.

No longer feeling "helpless" and "clinging to her husband," Linh is confident her business will thrive and, if she focuses on developing it, her income will be higher than when she was working.

As for Oanh and her husband, they do not plan to return to the tourism industry though the income from the online business is only half.

She is clear in her mind: "Online sales are stable. My husband and I will pursue this."

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