Pham Nhat Vuong: From poverty to Vietnam’s richest man

You may not have heard of Pham Nhat Vuong before, but he’s well-known in Asia. Pham Nhat Vuong is the first Vietnamese billionaire and founder of VinGroup (HOSE: VIC).

VinGroup has several subsidiaries, ranging from commerce and hospitality to real estate development. With a wealth of $5.1 billion as of 2019, he is the wealthiest person in Vietnam.

Pham Nhat Vuong began his first small business out of his dorm room in Moscow. Later, he made a fortune by introducing Ukrainians to instant ramen. After becoming wealthy from his dried noodle empire, he founded VinGroup.

Early life

Pham Nhat Vuong was born in Hanoi in 1968 where he lived in poverty. His mother ran a tea stand so she could provide for the family. Vuong worked hard to escape poverty and create a life he didn’t have growing up. He strived to create a comfortable life for himself and his parents. 

Thanks to his penchant for mathematics, Vuong qualified to study abroad. He pursued his education in Moscow, Russia, where he studied raw material extraction. Vuong started a small business while in his third year of studies. 

His first business wasn’t successful, but he never gave up. He later opened a restaurant in Moscow, which was more successful than his first business. He was still getting the hang of running a business, and unfortunately, the restaurant’s success didn’t last long.

Vuong went bankrupt soon after. He says this failure taught him to react quickly to market changes and feels this helped him continue his business endeavors.

How did he get his start?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vuong moved to Ukraine, where he opened a Vietnamese restaurant. After this, he created a line of dried ramen noodles. 

Ukrainians received the noodle brand well, so he decided to expand beyond his restaurant. He focused on selling dried noodle packets and Vietnamese spice mixes.

He eventually sold off his noodle company to Nestle in 2003. He set his business sights on Vietnam. Vuong decided to develop an island off the coast of Vietnam and create a resort. 

The resort was a big success and enabled him to fund further commercial real estate projects. Vuong then merged his real estate and development companies into the VinGroup conglomerate.

VinGroup is the parent company of multiple subsidiaries. Vuong merged VinPearl, which was his resort corporation, with VinGroup. He also runs VinMec, which is Vietnam’s largest private hospital group.

What makes his business approach unique?

Vuong uses aggressive business tactics and focuses on innovation and customer service. Under his leadership, VinGroup has become one of the most successful businesses in Vietnam. The company employs over 100,000 people and has an annual revenue of $4 billion. 

VinGroup pays its employees 3-4 times what they would make at other companies. In return, employees work extremely hard.

Pham Nhat Vuong promotes women within his organization. He states women are more dependable and thoughtful than their male counterparts, which isn’t a view many men in Asia have. He has promoted many women to managerial positions and positions of power in his company. 

He believes certain roles are dependent on gender. Vuong appoints men for security, foreign affairs, and construction roles. But he believes that women are good role candidates for business development. He says women have strength when it comes to accounting, business, and legal matters.

Pham Nhat Vuong’s Personal Life

Similar to Pham Nhat Vuong, his wife Pham Thu Huong is a woman of few words. The couple is more interested in action versus speaking about their accomplishments. Pham Thu Huong rarely attends public events. 

Huong grew up in Hanoi and is the vice-chairman of the VinGroup. She and Vuong met when they were living in Ukraine. She studied international law at the Kyiv National University and they’ve been together ever since. 

Together with her husband, Huong works on a shared goal to create an accredited university in Vietnam. She is also deeply involved in VinGroup. Together, they award funds for science and technology research through the VinFuture prize

Pham Nhat Vuong devotes his free time to his family. He attributes his success to his family. Vuong told Tuoi Tre news that “family helped me achieve a balanced life.” He brings his son along to meetings to teach his son how he runs his business.

Vuong is religious and identifies as a Buddhist. While Vuong is devout, he doesn’t participate in organized religion.

What Is Vuong Doing Now?

While Vuong has billions of dollars, he isn’t greedy. Vuong is also well known for his charitable work. In 2016, he donated $200 million to establish the Pham Nhat Vuong Vinmec Healthcare System, one of the largest medical groups in Vietnam.

Before, he needed to work to survive. Now, because of his success, he works because he likes it. Vuong wants to build a legacy for himself. He also sees his work as important for showing what Vietnam can accomplish worldwide. 

He told Tuoi Tre news that he will do what Japan did with Toyota. Just as the US did with Apple, he wants to show what Vietnam can do. He has stated his ambitions to make sure one of the top five companies in the world is from Vietnam.

Currently, Vuong is focusing on producing software. He is also involved in education through VinCom. VinCom is working on building a university in Vietnam that they want to have internationally accredited. They plan to focus on STEM and business administration

VinFast is Pham Nhat Vuong’s first vehicle manufacturing endeavor. It is the first of its kind in Vietnam. They are looking to expand into the EV Market in the United States. This would put them in competition with Tesla and Volkswagen. They have invested 200 million dollars to get started in the United States and hope to be up and running by 2025.

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