Letters from the FIELD: 5 Million Scooters in Vietnam
They are everywhere. Colorful, gearless scooters, which are the primary means of transport for almost every resident in Ho Chi Minh City. There are reportedly some 5 million scooters in Saigon, which is home to 10 million residents. With gas at $4 a gallon, and mostly just 2 lane roads with almost no parking space anywhere, these little, 100 miles a gallon scooters are the most convenient way to get around. Entire families ride on them, with the kids usually on the pillion rider’s lap, or standing in the space between the handle and the seat, with no restraint whatsoever. That led one of the teams here to propose the idea of a scooter seat for kids, complete with a seat belt. I would have invested in them, if it wasn’t for the fact this was the same team that also came up with the idea of a pollution fighting face mask that has a built in MP3 player. Enough said.
The Vietnamese are a confident lot. Almost everyone here wants to start his/her own business one day. And it’s not just mom and pop stores (of which there are plenty) that we are talking about; Vietnam boasts of a fast maturing corporate culture as well. In fact, many of the global partners here are companies that were started and built in Vietnam. It’s not just the founders; every employee has a can-do-come-what-may attitude that seems to be essential to conducting business here. Yet, inflation is at 19%, the economy is almost entirely cash based and the communist government is far from transparent in the process by which it allocates permits and licenses for conducting business. But as a young, 24 year old Vietnamese college graduate who recently started working at our global partner’s offices put it, “so what?”