Mr. Ho Van Lam, Chairman of the Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam in Thailand and Vice Chairman of the Business Association of Overseas Vietnamese
Dr. Yen Platz: We are aware that VT Naem Nueng, the family firm, is presently one of Thailand's most well-known Vietnamese businesses.
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: It's all thanks to my parents! My mother is from Quang Binh, and my father is from Hue. This is the Vietnamese Grilled Pork Sausage (Nem nuong) that my parents have been making since 1972. Back then, we had a small shop located 53 km from where we are sitting now. Here, the company has been operating for 26 years. Our brand, VT Naem Nueng (Vi-Tuan nem nuong), is a combination of my mother's name and my father's name.
Dr. Yen Platz: Could you please share a bit about your childhood?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: I was born in Thailand. I attended school behind my house as a child and studied Vietnamese with a Vietnamese teacher. The class had a total of 20 students. I maintained my education until the seventh grade, at which point I began working as a lathe operator. After a few years of practice, the Thai government outlawed this occupation. That's when my older brother and I started repairing watches. I met my wife a few years later. She worked as a tailor. I started tailoring after getting married. After around ten years, I realized I couldn't make as much money as I could in the trading sector, so I decided to let my wife continue tailoring while I began creating Nem Nuong.
Dr. Yen Platz: At this time, did you realize the potential of this industry?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: I saw that Vietnamese Nem Nuong were popular among Thais. This dish is frequently served with a variety of vegetables, making it suitable for both young and old people. Nem nuong was once considered a regal dish and was mostly devoured by the elderly. However, as I witnessed an increase in demand among the Thai people, I began producing more and selling them in several areas. Given the enormous demand, I decided to invest in machinery to enhance production and potentially export the product to other countries.
Dr. Yen Platz: What have been the most difficult aspects of producing Nem Nuong for the past 26 years?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: The most difficult aspect is that I must be meticulous at every step, from selecting the pork, where I must know what the pigs have been fed, to selecting fresh veggies and knowing farming processes. I must be well-versed in all aspects of the procedure. Unlike tailoring, where the material may be adjusted to be broader or thinner, there is no room for error when it comes to food. Even minor errors might have serious repercussions.
Dr. Yen Platz: We also went to your clean vegetable farming technology section, which uses Japanese techniques. The taste of the vegetables here appears to be much different from that of the market. They have a sweet and crisp flavor, with firm and juicy leaves.
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: The soil quality in northeastern Thailand caused issues and was not up to the intended criteria for producing clean crops. However, I wanted to provide my customers with clean, high-quality vegetables to go with their Vietnamese Nem Nuong. That is why I picked Japanese technology. I worked with Japan to bring machinery and equipment and to set up the farming area using Japanese practices. Our clean vegetable growing system is the most advanced in Thailand; hence, the expenditures are pretty high. We want to deliver clean vegetables with a clear provenance to customers who appreciate grilled pork sausage. Despite harvesting around one ton of veggies every day, we are still unable to match our clients' consumption requirement, which is approximately five tons per day.
Dr. Yen Platz: Can you please share the annual revenue of your business?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: Every day, we use 4 to 5 tons of meat to create pork sausage. Every day, we sell things valued at roughly 2 million baht. Our annual revenue is estimated to be around 700 million baht.
Dr. Yen Platz: What is VT Naem Nueng's customer service philosophy?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: Our customers believe and understand that we make and sell with passion. We are thorough in every stage, from selecting the vegetables to the meat, exactly like a mother caring for her child.
Dr. Yen Platz: Your parents established the VT Naem Nueng brand foundation, and how many branches have you established to date?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: We have 28 branches in Thailand, one in Laos, and one in the United States (by direct import).
Mr. Ho Van Lam and his family (Photo: provided by the interviewee.)
Dr. Yen Platz: Currently, Nem (pork sausage) and Pho are well-known Vietnamese brands in foreign countries. You can be deemed to be one of the entrepreneurs who has made a constructive contribution to this during the last 26 years. Can you share more about that?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: It's challenging to develop our firm for international markets, especially when they have import restrictions on pork. We intend to establish the facility in those nations and observe the interest in vegetables. Understanding the various interests and preferences of clients from other countries is crucial for worldwide success. Following COVID-19, we intend to invest in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Europe.
Dr. Yen Platz: Nem Nuong has built your brand and reputation in Thailand. If you could say something to your homeland, Hue, what would you say?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: My parents have kept the traditional and exquisite dishes alive. Hue cuisine is spice-rich and healthy for the body, almost like medication. My parents brought Hue and Vietnamese cuisine here, and today the Thai people know about Vietnamese Nem Nuong and recognize us as Vietnamese, which makes us extremely proud. The dish also speaks to our hearts for the Thai people. We give it to them first, and they will return the favor.
The VT Naem Nueng commercial center in Udon Thani Province, Thailand. (Photo: Provided by the interviewee)
Dr. Yen Platz: You are currently one of the most successful overseas Vietnamese entrepreneurs, serving as Chairman of the Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam in Thailand. Could you please provide some information on its activities?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: The association has 14 branches in 14 provinces and roughly 1,200 members. It is responsible for bridging the gap between Thailand and Vietnam. We have organized a variety of events, including the Thai-Viet Expo and cooperation in the production of vehicle tires, gold-plated objects, and other products. We have noted that the Vietnamese in Thailand have certain difficulties, and some of them have recently got Thai citizenship. As the younger generation grows older, they desire to return to Vietnam to learn, discover career possibilities, and reconnect with their roots. As a Vietnamese expatriate, I was born in another country, but I have always had a strong connection to Vietnam. I'm always identified as Vietnamese. I sincerely hope that the Vietnamese government will consider granting us Vietnamese citizenship, especially for our children and grandchildren, so that the younger generation can return to Vietnam, do business, and contribute to the country's development.
Dr. Yen Platz: According to what we know, the Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam in Thailand is one of the overseas Vietnamese associations that has contributed significantly to Vietnam. Can you give more details?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: To assist their homeland, the association has been actively involved in a variety of charitable events, donations, and philanthropic efforts. During the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand a few years ago, which was extremely difficult, the Vietnamese community here gave about 10 billion VND to purchase masks and medicine for Vietnam. Furthermore, it has assisted the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand during two flood catastrophes in Central Vietnam.
Dr. Yen Platz: What fundamental problems do you see in integrating the business communities of Thailand, Vietnam, and the rest of the world as Chairman of the Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam in Thailand and Vice Chairman of the Business Association of Overseas Vietnamese?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: Exporting from Vietnam to Thailand is currently difficult, relying mostly on unofficial means. Therefore, we expect the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade to provide additional assistance and ameliorate the situation. We need to learn more about international entrepreneurs. Young entrepreneurs, in particular, should have opportunities to travel overseas and watch how Vietnamese expatriates in countries such as Europe, Australia, and the Americas do business, what they require, and what they can provide to build firms, share cooperation, and so on. For example, two years ago, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we organized an Overseas Vietnamese Economic Forum in Thailand, bringing together businessmen from 28 countries. We also signed numerous important MOUs during this meeting.
Mr. Ho Van Lam, Chairman of the Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam, was presiding over the Thai-Viet-Lao Business Forum in November 2022. (Photo: Provided by the interviewee)
Dr. Yen Platz: Would you like to share about the current generation of young Vietnamese entrepreneurs?
Chairman Ho Van Lam, Business Association of Thai-Viet Nam: Today's youth are far more capable than we were because they have had access to proper education and opportunities. Our age is increasingly allowing children to ponder and explore more deeply. In Ho Chi Minh City, for example, yearly global business events try to connect young Vietnamese entrepreneurs by allowing them to meet, chat, and plan for the next 5–10 years of development. Youth frequently have a broader and more profound perspective than we do. The government should help to guarantee that the younger generation has better opportunities for advancement.
Dr. Yen Platz: Thank you kindly! It's a heartfelt belief that it is your mother's water cart by the Mekong River that not only brought you and your siblings into this world but also lovingly cradled your growth, much like the soaring ascent of a Vietnamese dragon to its resplendent glory. I extend my heartfelt wishes for your ongoing success and that VT Naem Nueng remains a beacon of pride for the global Vietnamese community.
Udonthani, June 2023
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