Viettel Group's General Deputy Director Le Dang Dzung (Source: VNA)​
Hanoi (VNA) - Viettel Group's General Deputy Director Le Dang Dzung is in charge of international investment. He has travelled to over 100 countries to explore investment opportunities. Viettel is actively preparing to enter the European market.

* Viettel began to eye international investment very early, in 2006 to be precise, when it was only three years old and Vietnam was still a very promising market. Despite still lacking inexperience or deep pockets, how did Viettel decide to go international?

We thought that any market would reach saturation level sooner or later and that if we wanted to develop, we had to find new markets. This was what we learnt from big global telecom companies like London-based Vodafone and Spanish Telefonica. In 2006 Viettel was not a leading telecom company in Vietnam but we realised it would be possible. Therefore we needed to prepare for the next development step.

That year we got a chance to study investment opportunities in Cambodia, despite the fact there was no international investment strategy yet. After returning from Cambodia, we clearly realised the benefits of doing business all around the world.

* What were these benefits?

Firstly, it was competitive ability. For the last 10 years competition in Vietnamese telecommunication and mobile services was not strong. We had heard about world leading telecom companies like Vodafone, Telefonica, French Orange, Mexican Claro or Swedish Milicom, but at that time we dare not think about how to compete against them in international markets. Doing business in international markets and competing with leading telecom companies in the world have helped Viettel learn a lot and to get more experience in building a strong Vietnamese market.

Thanks to expanding investment to international markets, Viettel can buy equipment much easily and much cheaper because we order a huge amount of equipment for all our markets. This has become a competitive advantage for Viettel because of low capital expenditure compared to competitors.

Besides, after a while we realised that the international market is the best place for training. In the first stage we realised that those who had been sent to work in Cambodia had become more confident and grown so much when they came back to Vietnam. They had to do everything by themselves, and it helped them become better leaders and mobilise their abilities. Viettel now has a lot of talented young leaders thanks to international markets.

Vietnam's image has become familiar in countries where Viettel invested. Good relations with many countries around the world through good business projects have also served national security from a distance.

Another important benefit is that big markets are the most important factor for success in research and development. By investing in 10 nations, we can reach a combined population of 200 million, and we are confident of investing in R&D.

* How does Viettel convince governments to issue licences?

The first and most important factor is to prove to local governments that Viettel's arrival will help improve their telecom standards. We often pledge that Viettel will provide mobile services to 95 percent of the population in remote, diffficult, poor, backward regions using high technology (fibre-optic cable) in order to ensure quality.

Furthermore, Viettel will also undertake many social programmes in education, healthcare, e-governance... and support welfare.

In Cambodia, before Viettel's arrival, only 600km of fibre-optic cable had been laid. A year later Viettel had installed 15,000km. In Mozambique, Viettel only started operations after laying 20,000km of fibre-optic cable, helping the country reach third position in the region.

* Why did Viettel choose Peru, a richer country and more developed in telecom than Vietnam?

Actually, Viettel's target was a nation in Europe, but our bid had been disqualified without consideration because no one believed that a poor country with a long record of war like Vietnam would be able to invest internationally, especially in a high-technology industry. They eliminated Viettel without considering what we had done in different countries or our competitiveness.

We chose Peru, a nation with a per capita income of 7,000 USD, to prepare for us to enter the European market with business experience in a country more developed than Vietnam.

* What are the differences between doing business in Peru and other markets Viettel has invested in?

In Peru, the legal framework is very tight in comparison with that of Vietnam. We have to hire lawyers to avoid trouble. Besides, the expenditure on local staff is very high.

Furthermore, Vietnamese managers must be of high calibre, having, especially, good English. There were a lot of new things in Peru despite the fact that Viettel had been investing internationally for over 10 years.

But we were really lucky in Peru because the two major telecom companies there, Telefonica and Claro, had not been providing services in remote and rural areas. The Peruvian Government agreed to issue telecom licences without any fees if bidders pledged to cover remote and poor regions. Viettel won the bid because this was our strength.-VNA