An overview of Ben Tre province (Source: internet)

Ben Tre (VNS/VNA) -
In three years since it launched the Dong Khoi Start-ups and Enterprise Development Programme, the southern province of Ben Tre has adopted many policies to support start-ups, leading to a rise in the number of businesses and jobs, and economic growth, officials told a review conference held recently.

Since 2016, when the programme was instituted, 1,602 businesses have been established, around 64.08 percent of the target by the end of 2020, said Phan Van Mai, Standing Deputy Secretary of the provincial Party Committee.

Besides, 15,039 household businesses, 95 cooperatives and 605 cooperative groups have been set up, and hundreds of training classes have been held for dozens of thousands of start-up entrepreneurs and staff.

Funding worth 1.76 trillion VND (75.8 million USD) has been provided to 1,554 projects and start-ups by the provincial start-up investment fund, the Adaptation in Mekong Delta project and banks.

Around 35,800 jobs have been created and 8,408 households have escaped poverty.

Ben Tre province has been rolling out more and more enterprise- and investor-support policies and reforming administrative procedures to simplify procedures and streamline government services, and holding dialogues with businesses to understand their problems.

The Ben Tre Public Service Centre, which is being set up, will further aid processing of applications.

There are also policies to encourage investment in industrial parks and public projects, start-up contests, start-up consultancy, and networking opportunities.

But Mai admitted that the programme had some limitations such as poor planning leading to limited activities, mentors not helping new enterprises enough, poor encouragement for household businesses to formally register as businesses causing them to be daunted by the possible procedures, and difficulties for some start-ups in accessing the province start-up fund.

Ben Tre should continue to strive to become a start-up province with more innovative enterprises, better links between start-ups and mentors and funding entities and better training, business development and incubation programmes, he said.

Vo Thanh Hao, Secretary of the provincial Party Committee, said the province needed to realise the importance of facilitating start-ups and fuelling the desire to start a business.

Several memorandum of understandings were signed at the conference by the Department of Planning and Investment, the Information Technology Park, the Department of Science and Technology, and Saigon Innovation Hub to support start-ups in future.

A fair for Ben Tre enterprises to promote their products was held the same day.

Ben Tre's ranking in the Provincial Competitiveness Index improved to 4th last year from 12th in 2016, Nguyen Minh Canh, Director of the Department of Investment and Planning, told the conference.

Improvements had been made in several areas such as competition and access to land, but some problems still persisted, including lengthy waiting periods for businesses to complete procedures and unofficial costs to speed up things and win contracts, he said.                                   

"Improvements to the investment climate are not yet consistent, …. Ben Tre still needs to work on several areas or risk lagging behind," Canh said.

Speaking at a conference on successful start-ups held in conjunction, Cu Van Thanh, chairman and general director of Luong Quoi Coconut Processing Co., Ltd, said passion and a deep understanding of the industry is crucial for a start-up.

The ability to adapt to the current market and making constant technological improvements are also important as are a skilled workforce, good treatment of employees and a conducive working environment, he added.

Nguyen Thanh My, chairman of Rynan Holdings JSC, specialises in agriculture technologies, said that start-up ideas come from awareness of societal problems or market demands.

He said businesses should focus on unique ideas that would bring high value, register for copyrights, as well as improve their English and looking for overseas investment fund.

Truong Minh Huy Vu, deputy director of the Vietnam National University's Information Technology Park, said Vietnam's start-up eco-system would need improvements in terms of success stories and thus inspiration, mentors, funds for businesses to expand, and knowledge about start-ups in general.

Mai said: "The number of innovative start-up projects and start-ups that grow up to national or international levels is still small. The pro-activeness and professionalism of start-ups and their supporters need to improve."

Start-ups would need to pay more attention to packaging, application of modern technologies and general business skills as opposed to focusing solely on funding, he added.-VNS/VNA