A standee with the Vietnamese motto that translates to ‘Take if you are in need. Leave for others if you are doing well’ is seen at the ‘Zero-VND Happy Supermarket’ located at Vinh Nghiem Pagoda in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Photo: Duyen Phan / Tuoi Tre
Editor’s note:The original story was written by a group of Vietnamese students in response to the ‘Ho Chi Minh City Goes Global’ contest, an open forum for readers to contribute their ideas and solutions for raising Ho Chi Minh City’s standing in the international arena.
The article’s authors include Phan Hoang Dung – Fulbright University Vietnam; Nguyen Ky Nam – Sciences Po University, France; Bui Le Mai Anh – University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City; Hoang Ngoc Gia Hương – Fulbright University Vietnam; Truong Thanh Khoa – Hoa Sen University; Nguyen Thuy Dung – University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh City.
The ‘Ho Chi Minh City Goes Global’ contest is co-organized by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper and the Ho Chi Minh City Department of External Relations to prepare for the celebration of Vietnam’s National Day on September 2.
For now, Ho Chi Minh City’s strengths in economics, innovation, and culture have fallen short of helping it achieve regional eminence, particularly in comparison to more prominent regional neighbors, such as Singapore and Jakarta. To make up for these shortcomings, Ho Chi Minh City must utilize the unique intersection of its innovative spirit and caring culture to bolster its international brand.
‘Streets of Innovation’ envisions Ho Chi Minh City as a convergence hub for social impact businesses, rallying international friends, and the city’s residents, all under a single mission: expanding social impact in Vietnam and the region
‘Ho Chi Minh City: Streets of Innovation’ focuses on leveraging global trends (outer-potential) and the characteristics of the Saigonese people (inner-force) to boost the city’s international standing.
The Hague, the third-largest city in the Netherlands, is rising both as a political center of Europe and as a social impact business hub thanks to a combination of top-notch humanitarian traditions and an innovative startup scene.
In 2020, 72 percent of the world’s venture capital firms prioritized projects with a social aspect and over a-third of social impact investment has been poured into Southeast Asia.
Nevertheless, looking for local partners in developing countries poses a challenge. What the world wants to see is not just creativity or courage, but also a fiery passion with the community at its center.
Saigonese attributes: creative, courageous, and socially-minded
Ho Chi Minh City is not only the economic engine of a once war-torn nation, it is the country’s cradle of innovation. It currently ranks 3rd in Southeast Asia in terms of its startup environment with 1,000 tech startups which attracted a combined US$400 million in venture capital in 2019.
But it’s not just about numbers. What truly makes Ho Chi Minh City stand out isn’t the fact that it innovates, but the way in which it innovates.
Ho Chi Minh City’s unique take on innovation is the fusion of ‘dare to think, to do, and to take charge,’ rising from the ashes and not leaving anyone behind.
On a small scale, the city has rolled out initiatives such as SOSmap.net – a system that connects donors to those in need.
On a larger scale, the city boasts education startups with the highest growth rate in the world alongside more than 4,000 social impact businesses – 50 percent of which have national and international influence.
To realize the ‘Streets of Innovation’ brand and level up internationally, we propose four key focus areas for the city:
Involving international friends in the city’s initiatives will give it a competitive advantage by involving the intersection between creative innovation and Saigon’s kind-hearted culture. This aspect of the campaign would involve a TVC video to kickstart the message, “We have the people you need to make an impact on the world,” which would be released to social media and international startup networks like Global Innovation Alliance. Brand recognition would be the result.
Building up international trust in Ho Chi Minh City’s ‘Streets of Innovation’ brand is key to the city’s future success. We propose setting up a ‘Digital museum of innovation for social impact’ by collecting, interviewing, and narrating the journeys of social impact businesses, the life of generous and society-minded Saigonese, and innovative social startups. We want to tell the story of Ho Chi Minh City’s inner-force to international friends.
Once international friends show interest in partnering with, investing in, and creating startups in Ho Chi Minh City, the government creates a path for them to do so. We propose a comprehensive digitalization and inclusion of consultancy, registration, and other procedures on a single-gate platform. The platform should strive to function beyond a mere legal stop. It should feature a network to connect resources and encourage successful social entrepreneurs to train, fund, and collaborate with new projects.
To assert the ‘Streets of Innovation’ brand of Ho Chi Minh City in Southeast Asia, we propose the city government connect social impact businesses with countries in the region through international forums so that these businesses can build realistic assessments of the market and competitors. Go big or go home – Ho Chi Minh City’s social impact businesses will need much help in expanding to regional markets and beyond.
The vision ‘Streets of Innovation’ is a unique intersection of potential social impact businesses in Ho Chi Minh City, foreign investors’ needs, and the creative, society-minded attributes of Saigonese. As such, Ho Chi Minh City will be an indispensable nucleus on the innovation map for social impact in Southeast Asia and the world.