As a child growing up in the 1970s in Hanoi, Nguyen Thi Kim Duc, the founder of Vietnamese technology group HTD Media, dreamt of being an artist. But life was difficult in Vietnam in the years following the Vietnam War, so she put aside her artistic passions in favor of more practical pursuits.
She finished high school but found her employment prospects were limited to low-paying jobs. Determined to get ahead, Duc plunged head first into the world of entrepreneurship. She started her business in the 1990s with the meager savings she had managed to accumulate, filling the gaps in her knowledge by devouring books on business and economics.
“Initially I was just buying and selling some items to make a profit. After accumulating some capital, the savings from business profits gave me a chance to participate in real estate. This was a big turning point in my life,” recalls Duc.
She invested in property in neighborhoods around Hanoi that were thinly populated at that time though located relatively close to the city’s center. “I expected that after a few years, when the population increased, the economy would develop more and the areas I invested in would increase in value quickly,” she says.
Her instincts proved true; after a few years, the real estate market boomed, allowing Duc to net a huge profit. She sought the advice of experienced investors on how to make the best use of her new wealth, who suggested reinvesting the money in real estate with a focus on locations that had yet to be developed. It was a formula that made Duc a millionaire by the time she was 30. She believes the country’s buoyant real estate market—which has propelled the fortunes of other savvy investors—is a reflection of Vietnam’s rapidly growing economy.
She also learned an important lesson from her success in real estate investment: that women can succeed if they make the effort to acquire knowledge and are able to use their negotiating and diplomatic skills to their benefit.
“The real estate sector in Vietnam is dominated by men.” However, after what I experienced, I can be confident that women in Vietnam and developing countries can have equal opportunities to compete and even have an advantage over men in some areas,” she says.
The key success factors that can help any woman succeed in any field, she says, are “concentration, determination, derring-do, a spirit of not giving up, flexibility and discipline.”
Duc adds, “I have done it, [and] will continue to do more than that. Hopefully, my story will prove that women can succeed and follow their own destiny.”
Vision is Key to Success
After her success in the property market, Duc looked at other entrepreneurial opportunities that she could capitalize on. Realizing that the global economy is increasingly being driven by technology, she started investing in technology startups in 2015. “The reason why I boldly changed to a new field was based on my vision. It had previously helped me succeed in real estate, and today it will help me succeed in the field of technology. Vision is very important, it determines everything,” she explains.
Duc founded HTD Media, a technology company engaged in content production, social networking services, financial technology, communications, e-commerce and software production. The company’s vision is to become the leading technology company in Southeast Asia. Specifically, it aims to provide products and content that have a global influence and help put Vietnam on the world’s technology map.
Besides technology, she believes art will be another investment for emerging Asian wealth in the near future, and has invested in thousands of artworks around the world through an art investment fund. In the future, she plans to introduce an innovative service that uses blockchain technology to protect buyers from art forgeries as well as make the buying and selling of artwork faster and easier, creating greater value for global investors.
A Responsibility to Give Back
Duc believes in giving back to the communities around her. She chose reforestation as one of her key charitable initiatives after witnessing the negative impact of urbanization on trees and forests in Vietnam. Her efforts have led to the planting of about 200,000 trees across the country in the past five years.
Her company HTD Media has donated millions of dollars to the poor throughout the country, including the elderly, the disabled, students and orphans. “This is something I have to do to share opportunities with others and help reduce the gap between rich and poor, which is a serious problem in Vietnam,” Duc says.
Most recently, she participated in a campaign to limit plastic waste. This initiative led her to being honored in June by Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. “I believe that there are many successful people around me and most of them are talented, kind people, so hopefully through my story, I can further promote the spirit of giving back to the community to successful individuals around the world,” she says.
As for her childhood dreams of being an artist, Duc has not given up on that either. Earlier this year, she presented “Cover of Future”—which she painted to show the devastating result of climate change—to world leaders at the UN Vesak festival in Vietnam.
“Through the ‘Cover of Future,’ I wanted to remind world leaders about their responsibility of preserving our world. Even though I’m just a businesswoman in Vietnam, I want to do my part in preserving our world and this is the first step,” she says.