The Godrej Vietnam factory building.

odrej Vietnam received its licence on 28 April, 1997, and started commercial production in 1998. It is a 100 per cent foreign invested company, located at Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park, in the Binh Duong Province of Vietnam. It is around 25 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City (old Saigon). A plot measuring 10,000 square metres was leased and, currently, the factory occupies 5,500 square metres of the area, the rest being kept for future expansion. The Plant is set up to manufacture steel furniture for offices and factories. At present there are two expatriates and approximately 90 local employees. Initially there were five expatriates. Gradually the strength of the expatriates was reduced and more responsibilities were given to local engineers.

Currently we export 70 per cent of our production to countries such as Sweden, Ireland, USA, Australia, Singapore and the Middle East. The remaining 30 per cent is sold locally through a network of distributors stretching from Hanoi in the north to Ca Mau in the south.

We have a wide range of steel furniture (approximately 70 different types of standard cabinets), including swing open door cabinets, sliding door cabinets, lockers, filing cabinets, desks and tables, and other miscellaneous furniture. The year 2004 has been particularly good for us since we recorded the highest monthly local sales, and highest annual sales both local as well as exports. We have grown by approximately 48 per cent in 2004 as compared to 2003.

Setting up a factory seven years ago was not an easy task in a communist country, which was just opening up to foreign investment with the market considerably under-developed. The other big hurdle was language. Very few people could speak fluent English. We had a massive challenge of learning the Vietnamese language, for which we enrolled in a university and studied the Vietnamese language for eight months! Subsequently we practised speaking the language with our Vietnamese staff.

As years went by, we worked hard on advertising our Godrej brand of products in the local market. We now have some reputed companies here such as the Sheraton Hotel, Hyatt Hotel, Caravelle Hotel, New World Hotel, Toyota, Metro Chain of Supermarkets, American Insurance Assurance and many other factories in the industrial zones.

The heavy traffic in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese economy is growing at a brisk pace and they are also building up their infrastructure to cope with the growth. More and more people are learning English and thus, nowadays, it is easy to find people who can speak good English. A lot of supermarkets and malls have come up. We see skyscrapers being built, roads and highways broadened. However, the traffic problem continues to plague Vietnam with a huge number of motorbikes on the roads. Since the public transport system is not yet developed, people prefer to use motorcycles and hence this problem. In expatriate circles there's a joke about the traffic and the way people drive here. It says, "Red signal means stop if you want to, the green signal is go wherever you want to and the orange just blinks for a fraction of a second." The local authorities are taking steps to change this image.

Khurshed B. Mirza
Managing Director
Godrej (Vietnam) Company Limited