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On April 7, 2022, the MBA 05th intake of Vietnam Japan University paid a visit to Hue Institute for Development Studies. The institute is the public non-business unit having revenue under the management of the provincial People’s Committee. The Institute is comprehensively directed and managed by the provincial People’s Committee, and it is subject to expertise examination, inspection, and instruction of relevant agencies. The Institute has the function of researching, advising, and consulting the Provincial Party Committee, and the Provincial People’s Committee on strategic orientations, planning, socio-economic development plans, attracting investment in the province; scientific research in the field of socio-economic development.

The MBA 05th intake was greeted by the management of the institute, led by Director Cung Trong Cuong. The session started with introductions from the VJU delegation and the HueIDS team. A short video was shown to introduce the institute’s works over the years. Director Cung Trong Cuong introduced the new development direction from Hue. Before Covid 19, the province mostly focused on tourism; nevertheless, the pandemic provided a boost for Hue to focus more on manufacturing such as beer, textile, canning, and others. Another focus is on developing a green economy since Hue is rich in natural resources and sightseeing.

After the introduction, the fifth intakes ask the HueIDS team about Thua Thien Hue Province strategies regarding logistics and the IT industry. From the discussion, Thua Thien Hue Province aims to focus on building a logistics hub in the province with future plans to expand the current airport and the seaport. Hue is in competition with Danang City and depending on the freight load, some companies have to use ports from HCMC instead. With the situation forced by Covid 19, however, Lazada, Shopee, and Tiki, Vietnamese leading e-commerce companies are paving the way to create a logistics network in Hue.

Regarding the IT industry, Hue aims to have 10,000 IT engineers in 2025 and 7,000 people transitioning to the IT industry. At the moment, there are around 2,100 people employed in the IT industry here, however only 900 are coders, and the rest are mainly BPOs. It is difficult for Hue to compete with Danang, HCMC, or Hanoi for IT staffing. Hue has a few programs to connect universities, companies, and local governments to support the training and recruitment process for IT professionals. The salary range however is the biggest barrier for IT professionals who are generally younger and prefer higher pay.

Hue Institute for Development Studies hosted the two days forum on “Developing businesses with Creativity – Technology – Sustainability”. The first session of the forum was about the Circular Economy concept and its application to a number of businesses in Hue. One of the most interesting products showcased was Breathable Bag (in Vietnamese “Túi biết thở”), created by Galaxy Biotech. The product was the winner of the Ending Plastic Pollution Challenge 2020. The bags are made from cassava plants and are biodegradable. However, the bags are still quite pricey and still a long way from replacing traditional plastic bags.

Within the forum, there are also showcases from various local companies ranging from Agridrone Hue, which operates drones to spread pesticides and fertilizers, to traditional tea makers and Ao dai makers.

Another interesting feature was the pitching event, where startups pitch their business and call for investment for part ownership of the business. Various businesses attended, including herbal medicinal cosmetics to help with hair and skin diseases, applications to help consumers to connect to local vendors, and Truc Chi art to reduce the Hyacinth population from interfering with water traffic and from polluting the water resources when decomposing, and English after school program.

All in all, the experience with Hue Institute for Development Studies was very rewarding for the students.

What are the recommendations we can make for Thua Thien Hue Institute for Development Studies and Innovation Startup Center?

The Institute already has a wide range of activities addressing the different needs of local areas. Through the pitching session, it can be seen that the local startups are still lacking general knowledge about presentation making, marketing, and valuation of their own businesses. Support in these areas for startups in Hue can be beneficial and can help these businesses in procuring investments to support their needs.

The second recommendation is to create a virtual showroom permanently on the Institute website to market the local products to partners of the Institute, as well as create a channel for overseas investors and clients to get to know products from Hue directly.

The third recommendation is to create long-term relationships with other cities in Vietnam or in other countries to accelerate the trade between these cities, thus providing opportunities for startups and SMEs to connect with each other.