Looking for science talent? Head for Vietnam11th May '16
When UK universities couldn’t provide the recruits it needed, leading software developer NashTech turned to Vietnam. Tracey Boles finds out why
Company: NashTech Trading in: Vietnam Sector: Software development
As a developer of bespoke tech software, NashTech needs a ready supply of science, computing and engineering graduates.
“The Vietnamese are very productive, committed and ambitious. There is also a culture of pushback – if they see a better way of doing things, they will say.”
It finds them in Vietnam, where 83 per cent of university students study these disciplines. This is in stark contrast to Western countries, where only 11-13 per cent of graduates have science or related degrees.
Paul Smith, chairman of the London-based company, says: “Families in Vietnam encourage children to go into sciences as there are more opportunities than in the arts in Asia.
It was looking for somewhere to outsource work for its clients and found the country an easy place to operate, with a warm welcome from the government and universities. It received tax incentives both as an exporter and to build facilities.
Choosing Vietnam rather than the more obvious options of China or India made NashTech stand out. It also had first-mover advantage when selecting local tech graduates. As Smith explains: “We chose it because no other companies were outsourcing there.”
Today NashTech employs 1,500 people in Vietnam compared with only 35 in the UK. It is the country’s largest foreign tech investor, having put millions into hubs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The headcount in Vietnam is growing by 30 per cent year-on-year.
The company recruits 300 English-speaking graduates a year from Vietnamese universities to design and produce software. A year-long training programme gives them the skills to write software for various IT areas, including digital platforms, the Cloud, big data and wearable devices.
A talent management programme means attrition rates are low. In a recent survey by market researcher Nielsen, NashTech was named the 14th best place to work in Vietnam, and came top in tech and services.
Operating in Vietnam is not all plain sailing, however. The biggest hurdle, in Smith’s view, is bureaucracy.
Since it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2007, Vietnam has embraced red tape as part of its drive to bring business and accounting regulations in line with the West. Getting the correct licences to operate can take up to a year for the unprepared.
Smith recommends companies looking to set up in Vietnam go to one of the big European law firms for advice on navigating the bureaucratic landscape. He says: “I wish I had spent more time understanding the challenges as much as the opportunities.”
That said, Smith is a firm fan of this country of 90 million people, with its burgeoning middle class, youthful population and 90 per cent literacy rate. He is vice chairman of the Vietnam-UK Network and vice chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Business Council. “My biggest bill is the travel bill,” he says.
NashTech sends teams to Vietnam two or three times a year, and hosts staff visits from Vietnam. “My biggest bill is the travel bill,” he says.
Now others are noticing what NashTech saw first in Vietnam. Apple is opening a data centre and the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, hosted a trade delegation last year.
More British businesses are sure to follow. Vietnam is listed as one of the 20 highest growth markets by government agency UK Trade and Investment. The story is only just beginning.