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Proven performer

Released at: 02:53, 20/10/2014

Proven performer

A decade of remarkable achievements by the Mobile World Group, Vietnam's leading mobile phone and electronic devices retailer, was confirmed by its listed shares hitting the ceiling time after time in their first few weeks on HoSE.

by Hai Bang & Minh Tien

Ten years ago Mr Nguyen Duc Tai was interested in buying a new mobile phone for around VND5 million (about $330 at the time) as a gift for his wife to mark the Lunar New Year (Tet) holidays. “It was a frustrating experience,” he remembers. “I dropped into two mobile phone shops but neither had much of a selection. They only had one or two to choose from, which wasn’t enough. If they had shown me ten mobile phones I probably would have found what I was looking for.” From the frustration, however, emerged a business idea. “Something was clearly wrong,” he thought. “I had the money in my pocket and was ready to buy. But I couldn’t find what I wanted. There was definitely an opportunity there.” He was right, and as General Director and co-founder he’s overseen the Mobile World Group (MWG), Vietnam’s leading mobile phone retailer, list on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange (HoSE) in mid-July and watched its share price rise considerably in the first few days.

Rocketing growth

Mobile World Co., Ltd was incorporated in March 2004 with e-commerce - online trading as its main business activity. At the time, though, it was clear that e-commerce was underdeveloped in Vietnam because consumers had little trust in online trading. So it established three small shops with the purpose of building consumer trust not just as a “virtual” supplier but one with physical retail outlets. With three shops in different parts of Ho Chi Minh City, it was hoped that the company could quickly provide customers with the products they sought.

As a small retailer, though, customer trust was slow in coming. “They did not see our shops as being licensed distributors, instead viewing them as being like other shops that sold goods illegally brought in from overseas by hand,” Mr Tai said. Learning from the mistake, the company accepted losses in the order of VND1 billion (around $50,000, or 50 per cent of its charter capital at the time), closed the three shops and opened its first major outlet, in Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street. With an area of over 200 square metres, the spacious new store was successful as it was totally different from the 10,000 or so small mobile phone shops in the city back then, which helped it to secure customer trust as a retailer of only genuine mobile phones.

The company installed display cabinets, where customers could try out the phone to see if it was suitable. They could also seek advice from shop assistants at a small table, which creates a comfortable and friendly atmosphere compared with traditional shop counters. These improvements made the shopping experience at MWG’s Thegioididong.com chain stores more enjoyable and effective than at its competitors. The company successfully carried out plans that further optimised the operation and also enhanced customer service, including re-designing the store layout, providing customer care campaigns, and optimising the product portfolio.

The company applies an omni-channel customer service policy, providing a streamlined customer experience whether online or offline (i.e. in a store). For example, when a customer orders online a sales person from a store will deliver the phone to the customer’s house within 30 minutes if the customer lives close by. This is a good way to combine online and offline in a way that a 100-per-cent-online vendor cannot manage.

After recording remarkable achievements in urban markets, MWG continued to actively reach out to smaller provinces with the launch of the Dienmay.com network, which identifies provincial and rural areas as its target market. People in the countryside would previously have to travel some distance to buy a mobile phone or other electronic device or arrange for repairs. Now it can all be done locally.

The company had only 37 stores in 2009, but as at March this year had expanded to all 63 cities and provinces with 213 Thegioididong.com chain stores, specialising in retailing mobile devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets and accessories as the only retailer having developed a truly nationwide network. The Dienmay.com chain, which was born at the end of 2010, specialises in retailing home-use electronic products like televisions, karaoke systems, refrigerators, washing machines and others at 13 supermarkets, primarily in the south. According to figures from market researcher GfK in April this year, MWG was the market leader in Vietnam’s mobile devices retail industry, with a market share of more than 25 per cent.

Maintaining momentum

Over such a successful decade were good times and some not-so-goo