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Uncommon connections

Released at: 07:35, 24/03/2014

Uncommon connections

Ms Napaporn Ratanasaenghirun, Managing Director of 3M Vietnam, tells VET's Hai Bang about the contribution of foreign-invested enterprises to Vietnam and how 3M is looking to address the health of the planet thanks to its technology and innovation.

by Hai Bang

Ms Napaporn Ratanasaenghirun, Managing Director of 3M Vietnam

3M was one of the very first US-based companies to enter Vietnam after the US trade embargo was lifted in 1994. Can you give us an overview of 3M Vietnam’s journey over the last ten years?

As soon as the US lifted its trade embargo on Vietnam in 1994 a number of American companies headed for the country by either setting up a factory or a representative office. Among the trailblazers, 3M quietly penetrated into the Vietnamese market by opening a representative office in Ho Chi Minh City in November 1994, which later became its head office in 1996 when it officially established a full company entity in the country and opened a factory.

In 2005 3M Vietnam then established a representative office in Hanoi as part of it penetrating deeper into the northern market. It has recorded sustainable annual growth of 25 per cent on average for the last three years. In 2009, during the economic downturn, 3M Vietnam still maintained its business status quo and did not lay-off any employees, then recorded 40 per cent growth in 2010.

Can you tell us about 3M Vietnam’s business performance in 2013?

Thanks to a strong relationship between 3M and other business partners, our results in 2013 fortunately turned out to be quite good compared to the severe effects of the economic downturn. In terms of revenue, the company achieved annual growth of 25 per cent. Of special note, the fourth quarter concluded a very successful year for 3M Vietnam, when we generated broad-based, profitable sales growth across the portfolio. In particular, 3M Vietnam is internally ranked as a growing subsidiary and 3M has committed to long-term investment in the country.

What factors lie behind 3M’s success in Vietnam?

3M encourages all of its employees to be risk-taking and persistent. In today’s fast-paced, pressure-packed business climate, many companies take a very short-term approach to new product development pipelines. Because innovation does not occur to a set timeline, 3M takes a different path - the principles that its former CEO, William L. McKnight, instilled in the company. Mr McKnight believed in hiring the right people, tolerating mistakes and giving employees freedom to explore, in order to foster a culture of innovation. 3M has put the McKnight Principles into practice by encouraging employees to dedicate a significant portion of their time to projects and research that go beyond their core responsibilities. Although it may take years for such innovative “tinkering” to bear fruit, the results of 3M’s storied 15 per cent culture have been truly remarkable (that is, encouraging people to spend 15 per cent of their daily working time on generating new ideas for new market penetration).

In addition, 3M creates uncommon connections with access to multiple 3M technologies, called diverse technologies. Imagine dental technology applied to car parts, or non-woven technology incorporated into kitchen cleaning tools and respirators. 3M has also pioneered unique ways to migrate its micro-replication, adhesives and a multitude of other technologies to develop innovative solutions to everyday problems. While such innovation often yields end-user products, 3M’s rich pool of technology is also incorporated into a vast array of solutions developed by external partners, making their products more innovative and their businesses more successful.

3M has focused much of its investment in research and development (R&D). Can you elaborate on this strategy?

The never-ending innovation at 3M is always inspired. I believe that what is driving this company in terms of return for us is the investment in R&D, and every time we do it we know that we have a competitive advantage. Innovation has, indeed, been the hallmark of 3M’s growth, reflecting a culture of shared ideas and 46 core technology platforms. 3M invests substantially in R&D to fuel the innovation pipeline. In January 2010 the 3M Vietnam Customer Technical Center was set up for the 3M Technical Team, the foundation of 3M Vietnam’s R&D, to introduce 3M products and technologies, conduct product modification and development, solutions development and demonstration, and deliver product/application development and training to customers and business channels.

Consequently, the robust networking between the 3M Vietnam Technical Team and the regional/global team and technical forum, with more than 11,000 engineers and scientists, helps identify the best solutions for customers and keeps the team updated with market demands and enhances expertise to serve the requirements of the local market in the industrial, elec