[Startup Grind HCMC] September Event Featured Nguyen Tuan Anh of GrabTaxi

[A recap of Startup Grind HCMC on 25th September 2014, at The House of Saigon coffee shop]

"The most important thing is to learn from other people’s mistakes so that you don’t pay the price..."

The second floor of The House of  of Saigon was all filled up when hungry-for-success and ambitious young audience, despite a heavy pouring rain, came to Startup Grind Ho Chi Minh’s second interview last Thursday to listen to stories and shared experiences of Mr Nguyen Tuan Anh, General Manager of Grab Taxi Vietnam. In a casual sporty outfit, Mr Nguyen Tuan Anh paid back the effort of the audience with intriguing stories and helpful advice that will allow mistake-prone young entrepreneurs not to pay the price that the speak had to.

"Everything started with being bored…"

Having graduating from the National University of Singapore, Mr Nguyen Tuan Anh went to work at Yahoo and became Product Manager after two years. The corporate environment; however, bored the young man, prompting him to leave the company and start the path of entrepreneurship. He said that he was bored because he thought he knew everything. However, such a premature thought was quickly extinguished when the hardship of entrepreneurship came to encounter him. Understanding that what happened to him is widely existent among young Vietnamese, he advised that would-be entrepreneurs take a chance at entrepreneurship as soon as possible because no matter how much they think they know, they wouldn’t be aware of how hard it would be.

“This is something that can affect people’s life and help people”

With that being said, Mr Nguyen Tuan Anh remarked that he was fine as well with those who chose ordinary corporate life over entrepreneurship. According to him, as long as one’s endeavor is creating social values, it does not matter whether one founds a company or has a 9-to-5 job. It is such a belief in creating values for the society that led him to GrabTaxi. Mr Tuan Anh explained that he took the position of General Manager of GrabTaxi Vietnam as he thought the service was helpful to people and could affect people’s life. A common cause that can be found in many entrepreneurs’ stories worldwide!

The job of spearheading GrabTaxi in Vietnam is, in fact, no easy one. While it is inherently safer to catch a cab in Vietnam than in a country like Malaysia, it; however, requires more effort for the young team at GrabTaxi to communicate what benefits users to use the application instead of catching a cab the normal way. The novelty of that kind of services makes the matter all more difficult. Despite the encouraging figures of Internet penetration and smart phone usage in Vietnam, most taxi drivers are not tech savvy and do not have enough disposable income for a smart phone and 3G connection.

To topple the challenge of unfamiliarity of taxi drivers with the service, his team literally went after each one to explain how the application works. Additionally, the company fixed the low smart phone usage issue by offering phones at affordable prices.  Daunting and risky as the above plans might sound, luckily they worked.

“Plans may fail in reality. Don’t lose faith. Learn why you failed”

An active Q&A followed the interview. Receiving numerous questions from the crowd, Mr Tuan Anh duly answered each of them, churning out valuable recommendations in the process:

Successful as he may sound, Mr Tuan Anh does not lack failures. As he was working on his first venture, Mr Tuan Anh spent the first 8 months exclusively developing a product. When launched, the product failed to catch the attention of the market. The speaker nostalgically admitted that he spent too much time on product development and neglected testing it on the market. Interestingly, Mr Ho Viet Hai in StartUp Grind’s first interview (URL) echoed the lesson that start-ups should produce products quickly and test them on the market to gauge reactions.

  1. Bad recruitments, he said, not only dampened the growth of a company, but also demoralized work environments when dealt with. Mr Tuan Anh suggested the crowd to trust their inner voice when recruiting. It is that voice inside heads that can tell whether a person is the right person. From that experience, Mr Tuan Anh became more meticulous in choosing partners.

  2. Though his own plans failed on some occasions, Mr Tuan Anh examined why he failed and learned form such occasions. He urged the young crowd to do the same.

  3. Regarding how to find opportunities on the market, GrabTaxi Vietnam’s General Manager suggested looking for surplus and unutilized resources. Such resources will create a need that can be met with a good product or service.

  4. If you were wondering what skill is pivotal in start-ups, Mr Tuan Anh would say: sales. Our guest speaker encouraged the audience to practice selling skills immediately because sales is extremely important to an entrepreneur. He went on to claim that being authentic and producing good products or services are the best means for selling.

We at StartUp Grind think that it is impossible to capture all the points of the interview and what happened in only one article. Other valuable lessons and interesting stories of Mr Tuan Anh can be found in our full interview here.

The next sit-down interview will feature Mr Trinh Tuan, an inspirational individual who founded BABYME.vn, Human Milk 4 Human Babies Vietnam, and Co-Founder of Vietnam Breast Milk Community.

Recap by Duong Quang Minh, our dear Startup Grinder and an excellent writer