Having worked her way up within L’Oreal Vietnam — from Head of Brand to Marketing Director, Chi Truong has seen the evolution of the marketplace and the Vietnamese consumer. She is navigating not just a maturing market with changing expectations, but also a retail landscape that is being disrupted by technology.
“So much has changed. Vietnamese consumers are becoming more demanding and sophisticated. Expectations are different now. In a consumer research study I was involved in two years ago, customers could only recall about two cosmetic brands. Now, they can remember up to five. Online shopping has also doubled in size,” says Chi of changes in a quickly maturing marketplace. “The market is dynamic and consumers have many more choices.”
Chi describes Vietnam as having a highly fragmented beauty market, which touts almost 500 brands. “Many of these brands carry no guarantee of quality,” she says. This is where L’Oreal is able to stamp its competitive advantage. “Since we are the biggest beauty house globally and in Vietnam, we use the power and quality of our brands, our huge investments in R&D and training, and digital engagement with our customers to our advantage,” she adds.
Building the local talent pool
With her work cut out for her, Chi is keen to build a strong team. Together, they set out KPIs and a roadmap for each project undertaken. “I also ask my team what they want to achieve in their own careers. Before each large project, we talk about our KPIs, and how those map against their own career goals. What I have noticed over the years is that when the two are aligned, the team becomes more passionate and driven — they want the project to succeed,” says Chi.
"We look at the capacity and development plan of each team member and evaluate their career roadmaps against long term career opportunities in the company"
The talent pool in Vietnam is not big enough to meet the demands of the marketplace, says Chi. “Because many of the companies here have relatively short histories — maybe just 10 to 15 years — senior talent is limited. And companies prevent poaching by offering them very attractive loyalty and retention rewards. If other companies wish to get these talent, they have to pay a high price,” she says.
"Thanks to our legal framework, women in Vietnam are not discriminated against. We have always had equal opportunities for education "
But Chi acknowledges there are now more local talents, like herself, in senior positions. In order to ensure continuity at L’Oreal, Chi says it is “never too early to think about succession”. “We look at the capacity and development plan of each team member and evaluate their career roadmaps against long term career opportunities in the company. This succession planning is done in collaboration with all the key management in the company and not just by the HR department,” says Chi.
It is not uncommon for local senior talents to include women. In fact, women in Vietnam reportedly hold 25% of CEO or board level positions, a figure that beats that of Europe’s. With a female prime minister at the helm, Vietnam has no shortage of female role models from whom to draw inspiration, says Chi. She names Mai Kieu Lien, general director of Vinamilk; Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh, chairwoman of Ree, Cao Thi Ngoc Dung, chairwoman of PNJ; Thai Huong, Founder TH group as her own role models.
“Thanks to our legal framework, women in Vietnam are not discriminated against. We have always had equal opportunities for education. While gender discrimination may still exist in rural areas, it is not so in urban areas and in the professional workplace,” says Chi.
Though Chi is uncomfortable with wearing the label of a role model and icon for female leadership in Vietnam, she acknowledges her successes and attributes them to always having clear goals for herself and working diligently towards achieving them.
“When I feel like I have been of value to my company and in my job, that is when I feel the most empowered.”
*Update: Effective October 2019, Chi has been appointed as Marketing Director of Central Group.