Phan Thi Tra My, a Vietnamese businesswoman born in the 1980s, is the Vice Chairwoman of the Board of Directors and Deputy General Director of Phumo Company, specializing in the business of Vietnamese rubber mattresses in Shandong province, China.
With nearly 10 years of experience in this huge market, she always cherishes plans to improve the level of Vietnamese brands and gather the Vietnamese business community in China under a common roof for strong development.
Phan Thi Tra My (Photo: VOV)
Born into a family with a tradition in medicine, Tra My initially studied traditional medicine. When working as a doctoral student at Jilin University in Northeast China, she did a thesis on autistic children, because her original dream was to open a rehabilitation center for autistic children in the homeland.
However, the decision of getting married in China overturned all her original plans. As an independent woman, My started to build her career in China. "I wanted to be my own boss, wanted to bring Vietnamese brands to China, so I decided to open a company," My said.
Bringing Vietnamese brand to Chinese consumers
She has surveyed many jobs, many industries. There had been suggestions for familiar products of Vietnam, such as furniture, agarwood, agricultural products, but she wanted to develop a product that Vietnam had strengths, but related to health care – the field that she loves and is right for.
Her sister working in the rubber industry introduced Tra My to rubber mattresses that are popular with Vietnamese families. For them, lying on a rubber mattress is both insect resistant and breathable, and supports the spine. It was 2013 when My started surveying the Chinese market.
“At that time, many Chinese people did not know about rubber, let alone rubber mattresses. I have traveled all over Northeast China, then up to Beijing, Shanghai, down to Shenzhen, Guangzhou, but not a single shopping center in these localities sold rubber mattresses. Meanwhile, rubber is an industrial resource of Vietnam. Knowing the position of Vietnam's natural rubber industry in the world, I chose Vietnamese rubber pillow products to introduce to people here. For a market that didn’t understand this product, it was difficult to start, but for me it was also an opportunity,” she said.
Tra My negotiated with companies of the Vietnam Rubber Group and became the exclusive distributor of the Group's rubber mattress products in China for 20 years.
In order to have 17 showrooms named Vietnam's national pavilion located in trade centers in China today, Tra My had to make a lot of efforts, because Chinese people were only familiar with European and American brands. In terms of consumer goods in Southeast Asia, they also know more about Thailand than Vietnam.
Market competition is always fierce, only a short time after she brought Vietnamese rubber pillows to China, similar products from Thailand, even cheap goods made in China were also sold. Although she has faced many difficulties in business, she has always kept in mind that she had to develop a high-quality Vietnamese brand.
“I know the price of natural latex and I do not allow myself to be swept away by the storm of price competition. Instead, I have spent a lot of time researching the core invention, making Vietnamese rubber mattresses contribute to improving sleep, supporting the spine, helping to reduce pain caused by spinal diseases, and degenerative diseases caused by spinal discs. Besides, I make products according to customers’ weights and heights, so that they can find pillows and mattresses that are most suitable for their physical condition and health,” she said.
Aspiration for a strong Vietnamese business community
In many years of doing business in China, Tra My has had the opportunity to interact with many businesses from other countries and attended many trade and investment promotion events, fairs, exhibitions and conferences in the host country. She finds that other countries have Business Associations. They operate very strongly and become an indispensable trade and investment bridge between businesses of the two countries. So why doesn't Vietnam have one?
“I myself am a Vietnamese person doing business in China, businesses in China often come to me when they have a need for all products related to Vietnam, for example, finding sources of agricultural products, coffee, rice, pepper, cashew, fresh fruit, seafood of Vietnam. Therefore, I also want to join such organizations, to promptly share information and opportunities for other fellow brothers and sisters. Everyone needs an organization, especially when in a foreign country. Our businesses do too. We also want to have a home to return to, brothers and sisters, willing to share experiences," she shared.
Her plans contributions have received recognition from the Vietnamese Embassy in China. After a decade of not being able to celebrate Tet at home, at the beginning of 2020, Tra My was honored to be one of the outstanding overseas Vietnamese sent to Vietnam to attend the Homeland Spring program.
The COVID-19 pandemic broke out at that time and Tra My was able to stay in her hometown for nearly a year. This precious time helped her long-cherished dreams come true. She went to the Business Association of Overseas Vietnamese (BAOOV) for advice and received enthusiastic support. After being appointed to represent BAOOV in China, from 2021, she has visited many different areas to call and summon overseas Vietnamese as entrepreneurs, experts and those in charge of representative offices there.
“Setting up a foreign association recognized by the local government in China is quite complicated. However, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs guided the procedures from the very beginning, up to now, I have almost completed the domestic procedures. Currently, I am still trying to summon at least 50 members and expect to start to expedite the procedures in China in 2022," My shared.
She hoped that the Vietnam Business Association in China will soon be established and will be strong enough to organize Tet for Vietnamese in different areas in China, so that they can bring their spouses and children to make Chung cakes, spring rolls and other dishes of Vietnam, so that Vietnamese children born in China can sing Vietnamese songs and talk about their homeland, so that Tet becomes warmer in the hearts of overseas Vietnamese./.