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Firmness and possession of a clear vision and strategy are what the owner of a leading exporter of cashew nuts in Vietnam under brand name “Dan-D-Pak” to strict markets like China, USA, Canada, Hong Kong…demonstrates.
The story of cleaning restrooms
Dan On, misty-eyed, recalled his difficult but meaningful past when he had to scrub restrooms until they were so clean that he could see himself on the floor. That was the first job that his foster father got him to do when he entered Canada.
“My father told me that I could never do big things untilI can manage the smallest things. A couple of years later, he let me manage a small business, and with a few people from the outset, I made it grow into a business with dozens of people,” Dan On said in a talk with The Saigon Times.
“When things go into orbit, my father said, I can leave and start up my own business and I will succeed,” he said.
“And then I chose Vietnam. Many years ago, when visiting my business, my father asked me if I felt he was right, saying my business was then bigger than many others. He is also the one who always encourages me whenever I am down. I understand that in order to be successful, one will need a person standing behind and supporting.”
When the young man was 30 years old, with US$500,000 in hands, he returned to Vietnam in hope of finding an opportunity after 12 years living with his strict father in Canada. He decided to spend all of his money on a cashew nut processing facility.
“The moment when I saw people dry cashew nuts on the roads, I recognized that cashew nuts would then become one of the key export products which could bring millions of U.S. dollars in revenue. I started to cherish the hope of building a leading farm produce brand of Vietnam,” he said.
Opportunities are what the country lacks
More than 30 years have passed, but he still remembers those days as clearly as yesterday. As he shared, besides efforts, success requires great passion, clear vision and long-term strategy. “When I returned to Vietnam, I could see nothing. But my father said that a country which has nothing would have something sometimes in the future. And that is opportunity,” he recalled.
After 1983, cashews with its potential growth started to attract attention. At that time there were no planning or farming process, farmers just grew cashews on empty land. It was when Vietnam started to be known as a material cashew producer.
Talking about failures, Dan On said, “I have never thought that I would fail but I have many times been deceived and have even lose my company name and money in a partnership with another person. Thanks to those events, I have learned that doing business is like fighting on the battlefield, so I should not trust anyone entirely.”
But as for success, Dan On just humbly mentioned a major deal in the U.S., a big marketwith the population up to 380 million. Before the deal, he just sold his products to Canada whose population was many times smaller, ataround 20 million.
“In fact, I did not think I could gain success after such a short period of time, and the company has grown from a business relying mainly on manual labor to one that embraces new technology and automation. The company now uses German technologies for automation, so there are fewer manual workers but more senior staff with higher salaries.”
A broader view
Many companies in Vietnam have complained about having to import materials from Malaysia and India. “It is because we have not been able to solve problems with land management and farmers have not been given enough land for large-scale farming. In addition, farmers still have the mindset of small-scale farming,” he said.
Explaining why the company focuses more on exportmarketsthan the domestic one, Dan On explained that export activities could bring foreign currency. “The country is really in need of foreign currency and paying taxes will enrich the country. Why would an individual not want his country to be richer?”
For that reason, throughout his business career, he has never forgot the unfortunate. He always reminds nuns of giving vocational training to children at the center for disabled children in Lai Thieu. “If they have a profession, they would earn incomes on their own, so they would not need to wait for aid from donors. If one day I cannot keep on helping them, they could still live on their own.”
Dan On Foods is currently providing funding for many students to study overseas. These students are required to return home to work and that is what Dan On wants to do for his home country, where he was born and to which he feels a strong attachment.