Tuesday, June 5

Uncle Ho or Colonel Sanders, so long as it's cool

You might guess from the criptic headline that I've spent the last few weeks in Viet Nam. It's a fantastic place to experience for travel, and for business, the fastest developing market in Asia.

Suddenly, since Viet Nam's ascension to the WTO, it's hit investors radars around the world and is now the hot place to be. The country is diving rapidly into consumerism, to regain its former glories. KFC has arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and is a favourite of school children. Internet penetration remains low (18%) but is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world. Mobile penetration is a similar story. With 81m people, entrepreneurs can see the potential in helping Vietnam catch-up.

I've been doing business with Viet Nam for around eight-years, making me a relative veteran of the new economy there. And despite my frequent trips, I'm still astounded at the rate of technology adoption and acceptance. Really, MySpace is old hat to a 16 year old who spends their days chatting and playing with friends in 'online games'. These games generated $15m last year and revenues are expected to grow by 300% per annum. That's not a bad return in a country with per capita income of $620.

From a digital strategy perspective, what is most interesting is how these games are used and perceived. They're more about a social network than a game, you get avatars, profiles, chat and all the things you'd expect on Bebo. And they're not only in the WoWC genre, they appeal to both sexes equally. So Second Life is interesting in the UK/US but has minimal penetration. Vietnamese online games have huge penetration amongst under 25s and probably dominate their media consumption.

The West can learn a lot from its Asian counterparts, if it's willing to listen. At Ventures in Pixels we're building and developing a portfolio of web/mobile sites for both sides of the world. They're underwraps for now but should start going into to public beta later this summer.

For anyone interested that hasn't been, get over to Saigon (HCMC) for a holiday in the next few years if you want to get a taste of what it is/was like. Leave it much longer and you'll likely see a modern metropolis.


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