The cost of bad reputation

I came across this article on the fact that Japan is imposing stricter visa process for individuals from certain countries, including Vietnam

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Japan will also expand its list of countries subject to stricter visa checks. Currently, only students from seven countries, including China (excluding Hong Kong and other regions), Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Mongolia are under strict visa screening processes. Vietnam currently has the highest number of people overstaying their student visas, 3,065 in total.

It is really shameful to see my country included in such a list. Nonetheless, as I have lived abroad and seen actions by my fellow Vietnamese overseas, I am not surprised at all by the new policy from the Japanese government. I saw Vietnamese students take advantage of the trust by Finnish to avoid paying metro tickets. I heard about the distasteful actions by Vietnamese community in Prague and saw first hand how unfriendly a Vietnamese market was in the city. Hell, there is a lot of ambiguity on how much it costs for a citizen like myself to renew my passport. The fees will depend on one’s occupation and income.

The misdemeanor by a few tarnishes the reputation of a whole people. There is a certain degree of unfairness that some have to suffer by the actions of a few, but that’s just how it works. And Vietnamese people do suffer from having a bad reputation. We essentially need visas to travel anywhere except to a few countries in South East Asia, Africa and South America. My H1B is valid for 3 years, but the maximum length given to a Vietnamese passport is just one year. I do know that my Chinese colleagues get 5-year visas. The lack of credibility creates a great deal of inconvenience, time consumption and trouble. We, as a people, would save a lot of time and money on all the visa paperwork if we had better credibility and if our citizens thought about the overall impact of our actions.

Today I learned – 30th Jan 2020

Rise of contactless payment reported by Visa and Mastercard

It is so much faster and easier to just tap your card or phone on a reader than to use the chip or swipe. The frictionlessness of this payment method has clearly wowed users enough that it is on a rise, especially in the US.

In the card-present environment, we continue to see meaningful momentum in tap to pay, what we consider to be the most friction-free way to pay in person. We have reached a point where 1 in every 3 card-present transactions that runs over our network is [tax] versus 1 in 4 a year ago this quarter. This past year, we’ve doubled the number of countries whose face-to-face transactions are at least 2/3 contactless.

Transit continues to be a key user case and an important way to habituate tapping behavior. In New York City, on the NPA, Visa crossed 2 million taps in November from the beginning of the pilot and 3 million in January. The FDA recently announced the tap-to-pay expansion to their entire system by the end of 2020, and we are currently pacing a 350,000 Visa taps a week on the MTA and nearly 1 in every 10 transactions in the New York Metro area is a tap-to-pay on a Visa card.

Source: Visa in its Q1 2020 Earnings Call Transcript, provided by Atom Finance

Echoing the sentiment was Mastercard in its Q4 2019 Earnings Call

..On to contactless, where as I said, we’re making real progress. This quarter, contactless made up over 30% of global card-present purchased (inaudible). Contactless provides a frictionless and fast payment experience, which is opening new categories of spend, including displacing cash on small-ticket purchases. The U.S. point for growth on this front and the New York City MTA is a good example of the potential for rapid adoption by consumers. In fact, they surpassed 5 million taps since the launch in May. And the MTA has planned to roll out contactless acceptance system-wide by the end of 2020.

I’m pretty certain that U.S. contactless will keep growing throughout 2020 quite attractively. Because if you look at the numbers of the number of bank partners that have committed to issue contactless cards for a [minute], let’s even forget Apple Pay and Samsung Pay that enable every card through their archive to be used. If you just look at the number of cards, we are talking about 70% of our total cards in the U.S. market will be reissued over this 12-month to 14-month period. My own personal cards are already contactless from Citi.

On the acceptance side, kind of all new terminals going on are embedded with contactless. So (inaudible) large retailers Target and 7-Eleven and CVS have announced that they will accept contactless payments. And in fact, over half of U.S. card-present transactions are now happening at contactless-enabled merchant locations. And when the MT rolls in on system-wide in New York City, and there are other transit systems beginning to do the same in their cities, I think you will get the impetus.

Source: Atom Finance

Vietnam as an important emerging market for Apple

My country was mentioned repeatedly in the latest earnings call of Apple. In a positive light that makes me think that we are going to be, if we are not already, an important emerging market for the Cupertino-based company

Geographically, we established all-time revenue records in many major developed and emerging markets including, among others, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Source: Seeking Alpha

For iPad, we saw growth in key emerging markets like Mexico, India, Turkey, Poland, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam

Source: Seeking Alpha

Phone revenue of $56 billion grew 8% year-over-year, as we saw a great customer response to the launch of our newest iPhones. We set all-time revenue records in several countries, including the U.S. Mexico, the UK, France, Spain, Poland, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Source: Seeking Alpha

Productivity and Business Processes keeps leading the margin game for Microsoft

Microsoft has three main business lines:

  • Productivity & Business Processes that includes Office 365 Commercial and Consumer, LinkedIn and Dynamics
  • Intelligent Cloud that includes server products and cloud services led by Azure, and Enterprise service
  • More Personal Computing that includes Gaming, Search, Windows and Surface

Azure likely receives the most attention, yet it is Productivity & Business Processes (PBP) that consistently took the crown in the margin game at Microsoft. In the latest earnings report, Microsoft reported almost 44% margin for PBP

Source: Microsoft
Source: Microsoft

Even though there have been only 2 quarters so far in 2020, the segment has generated more revenue and operating income than the full year 2019

Source: Microsoft

Colors of Vietnam

I came across arguably the best promotional video about my country I have ever seen. The video was excellently filmed and edited to capture some of the best that my country can offer. Hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks a lot to Pau Garcia for the great video.

Source: Pau Garcia

I truly wish Vietnam can produce more of these videos to advertise the country to our international friends

Starbucks in Vietnam

I came across an interesting video by CNBC on Starbucks’ alleged struggle in Vietnam.

I agree with several points brought up in the video clip, but there isn’t much data to back up their thesis that Starbucks is struggling in Vietnam. The only corroborating data is a Starbucks store per capita. Apparently, the figure in Vietnam is much lower compared to that in our neighboring countries.

Nonetheless, there is no financial data that indicates Starbucks is struggling in our country. Moreover, Starbucks has been expanding slowly yet steadily in Vietnam.

To show that Starbucks is struggling, the video reported that the chain owns less than 3% of the market. Well, which market? If you’re talking about the market that involves every mom-and-pop shop in every province and everybody across all income brackets, then I am not surprised at the low market share. Coffee at street stalls is significantly cheaper than coffee at Starbucks and I doubt you can find the chain outside of the major cities such as Hanoi, Saigon or Danang. But Starbucks isn’t for everyone. To make the market share figure more relevant, it has to be for the upscale market. Compare Starbucks with Runam, the Workshop and stores in shopping malls, and see how the green brand fares. My experience with Starbucks in Saigon is that it never lacks traffic. It always seems popular to the citizens. The point is that the video lacks quantitative evidence to make the case.

There is one more example that I want to add regarding how Starbucks doesn’t really fit in the Vietnamese culture. We Vietnamese people like to go to coffee shops and spend hours there working or browsing the Internet. In Starbucks stores in Vietnam, you are given one Wifi code for each receipt and each code is good for two hours, I believe. Asking for one more code is possible, but if a customer forgets, it will be inconvenient for an average Vietnamese customer.

Weekly readings – 28th December 2019

The last Weekly readings episode of 2019. I have had fun doing this because this serves mainly as my notes. I hope you got something out of these notes

Nadella is killing it at Microsoft and won the Person of the Year crown from FT

Walmart’s strategy in the fight against Amazon.

The World’s Oldest Forest Has 385-Million-Year-Old Tree Roots. The sheer number is

Coolest things I learned in 2019

Rural America Turning to Grocers, High-Fee ATMs as Banks Leave. If I tell this to my dad, who idolizes America, he probably will say I am crazy!

Apple’s secretive work on a satellite project as a company priority

Why your brain needs exercise

This seems to be a massive issue in the future for Amazon, especially when its 3rd party business has become increasingly important

The Dubai – Saudi Arabia route is surprisingly lucrative for Emirates

What’s Amazon’s market share? 35% or 5%?

‘Amazon’s Choice’ Isn’t the Endorsement It Appears

India needs new infrastructure

I am surprised at how well Hello Fresh has been doing

Americans are retiring in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries

Ecommerce in Vietnam

Ecommerce in Vietnam is a booming industry that is estimated to be worth $24 billion in 2025. The competition is cut-throat and features heavily-invested companies such as Shopee, Sendo, Lazada and Tiki.

CompanyFunding SizeSource of FundingNext Round
Tiki$44 millionJD in 2018Announced plans to raise $100 million in Jun 2019
Shopee$51 million Parent company (SEA) in 2018
Lazada$2 billionAlibaba in Mar 2018
Sendo$51 millionSBI Holding in 2018Announced plans to raise $61 million in Nov 2019
Source: cafebiz

One of the biggest corporations in Vietnam, Vingroup, announced this month its intention to suspend all operations of adayroi, its e-commerce branch. For a good reason. In 2018, the four biggest e-commerce firms listed above lost a total of approximately $220 million.

Toàn cảnh bức tranh TMĐT năm 2019: Tứ hùng tranh bá Shopee - Tiki - Lazada - Sendo; Viettel gia nhập cuộc đua, Vingroup từ bỏ sàn đấu - Ảnh 6.
Source: cafebiz

The financial losses are understandable given the customer acquisition cost, investments in warehouses or assortment centers and the delivery cost. If Amazon Now is a standout service with its 2-hour delivery, within-day delivery can be considered a subpar service in the E-commerce world in Vietnam. Most of the main players are committed to delivery within hours inside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. The following is what E-commerce players plus Grab, a major ride-sharing app and a pivotal delivery partner in Vietnam, commit with consumers. Note that these commitments come with restrictions.

E-commerce BrandDelivery Time
Tiki 2 hours
Shopee Express4 hours
GrabExpress6 hours
GrabExpress Sieu Toc30 minutes
Sendo & Grab3 hours
LazadaWithin 1-2 working days

It is no easy feat to make such a commitment given how terrible traffic is in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Look below for just a taste of what the traffic is like in the two biggest cities in Vietnam

Kinh khủng cảnh tượng kẹt xe sáng sớm ở Sài Gòn khiến cả ngàn người trễ giờ làm - ảnh 8
Source: Baomoi

It will be interesting to see how these companies can be profitable, how they can branch out to other provinces outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, how they can delivery returns to investors and whether they could come up with something similar to Prime and AWS that obviously contributed so much to the health and profitability of Amazon.