ThinkBamboo Podcast: Season 1, Episode 1
Video Podcast Interview with Dschung Nguyen, CEO Founder of BambooVision: A Conversation on Bamboo Innovation in Vietnam. During the interview with ThinkBamboo, Dschung Nguyen shared his insights and experience in the bamboo industry, from his background growing up in Germany to his work in Vietnam, where he founded BambooVision.com. As a German expat entrepreneur in Vietnam, Dschung Nguyen’s approach to the bamboo industry is to add value to the bamboo value chain by generating innovation to create new products, and adding a marketing layer on top of it.
The ThinkBamboo Podcast serves as a platform to inspire, educate, and share the use of bamboo with an ever-growing audience. The ThinkBamboo Podcasts are available on the Website, YouTube, Spotify, Google & Apple Podcast if you like the content please do support by liking, commenting and subscribing.
See Video Podcast Interview
Video Interview Summary Quick-Links:
[00:00] Creating a bamboo brand in Vietnam
[05:44] Helping startups develop bamboo products with low cost
[10:35] Challenges of working with bamboo in a market dominated by China
[15:28] Bamboo is a complex plant with various uses and lifespans.
[20:33] Bamboo farming requires focus on different species and their cycles to avoid risk.
[25:00] Vietnam’s forest management system and bamboo harvesting
[29:38] Creating a market for bamboo in Vietnam
[34:18] Efficiency in bamboo plantation requires creating a value chain
Thinkbamboo’s goal with its Bamboo-focused Podcast is to inspire future generations of regenerative entrepreneurs to think of smarter solutions for pressing social and environmental issues. By showcasing success stories of bamboo-related businesses and initiatives, Thinkbamboo aims to empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs for a more inclusive regenerative future.
Dschung expressed his views on the major challenges faced by the bamboo industry in Vietnam, such as lack of awareness, limited knowledge, and restricted market access. According to Dschung, China possesses the world’s leading manufacturers with unmatched knowledge, advanced machinery, and exceptional farming practices. Competing with China without the necessary infrastructure and logistics, which only Chinese enterprises currently offer, is futile. Hence, if you lack Chinese origins and resources, it’s not worth pursuing.
Marketing & intellectual property (IP) with Bamboo
To avoid excessive spending, it’s crucial to identify a niche early and develop a unique, market-absent product. This entails creating an exclusive offering that leverages your intellectual property (IP) advantageously. For example, BambooVision ensures IP protection and doesn’t manufacture the same product for other clients, providing exclusive benefits.
Enhancing product value benefits manufacturers and sellers, increasing income and fostering long-term sustainability. Building a brand and implementing effective marketing strategies can generate higher market demand. However, it’s important to note that certification is necessary for selling to larger corporations like Pizza Hut, Domino’s, or Starbucks. Such certification, costing up to $5,000, is a prerequisite before approaching these corporations with your product.
Is your production in Vietnam and you export goods to Germany?
Currently, our bamboo products lack a specific customer base. Bamboo is a passion project for us, as our main income sources revolve around consulting, branding, and DJ services for major companies. Bamboo remains a secondary focus due to low margins in the supply chain, preventing us from solely focusing on it. With only 5% allocated to farmers, pre-producers, collectors, and penny manufacturers, the remaining profit is acquired through brand owners or sellers who find the most feasible market. For instance, in the US, a minimum 45% margin is necessary to account for shipping and other expenses. Profitability is a shared goal across the entire supply chain.
Although our motivation is to make the world a better place by promoting bamboo, profitability is still essential. The biggest challenge is finding a niche market to work with bamboo.
Bamboo From China
China’s market dominance stems from their inexpensive labor, machinery, and abundant bamboo resources, creating tough competition for other nations. While we value China’s knowledge and expertise, we desire greater sharing. It’s frustrating that this business isn’t open-source, as it extends beyond saving the world with bamboo seeds—it’s a broader perspective.
Bamboo Seeds In Vietnam
In my experience, acquiring bamboo seeds can pose challenges. Local bamboo seeds in Vietnam may be accessible, but importing seeds from Latin America, like the guadalua variety, may not be advisable. Bamboo encompasses various types, including running and clumping bamboo, which differ in growth pattern. Additionally, soil type and intended use, such as for baskets or bags, must be considered. Vietnamese bamboo, used for housing and bikes, differs from Chinese moso bamboo, which has been extensively modified for enhanced production, evident in its shorter and lighter dots.
Yes, bamboo can be difficult to grow from seed and can take several years to reach maturity. This is one reason why many bamboo growers prefer to propagate new plants from existing ones, such as through division or cuttings. Additionally, different species of bamboo have different growth rates and requirements, so it’s important to research and select the right species for your specific needs and growing conditions.
It’s important to consider the different species of bamboo and their lifecycles when cultivating bamboo for business purposes. Monoculture can be risky, especially when dealing with bamboo, as they have specific lifecycles and can die out in large numbers at the same time. It’s important to diversify the species and have a good understanding of their habits to ensure a successful bamboo business.
However, the time to maturity depends on the species of bamboo, such as giant bamboo or guadua, which take longer to mature. The harvesting process is complex, and Dschung has visited various regions in Vietnam to learn the maximum about it. They have also harvested and planted bamboo with others to understand the supply chain better. However, the supply chain is complex and involves many human interactions, making it challenging to improve.
Starting A Bamboo Business Challenge
Moreover, starting a bamboo business is difficult due to the high-interest rates, making it challenging for businesses to see a profit quickly. Dschung has been in the bamboo business for four and a half years and has lost a lot of money during the learning phase. Additionally, the legal situation around bamboo harvesting varies depending on the location. In Vietnam, it is considered a property of the forest, and people must obtain a unique license and pay the government to harvest bamboo. Public-owned companies manage the land and allow people to manage it for a period, with some land set aside for forestry and the rest available for personal use.
In terms of the harvest cycle for different types of bamboo and other crops, it varies depending on the region and the type of street. For example, Akasia is harvested three times per year, while bamboo is typically harvested every five years. The government may provide families with land to grow bamboo, with 70-80% of the land designated for bamboo growth and the rest available for personal use. The government will take a percentage of the harvest, depending on the space and other factors. The impact of bamboo on people varies as it is not a business that they choose but rather a part of their life. The focus is on adding value to the raw material. The triple impact of people, planet, and profit is a difficult topic to discuss in relation to bamboo as it takes time to see profits, but the added value can have a positive impact on people’s lives.
We have achieved success by supporting local suppliers and generating business for them, helping them sustain their livelihoods. However, the bamboo market has faced challenges due to recent conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in decreased demand. Thankfully, our strong relationship with our supplier, Klein, is based on our quality control and product development approach. Unlike other suppliers, we invest in long-term partnerships, working together for more than a year to develop products. Clients start with small orders, gradually increasing them over time, with payments of $2,000 for 100 pieces. Our customer base is steadily expanding through this approach.
A major challenge we encounter is the mismanagement of bamboo in Vietnam. Over the past 50 years, bamboo forests have been inadequately managed, and local farmers lack the necessary knowledge. Consequently, bamboo quality has declined, leading to prolonged drying and storage processes, increasing costs. Furthermore, improper cutting practices and disregard for timing harm the environment. Though we’ve invested in education, changing the mindset of generations engaged in these practices is challenging. In Vietnam, most forests are owned by government companies, where corruption hinders efforts for improvement. Companies receiving funding for bamboo plantation may lack accountability, exacerbating the problem.
BambooVision’s parent company is located in Vietnam, and our focus is on branding, marketing, and design, helping factories establish their own brands. Our philosophy is rooted in adding value to our clients’ businesses.
Overall, the video podcast interview with Dschung Nguyen provided valuable insights and perspectives on the bamboo industry, highlighting the importance of innovation and challenge in starting a business in Vietnam with a German mindset.