Monday, July 25, 2011

Same same, but different? Recent changes in retail shops

When we came to Laos one year ago, most of the retail shop followed the Asian way: Just do (and sell) what your neighbor does. The main way in retail business is to buy stock for like 10.000 dollar and wait until it is sold. To show how much products you have you try to put everything into you little shop. and yes, put it also outside, it does'nt matter if it get's dirty from all the trucks passing by.

One year later, you see more and more change. The boutiques at the Khouvieng road are the most obvious change. They are nicely designed, with shelfs showing a selection of products. Nothing outside, instead they have glas doors and aircondition inside.

Also, some coffeeshops that opened recently follow a more modern way. Friends de Cafe, Benoni, Baan Tonmali Cake, Joma, YoQueen, IceBean, just to name some of them. Look at restaurants like Xayoh, Nos, Pizza Company, Swensens, i-Beam, Loft, Kongkhao - all of them do not follow the old hole-in-the-wall-concept. Or the new Meshop. Yes, some of them may not successful yet, since the market is still developing. But you can see a pattern.

The picture above shows the toilet at the Friends de cafe. It is actually a good symbol of what means paying attention to every detail. Toilets are usually the last place you modernize.

I am predicting more change soon. Innovation drives competition, and if you are the most innovative, you can stay ahead of the competitors, at least for a while.

Some people complained that Laos doesn't need modern shopping malls or international clinics. Actually the people just vote with their feet: They go frequently to Udon for shopping and health care.

So we still have exciting times here. And it sees that businesses are going on a fast pace and settings standards. This is a good development.

Same same, but different? Recent changes in retail shops

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Veterinary services in Vientiane, Laos

When we moved to Asia four years ago, our biggest concern was about the veterinary services. We were happy to find Agrovet in Phnom Penh as well as pur lovely doctors in Vietnam (also Dr. Nghia), so we never had a problem at all. In Laos it is a bit different since we don't know a foreign veterinarian yet (if there is any). So our choice is Dr. Khamdeng on the way to the friendship bridge. He is actually quite skilled, but also limited in time, that's why sometimes family members work there (and yes, they do not have a university degree).
The environment is local, what means in western standards dirty and a bit messy, but our dogs never got sick because of a visit (and we got our Lao do neutered there, means he had a surgery). Yes it could be more clean and the walls need some paint, but in the end it is better than nothing.
It is a surprise how busy the clinic is, mainly with Lao people. That is an indicator of a cultural development, when people start vaccinating their pets or even get them neutered (the latter is a big issue, since people believe it is a sin to do that, because it is against nature. ) The fees are reasonable, for some injection 40.000 KIP and castration was about 200.000 KIP.

The clinic clearly has it's limits since there is not xray or other sophisticated equipment. Therefore I was told I have to go to Thailand.
The picture above shows the room where some dogs are placed when they get an infusion or need to recover from a surgery.

Adress: Dr. Khamdeng's Veterinary clinic,
ThadeuaRd Thaphalansay Vientiane Cap., Vientiane Cap.
+856-20 5551 6782

Some other services you can find here

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mindsets: Business

Quite interesting to see the mindset of many people when it comes to business. There is always this "What is the benefit for society and culture" thinking. I think there is a lack of understanding that a growing economy IS the benefit for society, while culture is something that usually will develop and transform itself..

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Puna a Lao girl singer

This girl is a huge talent. Please support her and watch and share the video!

What makes a good business environment?

It seems there is a lack of knowledge in some Asian countries about what needs to be done to attract and keep investors. The "keep" part is the most important, since emerging economies always attract in the beginning a type of businesses who are looking for a fast and short term opportunity (and profit). They jump into the market, get the profit and move forward.
For a sustainable development there are some key factors.

1. Transparent laws
Laws need to be enforced equally for everyone. If a law is only applied to a certain type of businesses or a certain group of people, it will be considered unfair and a major obstacle for attracting investments.

2. Tax reduction, not increase
If you want attract businesses and investors, the tax issue is probably the biggest. Companies don't like taxes while governments rely on them as their main income. So there needs to be a balance, but in early economic development stages it is recommended to keep taxes for companies as low as possible.

3. Zero corruption
There is still no proof that corruption does anything good to a economy. It needs to be cleared in all levels of governance and businesses. That also leads then to

4. Market rules
If there is no justice for businesses, they will be scared away. In case of business disputes there needs to be a transparent judicial system to oversee them, based on laws.

5. First come, first serve leads the wrong way
It is not true (if ever told) that the first investor is the best because he is bringing money for sure. As we see in many cases in south east Asia, it is often wrong - they fail in the planning stage. So governments should be carefully analyzing investment proposal for the long term impact for the economy as well as for environment and social impacts.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Laos Business MEetings - how to import to Laos

Peter Evens the mastermind behind Gecko Wines, talked recently about how to import goods to Laos, and what the challenges are. I recorded the talk and published it in my Podcast From Asia With Love...
Enjoy listening

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Career development in Laos (and other countries)

I was at the Vientiane Career Fair recently (listen to my Interview with the organizers here) and it was quite amazing how many people showed up (400 in the first two hours). According to the Vientiane Times most students were looking for an job in accounting. Why that? I think, and some experts in this field told me so as well, that most students have no idea what a job is and means. Accounting sounds like a well paid office job, and this is why so many want to work in this field.

Now here comes something in play my friend Titi mentioned at the recent Laos Business Meetings in her talk about career pathways. Indeed people do not know what companies require, what a career pathway actually is. Students are just not prepared for the business life. They have certificates, but no clue about what is actua happing in the company they applying for a job. She is looking for ways to change this.

Nearly all foreigners were complaining about the lack of professional skills within the young Lao community. This is true, but I also think that this is quite natural since most people are between 20-25 and have of course not much of an experience. While someone mentioned the need of a education were also internships and trainings are supported as well as craftsmanship (like German system, where you are an apprentice for 2 years with school added), what many people do now is job hopping for getting experience.

So how to solve the problem? I think there is still a need for a major change in (public) education, with a radical change in curriculums. Also, there must be a closer relationship between universities and the business community, so the first can be aware of what the latter actually needs. It might be helpful to use the summer break for mandatory internships (I know internships are already required, but what I learned was that they are over-regulated. Just let the people work in a company for a month). Oh and as long as Manadarin is not taking over yet, more important than using Excel is speaking English. It IS the business language, period.

I really like the idea of the Khan Academy, where you learn online (at home) on your own pace and the classroom becomes the place to reflect and discuss what you learned (formally know as homework). There are also TED talks, so no excuse of "we do not have the materials".

And don't even think the above is a Lao problem or in any way linked to "Lao culture". Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have exactly the same issues, and I guess it might even similar in Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia.

What is your idea?