TH Group President: Vietnamese aspirations to go global

5:21:13 PM | 11/2/2017

Thai Huong, President of TH Group, was named one of 50 most powerful women in Asia by Forbes in 2015 and 2016. This shows the recognition of the international community for the admirable success of the Vietnamese businesswoman.

Vietnamese aspirations ...
We have met her at many prestigious domestic and international economic events and forums, and we are particularly impressed by her strong, confident and decisive attitude and above all her desire to affirm Vietnamese brands internationally. She shared her message to thousands of female politicians and entrepreneurs at the Global Summit of Women in Japan in May 2017: “We will bring Vietnamese agriculture to the world with the most rigorous standards, totally natural. To make a brand live long, after positioning it, we must persevere and pursue it in any circumstance and humanity is the leading light on the path for the brand to go stronger.”

She pointed out that, to be successful, a company must have superior thinking, master technologies and have a “bright mind” to shed light on its path. This is clearly seen in her business management.

Born into a poor family in Nghe An province, she harboured a desire to enrich herself and the homeland. She shifted from a specialist - CEO of a bank - to an investment consultant, starting with TH true MILK project.

She said “The gradual emergence of food contamination, insensitivity and greed of people in daily life, culminated in the melamine exposure in China in 2008, urged me to make a bold, courageous decision. That incident could cause millions of children to have kidney failure. After watching the news on the television in the evening, I urgently summoned the Board Meeting on the next morning and decided to produce milk right on our land.”

“I did not have any knowledge about milk at that time” she affirmed, “But with my ability to position the target product and in the context that Vietnam imported 92 per cent of its milk powder, mainly from China, which was confirmed not to be infected with melamine by authorities; however, from a mother’s intuition, I said to myself ‘We must take action without any delay.”

In 2009, she started a US$1.2 billion dairy project. After seven months, the self-contained dairy production project received the first fresh milk. And 14 months from the launch date, on December 26, 2010, TH true MILK products reached consumers. To date, TH Group has completed the US$500 million first phase with an 8,100 ha farm where 45,000 cows are raised.

After nearly five years, TH set a record of Asia's largest hi-tech farm. Holding over 40 per cent of Vietnam's fresh milk market share, TH Group helped form a healthy dairy market by arguing and recommending authorities to clearly illustrate milk ingredients on product labels. Products of TH Group have won many domestic and international awards.

Later, she started to make organic fresh milk. She spent nearly two years converting over 200 ha of pastures toward European and American organic standards to provide fodder for over 1,000 cows. In August 2017, TH Group launched TH true MILK organic product onto the market.

Standing on giants
How to adapt the sunny and windy area of Nghe An to rear cold weather-preferring dairy cows is beyond the imagination of many specialists and authorities. With her superior thinking, Thai Huong approached the technology of Israel - a hotter and sunnier country than Vietnam which is successful in developing organic agriculture. She hired specialists and farmers there to successfully build the current TH model in Nghe An.

Her other agricultural projects also invited top-notch industry specialists and employ the latest technologies, such as the FVF fresh vegetable project and TH Herbals project. Vegetables and medicinal herbs are certified to meet European and American organic standards.

TH Group hired A&R Company of Germany, a world-leading consultant of healthcare product development, to develop totally organic TH true Herbal products, launched in August 2017. She also set up herbal farms and planned medicinal herb growing under the forest canopy to create a source of raw materials.

TH Group has embarked on researching and developing this product line since 2013. The group made and distributed five products of this line in the United States before launching three products onto the domestic market. These products have participated in international exhibitions and won many titles such as the product of February voted by the Beverage Industry Magazine and the inclusion to the Drink Spotlight list on the TrendMonitor website. Upon entering the Vietnam market, these three products won the Gold Award at the International Food Exhibition in Moscow in September 2017.

From these projects, she has cherished her ambition to redraw the “Vietnam map of medicinal herbs”. She will combine tourism development with herbal farms in the Northwest (Ha Giang and Son La provinces), the Central Highlands (Dak Lak and Lam Dong provinces) to benefit the communities.

Going global
Her aspiration of using Vietnamese wisdom to conquer the world market, including the investment in Russia, is a turning point of the TH Group to bring TH true MILK products to go further. Thai Huong shared her dream of bringing Vietnamese brand products to half of Europe (Russia’s area is roughly half of Europe) with a gigantic dairy farming and processing project. This project will be invested over 10 years, divided into three phases, in the Moscow area and in the Far East. This project and some pharmaceutical, fruit and vegetable projects have a total investment of US$2.7 billion - even bigger than the rest of Vietnam’s combined investment in Russia.

She very confidently said that when the third phase of the project covering 140,000 ha is completed, the herd will amount to 350,000 cows and the daily dairy processing capacity will reach 5,900 tonnes, equivalent to nearly 1.8 million tonnes a year. The first transport of cows will be dispatched to Russia by TH Group at the end of October 2017 and the first milk is scheduled to be marketed in Russia in May 2018. Then, Russians will have more choices for quality milk
Ms Thai Huong said that her Russian investment decision received mixed opinions but her burning aspiration of bringing Vietnamese milk to the world led her to step forward with confidence. This will also be a farm-to-folk fresh milk plan in Russia. By undertaking all steps from grass growing to cow rearing, milk processing and distribution to consumers, the Moscow facility will become a major concentrated dairy farm in the next 10 years.

Participating in the Eastern Economic Forum attended by more than 5,000 delegates from 60 countries around the world and personally meeting Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in September 2017, Thai Huong once again expressed the aspirations and the stuff of Vietnamese entrepreneurs to international investors and world famous politicians, persuaded them with potential and successful projects in Russia. TH Group will invest in raising dairy cows, processing milk and growing medicinal plants, legumes and animal feeds in the Far East of Russia. Its products not only serve the Far East and its surrounding areas, but are also exported to neighbouring markets, especially China.

When asked about her choice of Russian investment, she sincerely shared that every action that comes from the heart will bear sweet fruits. “Russia assisted Vietnam a lot in the past. My good affection for Russia urged me to come here. Besides, the advantageous soil properties, market characteristics and good agricultural investment and business support policies of Russia also counted. This is a golden opportunity for TH Group to occupy the Russian market. There is no need to doubt the success of TH Group in Russia,” said Ms Thai Huong.

And, still with that confidence, she has added strength to Vietnamese companies on the road to conquer the international market.

The TH True MILK project was kicked off in 2008. Within just two years of entering the market, the product, featuring the totally natural fresh milk criteria, quickly occupied up to 40 per cent of fresh milk market share in Vietnam. Ms Thai Huong is considered to have completely changed Vietnam’s dairy consumption from liquid milk made from powdered milk to fresh milk. Her engagement has forced milk companies to grow grass, raise cows and promote fresh milk production.

In addition to food projects, Ms Thai Huong has also invested strongly in education and health. At present, she is the developer of TH School system, whose students take international education programmes and get international diplomas right in Vietnam.

Le Hien