Nearly four decades ago, when the Vietnamese economy was still centrally planned, the concept of consulting did not exist. Meanwhile, in the early years of the 'Doi Moi' period (Vietnam’s economic renovation in 1986), the economy was in a crisis, and people were struggling really hard.
Coming back from the Soviet Union at the age of 38 and witnessing the poor performance of investment projects at that time, Han Manh Tien, the future General Director of CONCETTI, one of the first independent and professional technical support, research and consulting firms in Vietnam after Doi Moi, was filled with thoughts, "Huge losses and sufferings happened due to lack of opinions by independent experts."
Tien realised that as the country grew, the use of experts and consultants for government decisions would become more common and necessary, although at that time few people realised this.
That vision was a turning point for Han Manh Tien and his colleagues to come up with the idea of bringing together decent professionals to advise on government projects.
On October 15th, 1988, CONCETTI (Consulting and Research Company for Technology Transfer and Investment), under the Institute of Scientific and Technological Management, was established. Han Manh Tien was General Director of CONCETTI. It was responsible for its own operations and finances. This was a benchmark, a precondition for the private consulting model in the future.
Leaving the fountain of the state budget to start from zero, Tien and his colleagues encountered countless difficulties while figuring out the right way as there was no example for them then. Despite endless support from relatives, friends and colleagues, it was hardly believed that CONCETTI could survive and thrive at that time.
Even more, taking advantage of the ignorance of foreign businesses about policies when they came to Vietnam, some Vietnamese people approached and promised a lot of things, but after a long period of failing to keep those promises, they took all the money and ran away.
Regarding this situation, at that time, many Vietnamese newspapers published a series of articles about those fraudsters and emphasised that consultants had ruined the investment environment. The public opinion had been harsh on them.
That was the reason why they were prevented by a strict administrative system. Besides, with all the Doi Moi policies, contact with foreigners at that time remained to be strictly supervised.
Despite such difficulties, with great determination, Tien and his partners gradually contributed to asserting the status of consultants in the society.
On July 4, 1991, CONCETTI was recognised as an economic institution under the Central Committee of Vietnam Economic Association. Two years later, CONCETTI Company was established as one of the first limited company of Hanoi when the Law of private enterprises came into force.
They proactively contacted and worked with international friends so that they could better understand Vietnam’s culture, people and the initial changes in the legal environment, thereby contributing to attracting billions of dollar of foreign direct investment, which the Vietnamese always needed to rebuild the country after years of long wars and embargoes.
In the following years, CONCETTI advised the Lao government on the industrial property law and reopened the intellectual property registry book. CONCETTI also advised hundreds of domestic and foreign investment projects, typically Ciputra urban area in Hanoi with the capital of $2.6 billion in 1996.
Also, in 1995, CONCETTI implemented a project of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency on tendering, which made the basis for Vietnam’s Bidding Law afterwards.
Overall, when consulting had yet appeared in the national classification of economic activities, Tien and a group of leaders in consulting had tried to help raise the capacity of consultants in Vietnam, and their notable achievement was Decree 87 (promulgated in 2002).
Since then, consulting has been officially recognised and increasingly integrated into the socio-economic development.
When Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007, Tien and his colleagues recognised that governance-related issues were imperative. At that time, consulting should focus on not only investment and policies but also corporate governance.
Shortly thereafter, in July 2007, the Vietnam Association of Corporate Directors (VACD) was officially established, chaired by Han Manh Tien. After ten years of operation, now VACD has more than 2,000 members, three clubs of Chief Finance Officers, Chief Human Resources Officers, Chief Sales & Marketing Officers, as well as an e-magazine.
Nowadays, the consulting profession in Vietnam has become clearer and more professional thanks to the development of information technology. Talking about career criteria, Tien stated that consulting was not for anyone. A professional consultant must first be an expert in an area with basic skills such as analysis, research or estimation. More importantly, professional ethics should be the top priority.
After more than 30 years, professional consulting activities have accompanied economic development of Vietnam. CONCETTI has just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary.
In that 30-year journey, the first professional Vietnamese consultants recognised “alone go fast, together go far”. From strangers to colleagues, they then became brothers, working together until now as consulting has flourished in Vietnam and deeply attached in various economic sectors.