Nga is rather used to being asked a question on whether she is the wife of a minister, as she is among a very few women who has made her fortune on a golf course some 20 years back.
“Some international fellows asked me if I was the wife of a minister or a high-ranked government officer, or the daughter of a big boss at a business,” Nga recalled being asked such question at an event held in Vietnam then.
She wittily responded them that she had on hand the golf course's land use right certificate and the land had never been mortgaged before.
Start from scratch
It started with the acquisition of the Dong Mo golf course in former Ha Tay province, now a district of Hanoi, two decades ago, when Nga had little idea about the sport at all. She did not know how to play golf at the time and once even doubted herself on the rather craziness of golfers who could play the sport regardless of the weather.
Golf was regarded as a luxury sport and there were very few players back then. Dong Mo is also the very first golf course in the northern region, which was initially a joint venture between a local enterprise and a Thai investor. As the consequence of the Asian financial crisis, the latter was forced to liquidate its investment in Vietnam.
As Nga realised the huge potential of the sport, with the demand for it and passion for golf among players would grow wild over time, she decided to take over the 18-hole course.
Taking this investment as a turning point, Nga then built and acquired other golf courses befored developing them into a chain of seven golf courses across nation under the BRG brand. The Dong Mo golf resort or the King's Island Golf Resort is now home to the 18-hole King's Course designed by American legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus.
The golf legend once told Nga that he would never think of any woman as fearless as her who dared to choose golf over profit.
And the efforts that Nga has put into promoting golf in Vietnam got her a payback with the country honoured in the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Ohio.
Nga’s investment in the sport has indeed inspired many others at the Vietnam Private Sector Economic Forum held last week. Like many other talented women showing up at the event, Nga has made millions of Vietnamese women proud of their endeavour to promote the image of Vietnam to the world as well as bolster its economic growth.
Integrating with the world
“BRG has come up with a strategy, which is also our strength, that is to integrate with the world,” Nga openly spoke of her business secret.
She admitted that her English was rather limited in the old days, but it did not stop her from picking up a foreign partner to cooperate with.
Apart from its golf courses, BRG currently owns 24 hotels in Vietnam, including the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Danang that was chosen to host the 2017 APEC Summit Gala Dinner for leaders of 21 Pacific Rim countries and territories.
BRG hotels are managed and operated by well-known international corporations, like Hilton, Four Seasons, Marriott and InterContinental.
“If we manage our hotels on our own, the services may not be of high quality and our staffs are not professionally trained,” Nga frankly explained.
BRG also expands its wing to other lines of business. For instance, it cooperates with Japan’s Hino and Isuzu to assemble automobiles or form joint venture with Thailand’s Central Group in eight Big C supermarkets in Hanoi.
It also works with Sumitomo Group to bring Fuji Mart supermarket chain to Vietnam, to bring Japan’s quality products closer to local consumers.
Nga however admitted that working with international partners is not always about gain. “It comes with costs. High-level investments require more expenses and efforts to put in.”
“Yet, what we get in return is huge. It’s the well-trained employees, on par with those around the world, and that we’ve got and we can offer the society good products and even bring overseas-made products home to serve our people.”
International integration, in Nga’s view, is thus inevitable for Vietnam to go to the world. And along this way, private enterprises in general and businesswomen in particular play an important role.
Vietnamese women have been well recognised for their efforts in doing business. Yet for Nga, she observed them to be still timid and unconfident, and while intelligent enough, they lack of determination and strength to do things from the start to the end.
Women, according to Nga, are sensitive, diligent and bold enough to venture into doing businesses, but they have not been well connected to create an even stronger gender power to integrate with the world.
Given such spirit, she expressed her wish for the government to soon implement a resolution to support businesswomen in the process of international integration.
“With international cooperation, we will integrate but not dissolve ourselves within the process. We’ll learn to how to be creative and thus promote our own values to bring about our competitive advantages”, she said.
The road to success and become giants is well paved ahead, and it is in the women’s power to get there, Nga claimed.