Startup experiences of Soi Bien

Updated at Friday, 11 Aug 2017, 08:00
The Hanoitimes - “Find business ideas, create the first store with benefits, finalize a business model, construct a business culture and then expand those tasks.” - Mr. Tran Quan, the CEO of Soi Bien organic food chain, shared his opinions on the keys to startup success.
Tran Quan and staffs at Soi Bien.
Tran Quan and staffs at Soi Bien.
Starting with only 20 million VND but after four years, Soi Bien has become one of the most credible organic food chain in Hanoi with 12 stores, 5 farms, 100 members, 100 suppliers and 20,000 customers. In addition to seafood, the major product, Soi Bien organic food chain is also known to be the supplier of organic meat, vegetables, fruits and other specialized local products. For Mr. Tran Quan and other startups, the most crucial principle is to ensure the quality of products. The CEO of Soi Bien stated that the most difficult task in the organic food sector is to create trust in customers. “Difficulty with regard to products can be solved by connecting with as many suppliers as possible. At the same time, we have to support and supervise them in the production process to ensure the quality of products,” Mr. Quan commented. In order to achieve a position in the organic food business, Mr. Quan has pour in many efforts and money. There are times when Soi Bien seemed to become bankrupt. At times, products of Soi Bien were offered to each household. The CEO himself also had to cut tuna each week to earn the trust of customers. For Mr. Quan, when choosing a supplier, he has to investigate the site to evaluate the quality. Going up to Ha Giang mountainous region to find the black pig resource, or going to Phu Quoc island to find good seafood resource, traveling to Ninh Thuan to meet a supplier of fresh grapes and apples, or traveling to Ninh Thuan to place orders on red dragon fruits are all what have made consumers believe in Soi Bien. 

Up until now, Mr. Tran Quan always strives to expand the chain and offer more diverse and organic foods to serve consumers, reducing the concerns about food safety. According to Mr. Quan, “The chain business system needs to be constantly improved, unified and standardized. The more thorough the process is, the better the chain will become.” In 2017, Soi Bien received investment from Mr. Nguyen Khanh Trinh, Founder of CleverAds. After that, Soi Bien has merged with Mr. Trinh’s Trung Thuc farm to become Soi Bien Trung Thuc Joint Stock Company. 
Tran Quan and his family
Tran Quan and his family.
After four years of startup, Mr. Quan has deducted two keys for enterprises to create a successful and tight-knitted employee community. To help employees truly appreciate the company and CEO, besides money, Mr. Quan also gives them other “soft” benefits. “For any startup and enterprise, in order to develop in a long term, a good labor network is the key,” the CEO of Soi Bien confirmed. Mr. Quan has organized many compulsory trainings with employees so that they can understand the culture, missions, values and visions of the enterprise. During the startup time, financial issue was the most difficult issue for Soi Bien. The store could not afford to pay their workers much. In average, each worker of Soi Bien received a wage of about 5 to 6 million VND. From those difficulties, Mr. Quan understood that startup does not have much money at first. So if the financial resources are not considerable, the employers should share and talk to their employees more. If the employees feel happy and connected to their work, not only will the productivity increase but the employees will appreciate the brand more. 

In reality, many young people from the rural areas or farm families have considerable agricultural knowledge. However, many people decide to cling to the city lives. Rarely anyone comes back to their hometowns or villages to support or create startup companies, even though they have many advantages of understanding their localities and having assistance from their own families and the government. “Why don’t they do something to help farmers of their own villages, so that the agriculture of our country will develop in the right directions?”, Mr. Quan set out a question. For Mr. Quan, if the organic food business is done right, the agriculture of Vietnam can develop to another level.”
Tran Thao - Ngoc Thuy