Indochina Captial CEO: “I am so lucky to be here in Vietnam”

Peter Ryder, former Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and now CEO of Indochina Capital in Vietnam shared this in an interview with VOV.

 Peter Ryder, Indochina Captial CEO

You had been working in Vietnam before 1992 (it means before the normalization of the US- Vietnam diplomatic ties). Why did you decide to come to Vietnam? Was there any risk for you to do so at that time?

I came to Vietnam for the first time in January 1992, more than 2 years before the embargo was lifted and three years and a half before normalization was achieved between the two countries.

There are three things that drove me to Vietnam:

First, there was actually a deal. When I was still working in New York at an investment bank, one of my colleagues in our Los Angeles office told me about the small but realistic development in the Cho Lon area in Ho Chi Minh City. I found it interested and decided to leave the investment bank and started my own company there.

One of the things that I wanted to do is to get back to Asia because I had lived and worked in Asia for the investment bank from 1987-1990.

Even though I had never been to Vietnam at that time, I was in Tokyo and had traveled to Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines except for Vietnam.

So when an opportunity for a project came up, I said: “Yes, that is a great idea to go!”

Second, my background is in anthropology, I am always interested in culture and emerging markets and developing areas. Vietnam is very exotic to me to come and understand.

Finally, there was a war in Vietnam and even though I was too young to be a soldier, I was very aware of the war because of the US press covered it. Moreover, my high school was in Boston and Boston was full of students who were against the war. So I became very active in anti-war campaign. That is another reason why I am interested in Vietnam.

But at that time, the relationship between Vietnam and the US was not normalized yet. Were you allowed to come to Vietnam?

My first trip was just a week after President Bush, Sr. had lifted travel ban for Americans so I could go to Vietnam easily without violating any laws.

So you could not invest or become involved in any projects at that time?

Correct! We could not invest until after the embargo was lift, however, we could act as advisors and that was my role in the project in Cho Lon area.

I know that you have written a letter to your President to ask for the normalization between Vietnam and the US. Is it considered your contributions to our relationship?

We found the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Vietnam in 1994 and I was one of the founding members of the AmCham. Together, we, the people in AmCham wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton asking him to lift the embargo and to normalize the diplomatic ties.

So, right at the beginning, the American business community here was very active in supporting normalization and developing economic ties between the two countries.

You used to be AmCham Chairman, what have you seen the changes in Vietnam after the normalization?

The changes have been amazing! Just look out the windows and you can realize it. The first time when I came here, they were just beginning to build the HITC building next door. Everything around it was rice paddies.

The physical development of Vietnam has been absolutely amazing! It is like night and day.

However, it is very difficult to do business here because of bureaucracy. It is time consuming. We still do a lot of things but we can do it much faster and more profitable.

Vietnam has become modern on the surface but still seems traditional and true to its culture and history. To me, it is a positive characteristic of the country and the people in term of becoming successful nation and community.

What about the investment environment in Vietnam?

The investment environment on the surface is very attractive, there are many areas to invest in Vietnam, such as tourism, real estate, agriculture, healthcare, education and logistics.

However, coming back to my comment on bureaucracy, even when you have great ideas, capital and good local partners, it is still very time consuming to go from point A to B. We have to find the way to cut through the bureaucracy.

So the opportunity is there. I have no doubt about it. Vietnam has almost 100 million smart, hardworking and consumer oriented people with great geographic location and natural resources.

What is the most successful thing that you have achieved in the country?

I have been there for more than 23 years and I feel I am extremely lucky that I have obtained great happiness through my business. We have created many wonderful things in Vietnam. That gives me enormous satisfaction.

Besides, I am also successful in my personal life. I have met a wonderful Vietnamese woman, got married with her and together we brought up our children here.

Could you predict about the future potential of the  Vietnam-US ties?

I have known the new Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius since 1996 when he first came here as the US embassy was first open. It is incredible that he has come back. He loves Vietnam and can speak Vietnamese. He really knows and understands the country and is committed to see our comprehensive partnership grows into something more meaningful. So, I am very optimistic about the future of our two countries.

* Peter Ryder, an anthropologist by training and a former Wall Street banker, came to Vietnam on an exploratory business trip in January 1992 and hase lived in the country since then. As one of the first American businessmen to come to Vietnam post-war and now a veteran investor in the country, he is recognized as one of the most successful American investors in Vietnam. 

Peter Ryder, Indochina Captial CEO