What will the business and economic landscape look like in an (eventual) post-pandemic world. Some local industry leaders share their thoughts.

KNOWING WHAT THE FUTURE holds in such uncertain times is not an easy task, but the business community, as always, must do its best to gaze into the crystal ball. In order to look at what’s ahead for Vietnam’s business sector, [C] Vietnam spoke to four corporate leaders in Vietnam to gauge their thoughts on what the future holds and how businesses will change and adapt post-pandemic.

Chung Seck, Partner and Head of M&A Practice at Baker & McKenzie Vietnam; Michele Wee, CEO of Standard Chartered Vietnam; Richard Burrage, Managing Director of Cimigo; and David Jackson, CEO of Colliers Vietnam shared their thoughts on numerous topics ranging from the wave of digitization in the workplace to flexible work options, corporate culture and the trajectory for economic recovery.

If there was a single theme to emerge from the responses to our questions, it was the need to adapt in the face of adversity to survive and thrive. This should come as little surprise in the wake of the continued upheavals caused by the pandemic and increasing severe shutdowns.

“These restrictions and lockdowns clearly create great challenges for all businesses and the population at large. However, these measures are essential to lowering the infection and transmission numbers. Accordingly, as best as possible (and there isn’t much choice too), it is critical for businesses to adapt to these measures,” said Baker & Makenzie’s Seck.


A full reopening of the economy is still likely to be some way off, and the speed of the recovery will depend on the sector. The rollout of vaccinations both here in Vietnam and in other countries around the world will also be a key element in the pace at which industries bounce back.

While there is clear wisdom in preparing for the worst – it is necessary to prepare for the better too. Again, the ability to do this well and how quickly one can scale up again varies between industries, Chung said. “On the human resource front, it is important to monitor workforce requirements and availability, or to keep tabs on potential senior hires. It is not so easy to quickly scale up the workforce once there are signs of re-openings – as can be seen in other countries that are in such a phase.”

There have been numerous predictions for Vietnam’s economic growth in 2021, particularly given its resilient performance last year. However, most of those were made before the devastating spread of the Delta variant.

Standard Chartered’s Michele Wee believed an uncertain future lay ahead with a more modest economic performance in store for the country. “The world will be navigating a vulnerable recovery, and we expect global growth to rebound to 5.8% in 2021 from -3.3% in 2020 as economies reopen and vaccination rollouts gain momentum,” she said.

“Two key downside risks to the outlook include a more extensive resurgence of pandemic cases resulting from new variants and a more sustained surge in inflation that damages consumer confidence and forces a swifter tightening of monetary policy.”


The ‘Zoom Meeting’ has in many ways become emblematic of doing business over the last two years, but it is the increasingly digitized world, and in particular the explosive growth of eCommerce, that is something that business needs to embrace and adapt to.

Cimigo’s Richard Burrage said being agile and, wherever possible, enhancing digital channels for all customer interactions should be a key focus. “I operate a market research agency in Vietnam and Indonesia and both markets are in lockdown,” he said.

“Fortunately, we can shift between in-person to online (which generally means on mobile) for all our work. Cimigo just has to be agile and switch between the best ways we can engage with consumers to help our clients make better business choices. What the pandemic has achieved is expedite digital transformations, be that online shopping, virtual conferences, media streaming or online learning,” Burrage said.

It was also noted that increasing digitization had helped organizations become more efficient and streamlined numerous processes, according to Colliers’ David Jackson. “Working from home has rapidly increased the adoption of technology and altered online communications. The process of ‘digitization’ has reduced also reduced bureaucracy and optimized business processes enabling more time to interact with clients and service their needs more effectively,” he said.


After such an extended period of time for many workers who have been operating from home, questions of mental health, employee wellbeing and corporate culture are at the top of mind of many business leaders.

Collier’s David Jackson said it was natural to feel stress, anxiety and worry during the pandemic but consistent communications internally not only helped to decrease anxiety levels and nurture company culture but also to maintain productivity levels.

“With the increase in technology and off-site working, mental health and personal growth of employees through training and engagement are critical in order to maintain and develop a strong sense of company culture,” he said.

“More flexible working options for staff need greater examination along with the ability to automate and track performance. As Peter Drucker suggests “without measurement there can be no management so tracking these alterations in working patterns is vital for continued growth and employee retention.”

On a more positive note, in the long term once the pandemic has been largely brought under control, things are more positive. At Cimigo, Burrage said they had documented the fundamentals in population growth, dependency ratios, urbanization and rising household wealth, and all indicators were very strong.

“During the next decade in Vietnam, consumer dynamism and economic growth will continue unabated,” Burrage said. “The pace of positive economic progress and consumer dynamism will only quicken and outpace other developing markets, and the opportunities this unleashes for investors and entrepreneurs will be phenomenal.” [C]

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