On a nice day, Mr. Dinh Hong Ky, General Director of Secoin Corporation received a proposal to invest into Secoin from Thailand’s biggest building material corporation: SCG. From the beginning, SCG proposed to buy 60% of the chartered capital. “I frankly refused I did not have the intention to sell the company. We always affirm that Secoin is a Vietnamese company and we have built up a Vietnamese product brand”, said Mr. Ky.
After that SCG bought out 85% shares of Prime Group, another Vietnamese big building material corporation at the price of 7.2 billion baht, equal to 5,000 billion dongs. For Secoin’s part, the company continued to receive many buying proposals from Japan, Australia,…
It is easy to understand: while many domestic companies in the field of building materials are on a rapid recession, Secoin still achieve an annual increase in revenue of 20-25%. After 24 years of operation, Secoin has got 9 member companies, 5 factories, 2 forestation farms and over 800 employees. Secoin’s achievements have been reaped thanks to “captain” Dinh Hong Ky.
The king of non-burnt building materials
Mr. Ky was born in “a family of professor career”. His father, Associate Professor, Dr. Dinh Xuan Ba used to be Vice Chairman of Vietnamese Informatics Association, Chairman of Informatics Faculty of Hanoi Polytechnics University. After being retired, Mr. Ba founded Secoin. Graduated from the Automatic Control Faculty of Hanoi Polytechnics University, instead of following his father’s career as a professor, Ky succeeded this father in business.
In the 1990s, it was a custom to use clay burnt bricks to build houses, but Mr. Ky imported the production plant for non-burnt bricks and tiles. As the result, the first products made by Secoin were difficult to be sold as there were no organizations who could test the product quality.
In Autumn 1995, Mr. Ky and a group of journalists from Vietnam Television met with Dr. Tran Van Huynh, Chairman of Vietnam Building Material Association to discuss about the development of building material industry in Vietnam. After that, they came to make a film at the first non-burnt block factory of Vietnam located in Phu Ly – Ha Nam where Secoin supplied equipment and transferred technology.
15 minutes after the program was on television, Mr. Ky received a phone call from Mitsui Construction (Japan), who was constructing 5-star hotel Horizon Hanoi (now changed as Pullman Hanoi). The construction was designed to use concrete block, but Mitsui could not find a supplier in Hanoi and surrounding areas. Then, Mitsui became Secoin’s first customer.
Since then, Secoin non-burnt blocks have been widely used all over the country. Secoin has also supplied equipment and transferred technology to over 30 factories for making non-burnt blocks.
Being the pioneer and contributing to the development of non-burnt building materials in Vietnam, Mr. Ky has been named by the circle as “the king of non-burnt bricks and tiles”.
Besides importing non-burnt tile technology into Vietnam, he also tried to find the way to export Vietnam’s traditional tile: encaustic cement tile.
Encaustic cement tile preservationist
In 1997-1998, when coming to Hochiminh City, Mr. Ky saw that encaustic cement tiles were of low quality, simple design and sold at very low price. Most of workers in this traditional industry had quit their job for another.
On the contrary, in foreign countries, he found that these products were highly appreciated and precious as they are hand-made tiles, only for the rich. In the Netherlands, France, Germany, encaustic cement tiles are sold at nearly Euro100/m2. While the Vietnamese tend to like foreign-made products, Mr. Ky concentrated into exporting the products which were ignored by the local market.
Mr. Ky looked for encaustic cement tile workers, at the same time, he quickly built up the factory in Binh Duong province with the aim to make high quality encaustic cement tiles for export.
With encaustic cement tiles, Secoin did not run into fierce competition from China like other products. On the contrary, China has ranked the 9th among Secoin’s export countries for encaustic cement tiles. However, to bring encaustic cement tiles to a new level, Mr. Ky has pushed up the production scale and improved quality by incorporating advanced know-how from Swiss, Germany and USA. At the moment, Secoin has got 2 factories for encaustic cement tiles in Binh Duong province and Hochiminh city. Export market accounts for 45% of Secoin’s total production. It is estimated to increase to 60% in 2014.
Although the price of Secoin encaustic cement tiles is 8 times higher than that in the past and double the price of other local producers, many foreign customers still go for Secoin. “Production schedule for foreign orders has been full till January 2014” said Mr. Ky. At present, 95% production capacity of Secoin has been exported to 41 countries.
After shuttling between countries and factories, when having free time, Mr. Ky likes reading. “Many people like doing exercise for bodies, I like doing exercise for brain”, he said. Although having a technical background, he has been widely known as a writer. “When I was small, I was selected to join the writing competition of Hanoi a couple of times. Later on, being a businessman, I travel a lot, meet a lot of people and have a lot of thoughts. I wish to share my thoughts, that is why I write”, said Mr. Ky. (The Investment Bridge).