Building Bridges: Doing business in Vietnam – Meet Kimmo Tuppurainen

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By Nguyen Nguyen

Watrec Ltd. is a Finnish company specializing in biogas technology and consultancy services for environmental and energy related issues. Watrec provides solutions for organic waste and by-product treatment. Watrec is the leading company and a pioneer in Finnish biogas sector specialized in biowaste, wastewater and process water treatment and consultancy. The company has gained an in-depth, true experience in biogas plant solutions in large-scale facilities. Its design and engineering know-how are based on both practical and scientific knowledge, which create possibilities to design cost-effective solutions. The company prefers minimum use of chemicals and minimum use of energy. 

The interview with Kimmo Tuppurainen, COO of Watrec was very insightful. He shared with BiziVietnam’s audience about their business success, experience of doing business in Vietnam as well as personal perspective about Vietnam that he now considers as his second home country. 

Our approach was to keep an open mind, and a positive mindset. I consider Vietnam as a second home to me and I have many friends there.

– Kimmo Tuppurainen, COO of Watrec.

Why did Watrec decide to extend its business in Vietnam?

Watrec did various market studies in developing countries throughout the world, in South-America and Southeast Asia (SEA) especially during 2015. Based on the data received from these studies, and first Business Finland’s visit to Vietnam, we decided that Vietnam would be the target country and starting point for Watrec’s activities in SEA. We are happy that it was a correct decision because the market is developing in the right direction. There is a need for our solutions. 

Could you share any cultural gap experience and challenges when Watrec first entered the market?

Well, such a big topic! 

Back to the time when I started my business in Vietnam, we were so lucky to hire Ms. Phuong, a native Vietnamese to work for the company and support the actions in the county. Ms. Phuong had been working with Finnish people for a long time so she also knew the Fins pretty well. However, about the cultural gap, of course, all basic habits and customs needed to be understood before getting too much into meetings and seminars etc. Our approach was to keep an open mind, and a positive mindset. As a result, it all went well from the beginning. 

From my perspective, doing business in Vietnam was not really difficult and was similar to what I’ve been doing in other countries. However, one most important thing is to bear in mind that the Vietnamese people do not go straight forward to the topic and final solutions as Finns. Therefore, it often requires a huge amount of patience in business meetings! 

Personally, I felt quite shocked at the beginning because of the vivid and busy life in Vietnam, noise, traffic, people everywhere. But later on I was pretty much used to that and didn’t pay attention to that at all. Of course crossing the street even at traffic lights was such a challenge in the beginning as well as all possible forms of transportation mixed together. I actually call traffic in Vietnam “controlled chaos”.

What has been the greatest achievement of your company in Vietnam?

From the business point of view, I would say that the design projects for waste treatment cases have been the greatest achievements. In addition, we have been able to reach so many players with support of our Embassy in Hanoi to tell more about sustainable ways to treat wastes, as well as renewable energy production.

How do you see your business in Vietnam in the next five years?

In the coming years our business in Vietnam will be totally dependent on Covid-19 situation and how we can do business abroad in general. I believe that within the next five years we will start a waste treatment project in Vietnam. 

What are the success criteria for Finnish companies to enter Vietnamese market?

Learn at least basics about the culture, people, and history. Go with an open mind, with modest behavior, step-by-step reaching the target you have. Don’t be a “sales guy” in American way but ask how the family, kids, grandparents, relatives, and neighbors are doing. Bring some gifts, even small things are enough. 

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

There are still many interesting experiences to share. For example, I learned how to use chopsticks and tried spicy food, and maybe some new food as well. I wondered how I should even eat them. The exotic meals and eating in exotic places were also especial experiences. 

Overall, what I have learned during six years of doing business with Vietnamese people is that there are many things that connect and unite us and make us similar kinds of people. I consider Vietnam as a second home to me and I have many friends there. 

Building Bridges

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