Finding people in pandemic industries where there is a will is a way

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On the day her travel company filed for the pandemic, Nguyen Kim Oanh, 27, from HCMC’s Tan Binh district turned to her husband and asked, “What are we doing now?”

As of March 2020, the company had monthly sales of VND 1 to 2 billion ($ 44,000 to $ 88,000). However, tourism has been one of the industries hardest hit by the global pandemic.

“I didn’t think that my three-year career would end so quickly,” says Oanh.

Nguyen Kim Oanh during a trip to Japan with customers in October 2019. Photo courtesy of Oanh

According to the Federal Statistical Office, an average of almost 8,500 companies withdrew from the market every month in 2020. In December last year, 32.1 million people over the age of 15 were affected, also in the form of jobs or working hours and income, by the outbreak of Covid-19.

With the sudden loss of livelihoods, Oanh and her husband considered several new options.

Oanh found that while online retail has grown 30 percent while many businesses have struggled with the epidemic. So in August 2020 she started importing nuts and diet foods and selling them on her Facebook accounts.

In the first month, they were over the moon to see their winnings of over VND 10 million. Oanh saw the potential for development and enrolled in e-commerce courses. From five to 10 orders a day in the beginning, her business has grown to hundreds of orders.

She says that in the past 30 days she has had sales of VND 900 million on e-commerce platforms and nearly VND 100 million on social media, with profits of 15-30 percent.

Oanh (center) and two employees pack goods before shipping to customers, June 2021. Photo courtesy of Oanh

Oanh (center) and two employees are packing goods before shipping to customers in June 2021. Photo courtesy of Oanh

A report released in June this year by the International Labor Organization titled “World Employment and Social Outlook” said that quarterly data for middle-income countries in 2020 indicated that the recovery in partial employment was skewed towards self-employment.

“This indicated that self-employment acted as a buffer for workers who lost their jobs and were without adequate sources of income.”

Thanh Tam, 25, from Vung Tau City believes selling isn’t the only way to generate income online.

The bar she worked at in Da Lat had to close due to Covid. Before the epidemic broke out, she was making 10-15 million VND a month along with an extra income from a part-time job as a translator, which allowed her to live a comfortable life.

But after being stuck at home for two months, she found that the epidemic had changed everything and she had to buy everything online.

So she used her writing skills and existing travel blogs to make a list of topics to write about and researched search engine optimization and affiliate marketing programs.

Every time a reader reads her blog post and clicks a link to a store that sells a product, she receives a “small reward for referring a customer”.

“The amount isn’t much, but if you focus on it there are more opportunities for development than the bar job,” she says.

Phung Thi Thao Nhung, a well-known teacher of online marketing on social networks, said she had nearly 1,000 new students since February, many of whom are low-paid office workers who have lost their jobs and want to move to online business.

Nguyen Ngoc Dung, vice chairman of the Vietnam E-Commerce Association, says: “Covid-19 has dampened the economy, but also created the motivation for development.”

It has created many online sellers.

According to Dr. Bach Ngoc Thang of the National Economics University at the Institute for Sustainable Development in Hanoi, the pandemic has changed employment trends, the biggest one being a shift to professions based on technology platforms.

Pham Mai Linh from Hanoi’s Dong Da District found a way to start a business right from home.

She used to work for a multinational travel company headquartered in HCMC, making nearly VND 20 million a month. However, after six months of maternity leave, she became unemployed, which upset her life.

“I got depressed thinking about work,” she says.

“The expenses for two adults and three children cannot be covered by my husband’s income alone.”

Pham Mai Linh is taking a cake baking course in 2018.  Photo courtesy Linh

Pham Mai Linh is taking a cake baking course in 2018. Photo courtesy Linh

Before the outbreak, she baked cakes for friends, but had to quit because of her busy schedule.

Now at home she practices to improve her skills and tries to develop new recipes. She used home appliances and ovens and started an online bakery in May. Their first cake orders received a lot of positive feedback.

At first she just made jellies. Given the growing demand for cakes amid the epidemic, she started making birthday cakes and also dumplings, snacks and other items at a price of 100,000 to 600,000 VND to give customers more choices.

Last month, she received three to ten orders a day. Three days before the Mid-Autumn Festival, she sold 200 jelly cakes, earning VND 10 million.

Linh no longer feels “helpless” and “clinging to her husband” and is confident that her business will prosper and if she focuses on developing it, her income will be higher than what she received from her job.

Oanh and her husband have no plans to return to the tourism industry even though the income from the online business is only half.

She is certain: “Online sales are stable. My husband and I will follow up on this.”


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