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Future of Franchising with Nguyen Phi Van

Nguyen Phi Van

Over the last 30 years, there has been remarkable development in Vietnam. It is definitely one of the top emerging countries for brands looking to expand their presence in the East Asia region. Nguyen Phi Van, has over 20 years of experience as a senior executive in brand, retail, and franchise development across global emerging markets in Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe.  She is currently advisor to Project 844 under the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam on startup & innovation. In addition, she is the chairwoman of Vietnam Business Angel Network, and Open Innovation Vietnam. In this interview below, when we were discussing about the future of franchising with Nguyen Phi Van, it is clear that no matter what business we are in, we must embrace technology to stay in the game.

1. How did you enter in the franchise business?

My franchise career dated back more than 15 years ago when I started off buying the Master Franchise Licence of Gloria Jean’s Coffees for Vietnam. I developed the brand for 3 years before exiting the company. Thanks to this achievement, Gloria Jean’s Coffees International has recruited me to head international marketing, and later on regional and global franchise development. I left the company in 2013 to set up my own franchise accelerator called FranA and an early stage investment network called Vietnam Angel Network. My current investment portfolio include 19 startups in various sectors scaling through franchising and licensing.

2. Where and how did the idea of your concept come from?

With global franchise experience and deep involvement in the startup and innovation ecosystem, I have successfully married these 2 concepts to create FranA. FranA is a global franchise accelerator focusing on scaling and investing in digital, O2O, and tech-enabled franchise businesses. Some prominent brands include 25 FIT – an EMS fitness studio franchise, Star Home Spa – an O2O convenient spa franchise, 4An – an O2O Vietnamese vegetarian bistro, Messnow – an AI chatbot licensing platform, Vietgrow – an e-learning licensing platform, Arkki – a creative education franchise and more.

25fit logoMessnow logo

3. What inspires you to invest into these franchise startups?

The world is transforming into the creative economy and all businesses need to either be born digital or be transformed digitally. As such, traditional franchise concepts will no longer be sustainable.In order to scale globally, all concepts need to have core tech or built with tech foundation. As such, I only focus on investing in digital or tech franchise.

4. Have you changed your investment strategy during the pandemic?

Since the pandemic, I have changed my investment focus to such areas as health & well-being, digital health, tele-health, cloud services, tele-services, green living and eating.

5. What makes your brand different from your competitors?

All of the brands in my portfolio are early adopters of technology or own core technology themselves. As such, they are already future-proof and most are pandemic-proof. Our growth rate is even better than before the pandemic and most brands are still developing new franchises during the current crisis. Another strong point of difference is that all of my franchise concepts are based on a good mix of virtual presence, small physical footprint, low Capex, high ROI. This happens to be the recipe for success during this crisis time.

6. What are the essential qualities that you look for in a franchisee?

My top 3 conditions when looking for a franchisee:
1. Sufficient funding: since our franchises are mostly low Capex, high ROI, we don’t grant franchises to people having to seek funding or having difficulties with cash flow.
2. Management capability: whatever being said about the safety of buying a franchise, I think 50% of franchise success relies on the capability of the franchisee. Therefore, we do not grant a franchise until we know who has been assigned to manage the business.
3. Knowledge of franchising: we require candidates to have franchise knowledge

7. How long does it take, in an average, for your franchisee to realize their investment?

Our strategy and focus is on building franchise concepts having ROI within 18 months. Half of our portfolio are currently providing ROI within 12 months.

8. What was the major challenge you faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

From being a global franchise executive to an early stage investor, the top challenges are tech knowledge, investment knowledge, and working with startups. This is the new era and it requires anyone, no matter how experienced we have been in franchising to learn, unlearn and relearn if we don’t want to be left behind in the development of an unknown future.

8.1. What is your best achievement?

– Having successfully launched more than 50 markets worldwide with Master Franchise Partners.
– Managing an investment portfolio of 19 franchise startups and counting.

9. How does your business day start?

I enjoy writing to share business and skill knowledge to the next generations, and therefore always start my day with writing. So far, I have published 7 books, both in English and Vietnamese. The one published internationally is Go Global – An MSME’s Guide to Global Franchising, available on Amazon.

10. What was your best moment throughout your franchise career?

When I decide to leave my global executive job and head into the unknown by investing and building the next-gen of franchise brands.

11. Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?

I only choose to invest into brands that can be scaled globally. Therefore, I can’t wait to see all of the brands in the current portfolio becoming global brands and the entrepreneurs behind those brands becoming a new generation of global leaders who can give back to their country and community.

12. Any tips you want to impart to our readers who want to be in the franchise industry?

Franchising is forever one of the best methods to scale a business globally, no matter how different business models can be. Therefore, franchising knowledge and experience will ensure that you can always stay in the game despite any industrial revolution.

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