After 40 years of effort to become the “national brand” of multiple generations of Vietnamese customers, Thien Long has aimed to be a billion-dollar enterprise with corporate comprehensive digitalization.
Talking about the history of the much-sought-after “national ballpoint pen”, Co Gia Tho, founder and chairman of Thien Long Group, recalls that over 40 years ago, most ballpoint pens in Vietnam were imported from Thailand. Ballpoint pens were so scarce that many people refilled pens with ink for reuse. It was high time for a pen vendor like Tho to pursue his dream of producing a made-in-Vietnam ballpoint pen at a small factory in District 6 of Ho Chi Minh City in 1981.
Years later, despite the brand gaining popularity, not all shops in HCMC sold Vietnamese products. They much preferred to sell imported items. As such, Tho and his partners took their made-in-Vietnam ballpoint pens across the country for marketing. It was not until 1997 that the Thien Long brand dominated the ballpoint pen market thanks to its affordable prices, high quality and eye-catching designs.
Blue, black and red ballpoint pens with white stripes are common in school bags across the country, an icon when referring to ‘schoolhood’. Photo by Thien Long
Starting with ballpoint pens, Thien Long always tried to make positive changes and take the lead in producing new products for the local market. In 1994, Thien Long set up a team of engineers and experts for product research and development. In 2000, product innovation activities cost 3-5 percent of the group’s total revenue.
In 2020, in spite of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Thien Long still reported a gross profit margin of 38.4 percent, higher than the average level in the 2016 – 2019 period. During the first half of 2021, the group’s total revenue amounted to over VND1.4 trillion, up 27 percent year-on-year, while its after-tax profit reached VND176 billion, a tenfold increase from the same period last year, meeting 63 percent of its full-year target. The positive figures came from the group’s efforts in business restructuring and digitalization that Thien Long has planned for several years and started to implement in 2020.
Chairman Tho says what helped Thien Long Group to survive the Covid pandemic was its manpower and systematic management strategy. Over the past few years, the group also focused on investment in production systems to form an ecosystem to serve its operations.
The group has focused on investment in production systems to form an ecosystem to serve its operations. Photo by Thien Long
Aside from its strength in manpower, Thien Long has manufactured numerous machines and equipment to serve its production operations and boost design activities to replace imported ones and lower prices to improve competitiveness. As a result, Thien Long products, with various designs and meeting diverse purposes, are always sold at a reasonable price, and thereby considered the “national brand.”
The “comprehensive digitalization,” with an aim toward rapid and sustainable development in the new normal stage, has been concretized by Thien Long with a roadmap called “Comprehensive Digitalization in 2021 with a vision towards 2025” built by FPT Group, based on the FPT Digital Kaizen methodology, technology solution ecosystems, experience in digital transformation and experienced staff.
Co Gia Tho (L), chairman of Thien Long Group, and Truong Gia Binh, chairman of FPT, at a signing ceremony. Photo by Thien Long
“The group has set a challenging target of VND10 trillion in revenue in the next five years. To achieve the target, Thien Long Group will take into account multiple factors, especially information technology. Technology capacity, practical experience and dynamic and highly-skilled employees are major factors in the decision to select FPT as its partner during the path to digitalization,” says the Thien Long chairman.
At Thien Long Group, digital transformation is also applied to social activities, including the Exam Season Support program, to provide candidates with practical support. The application of technology to the program also promotes the value of knowledge and digitalization of the group.
40 years old – the peak of Thien Long’s “career”
A person, at the age of 40, certainly attains maturity and a solid position in society and money that many others admire. Four decades passed, and until now, the brand has grown “mature” and “molted” to become an icon of ballpoint pen products.
Apart from conquering the local market, Thien Long has marked a milestone in its “outbound” journey. With hopes of bringing the crystallization of Vietnamese wisdom to the world, the group has stepped up export and expanded its reach to 67 nations, including all Southeast Asian countries and choice markets like the United States, Europe and Japan.
Thien Long Group and Chairman Co Gia Tho are awarded Third-Grade Labor Order for efforts in building a Vietnamese brand in the global market and significant contributions to Vietnam’s education. Photo by Thien Long
“Good quality products and the brand’s significant achievements are the result of dedication and clear development strategy that Thien Long Group is pursuing. Consistent with the stationery industry, Thien Long Group will continue its long-term journey to serve Vietnamese consumers,” a representative of Thien Long Group stated.
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