article banner
Cities driving trade

Ho Chi Minh City: a springboard into South-East Asia

The entrepreneurial culture of Ho Chi Minh City, combined with a youthful, progressive workforce and excellent trading links, make this a fantastic destination for businesses looking to expand into the region.

Trinh round headshot

“In recent years there has been a huge increase in the volume of foreign investment into Ho Chi Minh City,” says Trinh Thi Tuyet Anh, business development director at Grant Thornton Vietnam.

“The city government has taken a number of far-reaching steps to clear potential barriers for businesses from overseas, with new policies brought in relating to areas such as land management and public procurement.”

The aim has been to transform Ho Chi Minh City – formerly known as Saigon – into not only a pre-eminent trading hub in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region but also the first smart city in Vietnam. To meet this goal, the municipal government has recently signed a memorandum of co-operation with technology company Microsoft.

Logistics infrastructure

Anh says that Ho Chi Minh City’s history as a major agricultural trading centre was based in part on its strategically important location near the Mekong Delta in south-east Vietnam.

“In more recent times, the city has always managed to attract foreign firms due to its business-friendly climate and policies, as well as the fact that it is consistently the richest city in the country in GDP terms.”

As well as a busy port, which has docked more than 150,000 ships in the past 20 years, Ho Chi Minh City boasts the nation’s busiest airport. Tan Son Nhat welcomed around 40 million passengers in 2019.

“Ongoing investment will see this number rise by 25% in the next few years, while the local government is also on course to raise the number of seaports in the city to 48 by 2030,” Anh says.

Excellent talent pool

A young population that is well educated across a variety of disciplines provides overseas businesses with a wealth of talent, Anh adds.

“Ho Chi Minh City is home to more than 80 universities, both public and private institutions, and more than 400,000 students from all over the country enrol here every year.”

A number of foreign institutions, including the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), have also opened branches in the city – some independently and others in partnership with local public schools.

Businesses in different sectors are supported by the numerous specialised economic zones in the city, including the Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone, the Quang Trung Software Park and the Saigon Hi-Tech Park. Tax breaks and other financial incentives are available to firms in sectors such as technology, software, renewable energy and waste recycling.

“These policies are consistent with our plans to move away from assembly activities towards more technologically advanced production and export,” Anh explains.

As well as a booming tech start-up sector, established global businesses such as Samsung, Misfit and Intel have operational bases in the city.

The presence of Vietnam’s first stock exchange in Ho Chi Minh City has also encouraged international financial businesses to set up national or regional headquarters in the city.

Gateway to South-East Asia

A combination of a dynamic business culture, a young, well-educated population, and the presence of numerous major multinationals in Ho Chi Minh City makes this the ideal destination for businesses looking to establish a foothold in this part of Asia.

The huge potential for Ho Chi Minh City to grow into one of South-East Asia’s major trading centres means it is the ideal gateway for companies looking to expand in this part of the world. To find out more about establishing your business here, contact Trinh Thi Tuyet Anh.

Ho Chi Minh quick facts

  • Location: Vietnam, South-East Asia
  • Time zone: Indochina Time GMT +0700
  • Population: 8.9 million
  • GDP: USD59.5 billion[1]
  • Industrial strengths: Logistics, technology, financial services
  • Growth sectors: Digitalisation, Industrial Revolution 4.0
  • Regional access: Bangkok 1 hour 35 minutes by air; Singapore 2 hours; Hong Kong 2 hours 45 minutes; Seoul 5 hours 30 minutes