This case is set in 2017, when Co Gia Tho, Chairman of the Board at Thien Long Group Corporation (“TLG”), a Vietnam-based manufacturer and supplier of writing instruments and stationery products, is considering further international expansion. While Vietnam already had over 65,000 points of sale across the country, the company is looking to grow stronger by developing overseas markets.
Founded in 1981 as a small family business manufacturing ball-point pens, TLG had grown to become the top stationery manufacturer in Vietnam and a market leader in the region. By end-2016, the company had a market capitalisation of approximately VND 4,000 billion (US$176 million), and total revenue of VND 2,162 billion (US$95 million). Its products were being distributed to more than 50 countries across six continents. Export revenues accounted for nearly 15% of the group’s total revenue, and had been growing at over 30% year-on-year for the past three years. And yet, it continued to be a challenging proposition.
What could Co do to enhance TLG’s reach overseas? Moreover, given the global megatrend of rapid digitisation which was causing headwinds for the growth of physical office supplies in the more developed countries, how best could it adapt its strategy in the face of the changing dynamics of this almost commoditised and highly fragmented stationery industry?
This case enables students to understand the opportunities and the potential strategies that an emerging market brand can adopt to successfully penetrate the developed Western markets, and differentiate itself despite being in a commoditised, fragmented and mature industry. In addition, students would have an opportunity to discuss the different growth strategies that a firm can pursue, and analyse the different modes of entry it can adopt in an international market.
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