Over the past 30 years, Vietnam has made incredible strides, transforming from one of the poorest countries in the world to a lower-middle income country. By doing things differently than it had done before and shifting from a centrally planned to a market economy, it’s now considered one of the most dynamic emerging countries in the East Asia region.
Capitalising on the country’s success and mirroring its proclivity for doing things differently, Empire City Vietnam is going against the grain and breaking new ground as the future landmark development of Ho Chi Minh City, set for completion in 2022.
“We’ve done a lot of high-rise development projects, but we’ve never developed anything like this before,” Empire City CEO Nhan Vo says. “When Empire City is complete, it’s going to be the tallest tower in Vietnam with 88 storeys. While it’s quite the challenge, we also know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Soaring seven storeys higher than the current tallest tower in Ho Chi Minh City, Empire City will stand as a reflection of the city’s economic growth, reconnecting the urban environment once again to Mother Nature.
Although the momentous development covers 14.56 waterfront hectares and is set to include nearly 4,000 luxury apartments and offices, plus hotels, retail and restaurants, Nhan says its grandness isn’t for show – it’s for the people.
“We’re not trying to compete with the physical height of the building,” he says. “We want to deliver something meaningful and add value to the communities and residents. We know that another developer may come in one day and build a tower even higher. And that’s fine because, even since the early days, this has never been a competition.”
Nhan dreamed up the idea for Empire City roughly seven years ago, amid a challenging and uncertain economic time in Vietnam. “The market and macro-economic situation here were not very supportive,” he says.
“But we believed strongly in the medium- and long-term investment landscape in Vietnam. It had a lot of upsides. And we knew that in a market like this, you could be hit with some lifetime opportunities.”
However, Nhan also knew that in order to pull off a project of such prominence, it would take some imagination. “From the very early days, we knew we couldn’t do the same things. And we couldn’t have the same mindset,” he explains.
We want to deliver something meaningful and add value to the communities and residents.
“We couldn’t apply all the same methods for this development. This is a totally new, upgraded real estate project that needed to be embraced with creativity.” As such, he and his team did a complete turnaround of the business.
“When we launched this project, we hired a totally new development team. We came up with a new approach to financing, and we brought in world-class architecture firms,” Nhan says.
“We even changed our internal management and started calling our sales and marketing team the innovation and creativity team. And our property and leasing team became our care team. It’s all about caring for people, caring for communities and giving back.”
An ode to how the people of Vietnam live now and will live for generations to come, Empire City is being erected on a foundation of liveability. “We’re going deep to try and understand how the new generation of Vietnam will live, work, play and learn,” Nhan says.
“Things are changing fast, and we have to keep up with that. So we always have to think about what the future will look like and prepare ourselves.” While no-one has a crystal ball to get a glimpse into the future, the team Nhan helped cultivate at Empire City is the next best thing.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the manpower and the skill set,” which is important in this market. We also have a good mix of experience and innovation within our team. Here, we do things differently.”
And that difference is felt all the way down to its key business partnerships. It’s no secret that the business landscape has been caught in the crosshairs of COVID-19. It’s been a tough time for everyone, but Nhan is confident that strong relationships and swift decision-making are the secrets to pulling through.
“We are now living in uncertain times and in an unprecedented environment,” he admits. “Immediately, we realised that speed and decisiveness were the key factors for successfully working with suppliers, especially through supply chains and operation efficiencies.
“We want to make sure we are working together, staying open-minded in business and discussions while supporting each other. We know that people are suffering out there and they have their own challenges. To me, the true value of a relationship is seen in the way you appreciate others, especially during a crisis. It’s working together hand in hand to solve problems.
“We work to protect each other, not only for the business, but for the workers, their families and the community itself.”
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