VIETJET, Vietnam’s only privately-owned airline, came from nothing and now accounts for more than 30 percent of market share in Vietnam in just over the last few years. It’s revenue tripled to 10.9 trillion dong ($488 million) last year while net income rose to almost 1 trillion dong, according to the company.
The budget airlines now flies to 47 locations in the country and across Asia, including Seoul, Bangkok and Singapore.
Founder and CEO Vietnamese Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, wanted to make the company the “Emirates of Asia,” modeling after the success of the Dubai-based carrier that’s the world’s biggest long-haul airline with flights to about 150 destinations.
Thao ,45, is planning for VietJet to hold its IPO within the next three months, where it may sell as much as a 30 percent stake. The carrier is aiming to seek a valuation of more than $1 billion. According to an article from Bloomberg by Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, the initial public offering will make Vietjet more valuable than South Korea’s Asiana Airlines Inc. or Finnair Oyj.
Thao, who founded the airline, owns 95 percent of the company, and is set to have a net worth exceeding $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making her the country’s first woman billionaire. Her wealth is derived from her stake in VietJet and her holdings in Dragon City, a 65-hectare real estate development in Ho Chi Minh City.
VietJet is known for its young and attractive flight attendants who wear bikinis on inaugural flights to beach locations and featured similar models on its calendars.
Thao says this is an empowering image in Vietnam’s conservative culture. “We don’t mind people associating the airline with the bikini image. If that makes people happy, then we are happy,” she said, adding that one has the right to wear anything she likes, either the bikini or traditional Ao Dai, referring to the traditional long tunic worn over loose pants.
Vietnam is expected to rank among the world’s 10 fastest-growing aviation markets in the next two decades, according to the International Air Transport Association, and VietJet will probably surpass national carrier Vietnam Airlines as the nation’s biggest domestic carrier this year, according to CAPA Centre for Aviation.
“You have to take the lead and take calculated risks,” said Thao. “As a businesswoman, I have a responsibility to contribute to the economy and to push for positive changes of the country and in the society.”
Thao made her first million at 21 trading fax machines and latex rubber. Almost a quarter of a century later, she’s poised to become Southeast Asia’s first self-made woman billionaire known for putting bikini-clad models on VietJet.
In an interview, she said: “I’m just focused on how to boost the company’s growth, how to increase the average salary for my employees, how to lead the airline to gain more market share and make it number one.”
A Vietnamese entrepreneur who has made a fortune by staffing an airline with women in sexy bikini attire is on her way to becoming Vietnam’s first female billionaire.
VietJet Air CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao’s idea of dressing up the airline’s flight attendants with sexy outfits is about to pay off big time.
According to the Bloomberg, the 45-year-old’s fortune is expected to balloon to $1.37 billion when the privately-owned airline goes public within the next three months. Thanks to Thao’s idea, the company has grabbed more than 30% of Vietnam’s airline market share in just a few years.
Thao, who made her first million at 21 by selling fax machines and latex rubber while studying finance and economics in Moscow, brushes off criticism of her unique business’s approach. The brilliance of the company’s campaign, which boasts the motto “Enjoy Flying!”, is further highlighted by its very effective marketing tool: steamy calendars featuring the sexy attendants.
“You have the right to wear anything you like, either the bikini or the traditional ao dai [traditional Vietnamese clothing],” the CEO said.
“We don’t mind people associating the airline with the bikini image. If that makes people happy, then we are happy.”
Thao, who owns 90% of the airline, also holds a 90 percent stake in Ho Chi Minh City’s Dragon City development and majority stakes in three resorts in Vietnam.