Many years ago Mike (name has been changed) was one of three people who tried to create a pool league. It started with two bars coming together on a Wednesday night, both sporting teams of seven, and playing once a week either away or at home. Despite the mutual support among certain quarters and the intensity and excitement of the matches themselves, the competition never quite took off. Other bars looked at getting involved — quickly it looked like the league would go from two teams to four. But the owners of the new bars refused to play away matches. They didn’t want to lose revenue on a Wednesday night. Within two months the league ran out of steam and Mike decided to call it a day.
Such scenarios are typical of Vietnam, a country that, despite its inherent focus on community, can often place priority on short-term gains over long-term value. And yet when people do come together — as in Ho Chi Minh City’s darts league — the results are astounding. Now with three divisions, 28 teams, annual sponsorship from Tiger and well over 500 players, what started off primarily as a ‘foreigner’ sport has now penetrated the local community — over half the darts players are Vietnamese. And this is despite teams having to play ‘away’ from their designated bar — thus losing the bar revenue — once every fortnight. Move up to Hanoi, unfortunately, and the darts league there has been dormant for years.
Keeping Up With The…
It’s not just in sport that cooperation or the lack of comes into play, but in business. Let’s take another typical situation.
Two downtown convenience stores have been operating for years. They sell imported goods — anything from canned and frozen foods — through to fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, confectionary and more. But rather than working together and finding a way for them to have different product mixes, thus allowing each store to provide a greater range of goods to the market, they are in direct competition. They miss out on one crucial point — work together and, as in the darts league, you can expand the market.
It comes to a head when before Tet one of the stores buys a huge neon electric sign with rotating text, a less complex version of the kind you may see on hoardings in huge stadiums. Within weeks the store next door has purchased the same sign and has tried to place it in a more visible position of that of their neighbour. The animosity is building up even higher as the Nguyens next door try to emulate and better their rivals.
Rivalry versus Cooperation
Now let’s get this clear. Rivalry is a good thing. Competition makes people try to improve and pushes them to get the upper hand. However, last month’s arrival in Saigon of two New York musical legends on the same night — Grandmaster Flash and Marky Ramone — was typical of how a lack of communication and cooperation can have a negative effect. The first problem was that they were in town on the same night, thus forcing the community to make a choice. But more importantly they missed out on an opportunity to market the events together. Such a strategy would have created a real buzz and would have not only benefited the city as a whole but both, individual businesses. Unfortunately it was not to be.