Established a year ago Phu Thai Cat, an arm of Vietnam’s leading distribution firm Phu Thai Group, has targeted to be the largest machinery and engine supplier in Vietnam.
Robert Stevenson, general director of Phu Thai Cat, tells VIR’s Van Ngoc about the company’s strategy to reach the target by 2013.
Can it be said that Phu Thai Cat has achieved some remarkable results during your first 12 months of operations?
Not really remarkable, just necessary in the demanding and growing environment of Vietnam. Phu Thai Cat began one year ago to continue the dealership activities with Caterpillar in Vietnam and we now support machinery and engines for all applications including marine, power generation, railways and oil and gas sectors. We are fortunate that the enthusiastic team of employees has grown together from 34 originally to almost 300 now within one year. We are like a family, sharing the challenges and success together. The year has been exciting for us with record deliveries to state-run Vinacomin for the coal mines, TH Milk for a new dairy farm venture in central Nghe An province and at Ha Tinh for the construction of the steel mill for Formosa Plastics. The first year will be a record in terms of volume for Caterpillar in Vietnam – we are proud of that and target to be the largest machinery and engine company in Vietnam by 2013. We are learning that it is not just operating for one year, but we are growing the business rapidly in response to the growth needs of Vietnam.
How do you assess the growth of Vietnam’s demand for machinery and engines in the country’s key industries such as power generation and oil and gas?
Certainly the demand is still on the rise as Vietnam’s economic growth of 7 or 8 per cent per year and the industry segment we operate in is infrastructure and power which grows 30-40 per cent annually.
With the Vietnamese government’s current tightening monetary policies to stabilise the economy, many construction projects developed by your corporate customers like Vinacomin and PetroVietnam have been requested to delay work. Will your business suffer from this?
We have been working closely with our customers to ensure their machinery and equipment can continue to work efficiently and effectively. I believe that Vietnam’s economy will grow again more strongly next year.
Chinese suppliers are also offering Vietnamese customers similar machinery and engines with much lower prices. Is this a challenge for your business in the current context of Vietnam’s tight economic circumstances?
Times are changing rapidly. In Vietnam, when I first came here 15 years ago, the only thing that mattered was price. Sure that is still very important, especially in the tight economic circumstances today. However, there are now many equally important aspects that dictate and influence decision making and success of a company. Customers now recognise that a low priced machine that is not working effectively is a waste of money. Now product support is measured by life time. Cost and efficiency is important. The initial cost is just the beginning, the ongoing service and parts support throughout the 15 to 20-year life of the equipment in reality is far more important. You must take care of important machinery as you would for your life and your family.
What are the key differences Phu Thai Cat offers its customers?
For, we need special people who are trained and equipped. This is our key difference. Even though we are growing rapidly we are committed to investing in tooling and training. We have over $3 million in tools and a staff of 50 technicians that will grow to 80 before this year’s end. The real challenge is to find and train these people. To enable this rapid growth we have established a permanent training department of nine people, properly equipped classrooms and special tooling. They train our own people and our customers. We will seek the best technical graduates from universities this summer and hope that the exceptional students who graduate and read this article will contact us for a career start.
Strategically, where will you take Phu Thai Cat in the future and how will you maintain the current velocity?
Phu Thai Cat will not only continue, but expand more quickly as the market recognises the real value in product support and efficiency. The passion and attitude of our staff and those suppliers who partner with us are the driving forces.
New concepts of equipment monitoring on site and remotely will be introduced using the latest technology available. Everything is about continuous improvement. What was acceptable yesterday is not today and will be outdated tomorrow. That is the world and Vietnam is at the forefront of changes. Our team shares a belief that anything is possible, hence our slogan that can be seen frequently is – “Yes We Can”.