Visiting a bag manufacturer in Vietnam

Summary: Below story is how I helped Fred to find bag manufacturer in Vietnam on Nov 2016. Some experiences I’ve encountered: some bag manufacturer didn’t welcome new potential customer, some of them set high MOQ.

About Fred: He is Founder and CEO of a backpack company. After a backpacking trip to Europe in 2009, Fred and his friend – now business partner found out that they loved the trip, but the backpack was suck. They decided to make their own backpack.

Fred is very clear about what he wants, with high standard. He provided very good information, explain clearly and understand his business very well. Fred is also very open in communication, and willing to share stories.

  1. I) Background story:

I was introduced to Fred by James. Fred and James joined a Digital nomad forum, Fred posted about looking for help in Vietnam, James read it and connected Fred to me on Nov 15.

Fred lives in California, but he was working with a factory in Shenzhen, China to produce backpacks. He visited Vietnam first time on Nov 20 – 28, meet a supplier here and would like to meet with a few backpack factories. He has found few companies that manufacture bags for large brands, but he didn’t know how to get in touch with them. He couldn’t find their websites or contact info.

They are:

1) Hieutien Sewing Co Ltd

2) Pungkook Ben Tre One Member Co Ltd

3) Sambu Vina Sports Co Ltd

4) Vina Duke Co Ltd

5) Vision Vina

6) Pungkook Saigon Co Ltd

7) Astro Saigon Co Ltd

8) Twinkle Vietnam Co Ltd

Fred found these companies through Import Genius. They already make bags for other similar companies like Osprey, Eagle Creek, North Face and Tumi. He wants to see their products and factories so that his company can consider them for future production. He didn’t want to visit random bag factories since Tortuga’s bags are complex, most factories can’t make, only skilled factories can make them.

He asked me to help to contact them, scheduling meetings and transportation.

  1. II) Implementation:

* I asked Fred to:

+ provide me description about the bag (dimension, material …) and drawings, so I can send to the manufacturers, for them to see if they can produce it.

+ provide me quantity he wants to produce (initial quantity and ongoing quantity, frequency)

+ tell me if he needs help with the exporting process.

+ tell me his available schedule to arrange a visit.

+ tell me if there is anything else I can help him with.

Fred then provided me all information I asked, and also tell me names and prices for the less common materials which he will provide for the manufacturer.

* My part:

I called to 6 manufacturers on Nov 18. Fred provided me their phone no from Import Genius, as well as I tried to find other ways to contact them. Some of them posted info to hire people, I then can find phone no of HR Department, and from that, ask phone no of Sales Department. Some of them have some info on Facebook, which I then can ask.

Here are some feedbacks:

1) Hieu Tien Sewing:

Called to 08 39 968 250 => Vietnamese automatic message => extension 104

=> no one picked up => gone

call 2nd time: someone picked up and said they can’t accommodate new order

2) Pungkook Ben Tre:

the one picked up the phone said she knows nothing, and I can call back by noon.

3) Sambu Vina Sports:

I got transferred to Sales Department => the one picked the phone call said:

the whole department go to a meeting, no one is there,

can call back later.

4) Vina Duke:

very long transfer and conversation, and at the end, they said they produce products monopoly,

can’t accept new Clients.

And they said Mr. Ki Young Sang is no longer there.

5) Vision Vina:

the person in charge is not there, but I finally got email address or someone named ‘Jason’.

(I then emailed Jason)

6) Pungkook Saigon:

extension number ‘0’ => no one picked up (I called to all 3 numbers)

 

As of Nov 19:

2) Pungkook Ben Tre:

said that they are just the factory and only produce as order of the company, asked me to search “Pungkook Saigon 2” online and inquiry them.

I found phone number of someone named “Hoa” online, I then sent email to her, she has forwarded to Sales Department. And they would contact me if they can/want to produce.

3) Sambu Vina:

I called again, the girl at the Sales Department said that they have enough order already,

so they don’t accept new order.

However, I wrote an email to Mr. NH Kim, and he said they are looking for customer who can place minimum order of $3M/year.

5) Vision Vina: Jason replied my email and welcome us to visit their factory.

He said that they have been in backpack industry for more than 30 years, their current buyers are Osprey, Kavu, Beanpole and so on.

 

7) Astro Saigon said that they have too much orders now, and currently can’t accept new orders.

8) Twinkle Vietnam:

I was able to get in touch with Ms. Phung (phone then email)

She said that their main office/factory is in Hong Kong. And to identify the price, she need to send the sample and info to the Sales Department there to calculate the price and do sampling. Then the bags can be produced in the factory in Vietnam.

She then sent me pictures about one of the products they produced.

As of Nov 21:

2) Pungkook Ben Tre:

Ms. Hoa forwarded my email to Ms. Thuy, and she said they can’t proceed the order since their MOQ is 2M USD per year.

I also contacted few other bag manufacturers, few of them didn’t answer me (include Kanaan). There were Shilla Bag, balotuixach.com, Archsquare replied me with their info and pictures.

Fred said he prefers: Vision Vina (very interested); Shilla Bags and Twinkle

As of Nov 22:

I then informed Fred about address, distance (by km and by time) from his address to the factories, price for one way ride via GrabCar Vietnam (4 seats).

I choose GrabCar since taxi and other car rental services are higher price.

When I check the price in the evening, the price is double in comparison with when we actually rode in day time.

The 3 factories are on different sides of Ho Chi Minh city, each of them takes an hour or more to come (one way), so Fred only selected Vision Vina to visit.

I then booked a meeting with Jason at Vision Vina at 2:30 to 3pm of Wednesday Nov 23rd. I also asked for his phone no and his assistant’s phone no to contact in case we get lost.

 

III) The visit on Nov 23:

 

I met Fred at Be & John coffee (187B Dien Bien Phu) on (earlier of ) 1:30pm Nov 23.

We then tried to book a GrabCar, and the first 2 times weren’t successful. The 1st driver said his car had a problem and he was fixing it. The 2nd driver said he was not willing to drive a far distance (to province) that time.

I continued to book Grab, but also be prepared to call to the car rental service I know, in case GrabCar doesn’t work.

Finally we had the 3rd driver accepted to drive us. He didn’t know the direction, so he just opened instruction on the Grab mobile app and followed it. When we got into the car, I told the driver that we would be there just around an hour, if he can wait for us to drive us back. And he said yes. I was able to negotiate a price lower than the price on the way to go there. On the way going there, he had to pay for the toll fee one time.

Vision Vina factory is at Thai Hoa commune, Tan Uyen district, Binh Duong province, 30 kms from our address to the North.

We got to the factory around 2:30pm. I registered for us at the security counter by submitting my ID, write company name and received two guest ID.

We then were instructed to go to 2nd floor to meet Jason. We followed Jason to get into meeting room, where many bags from other Clients of Vision Vina were hung there.

Fred and Jason then started to learn about each other as well as the business, the bags.

Vision Vina was established in Korea on 1984. 1996: the factory and production line were moved to Vietnam to reduce production cost, while the head office is still in Korea. The factory has 1400 workers and main business is backpack.

Fred shared that their backpacks are for people who travel to city, look like urban product, but more complex. One material on the bag was originally for the sail on the boat.

Jason introduced to us all examples of bags which are available in the meeting room.

We then visited the whole factory: Jason introduced us all departments, process: sampling, production lines, inspection, packing, ware house, canteen …

We came back to meeting room for few further discussion.

Fred then asked how does Vision Vina connect the edges of water proof material. Since some bag manufacturers told Fred that they would sew them. But sewing will make holes and lose the purpose of water proof. Jason said that they would tape then heat press, and showed us an example of a product.

After the productive meeting, we left the factory around 4pm. We were back to Ho Chi Minh city around 5pm.

Side note: Fred and me communicated mostly via email and whatsapp.

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