Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao
Vietnam
Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao
  • President and CEO of Vietjet Air (Aviation)
Born Ha Noi, Vietnam, 1970; BS, Labor Economic Management, Plekhanov National Economic University (1992); BS, Credit and Finance, Institute of Moder (1997); PhD, Economic Cybernetics, Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology of Russia (1997)
“The reward for us comes from the feeling that taking flight is a sign of civilization. When stepping out of their village, our passengers feel like another person and become global citizens.”

Summary

In this interview, Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, who has a background in finance and trading, explains how she entered the aviation industry and became the President and CEO of Vietjet Air, the first privately-owned, low-cost, international airline in Vietnam. She has been reported in the press to be the wealthiest woman in Vietnam as of 2021.

Madame Thao speaks at length about how she navigated legal, regulatory, and even social challenges to build the successful airline business. Indeed, she explains that, after finally receiving the first private license in the aviation industry, she then had to build a consumer base in a country in which most people had never travelled by air. “Before we joined the industry,” she says, “only one percent of the Vietnamese population had access to air travel; it was perceived as expensive and only for the rich.” Madame Thao was out to disrupt this notion of air travel by offering safe, but inexpensive flights, not only throughout Vietnam, but across Southeast Asia. In the interview, she also discusses some of the strategies used by Vietjet Air to educate first-time flyers on how to purchase tickets, prepare travel documents, and check baggage.

Madame Thao also stresses that, from the beginning, she envisioned Vietjet Air as not only a domestic airline, but one that one that would be fully integrated in the international aviation industry. She explains how she continually pushed for regulatory change in state-owned and government agencies in order to improve operating standards in Vietnam. The result has not only benefitted Vietjet Air, she says, but has also had the broader impact of attracting more foreign investors to enter the Vietnamese aviation industry.

Madame Thao concludes the interview by discussing in more detail her background in finance. She was part of the team to launch the first private bank in Vietnam, less than thirty years ago, and she explains how, as with Vietjet Air, one strong motivation for getting involved in the banking industry was the large, under-served segment of the population, and the desire to expand access to banking services. Madame Thao also reflects on some of the ways that her training in finance has helped streamline operations at Vietjet Air.

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In this interview, Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, who has a background in finance and trading, explains how she entered the aviation industry and became the President and CEO of Vietjet Air, the first privately-owned, low-cost, international airline in Vietnam. She has been reported in the press to be the wealthiest woman in Vietnam as of 2021.

Madame Thao speaks at length about how she navigated legal, regulatory, and even social challenges to build the successful airline business. Indeed, she explains that, after finally receiving the first private license in the aviation industry, she then had to build a consumer base in a country in which most people had never travelled by air. “Before we joined the industry,” she says, “only one percent of the Vietnamese population had access to air travel; it was perceived as expensive and only for the rich.” Madame Thao was out to disrupt this notion of air travel by offering safe, but inexpensive flights, not only throughout Vietnam, but across Southeast Asia. In the interview, she also discusses some of the strategies used by Vietjet Air to educate first-time flyers on how to purchase tickets, prepare travel documents, and check baggage.

Madame Thao also stresses that, from the beginning, she envisioned Vietjet Air as not only a domestic airline, but one that one that would be fully integrated in the international aviation industry. She explains how she continually pushed for regulatory change in state-owned and government agencies in order to improve operating standards in Vietnam. The result has not only benefitted Vietjet Air, she says, but has also had the broader impact of attracting more foreign investors to enter the Vietnamese aviation industry.

Madame Thao concludes the interview by discussing in more detail her background in finance. She was part of the team to launch the first private bank in Vietnam, less than thirty years ago, and she explains how, as with Vietjet Air, one strong motivation for getting involved in the banking industry was the large, under-served segment of the population, and the desire to expand access to banking services. Madame Thao also reflects on some of the ways that her training in finance has helped streamline operations at Vietjet Air.

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Video Clips by Topic

Gender

Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, President and CEO of VietJet Air, discusses her experience as a woman in a position of leadership and being included in the Forbes Power Woman List of 2017, relates her achievements to the experiences from her childhood, and expresses the importance of an optimistic attitude.
Keywords: Vietnam, Gender


Government Regulation

Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, President and CEO of VietJet Air, describes navigating the aviation industry’s regulations including challenges in integrating Vietnam’s legal system and the international legal system, the lack of private aviation business in Vietnam until 2007, getting the appropriate licenses, and meeting global infrastructure standards.


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, interviewed by Laura Phillips Sawyer, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, December 12, 2017, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.