The Philosophy: “See shortcomings as opportunities for progress.”
At a foreign investors’ meeting in TraVinh Province in 2008, Mylan Group (MLG) founder and CEO, Dr. My T. Nguyen became frustrated by the prevailing sentiment among the other attendees. When he took to the podium, he responded poignantly, “I disagree with our colleagues who say that we should invest in TraVinh because it is poor and its people desperate. We should invest in TraVinh not because it is poor, but because of its untapped potential, and not because its people are desperate, but because they are creative, open-minded, and eager to improve their lives. Where there is a shortcoming, there is always an opportunity.”
The Founder: My T. Nguyen, Ph.D.
It was Mr. Nguyen’s ability to recognize opportunities that led him back to his hometown of TraVinh City (formerly TraVinh Town), where he founded Mylan Chemicals, Inc. (MCI) in 2004. This event marked the fulfillment of a dream held since 1979, the year he escaped from Vietnam on an overcrowded, rickety fishing boat.
“I didn’t know if I was going to survive, let alone ever return to the country of my birth,” Mr. Nguyen said of his departure from Vietnam. “Yet, I envisioned someday building a company to employ the people of my hometown.”
Mr. Nguyen had numerous obstacles to overcome before his dream could be realized, however. He was on the verge of starvation when he was rescued from the South China Sea and placed in the Pulao Bidong Refugee Camp in Malaysia. Luckily, his fortune proved to be better than that of many of his fellow refugees. With the help of a friend, he was accepted for immigration to Canada within two weeks of his arrival at the camp.
Like many new immigrants to North America, Mr. Nguyen had to start from scratch. Although he had graduated from the University of Saigon with a chemical engineering degree, he began his life in Montreal as a dishwasher and waiter at a Vietnamese restaurant. After learning English, Mr. Nguyen juggled his night shifts at the restaurant with a full-time university course load, completing his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry in only seven years.
Upon completing his education, Mr. Nguyen moved to the United States to work at the renowned IBM Almaden Research Center in California and later at Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG) in New Jersey. During his time at KPG, Mr. Nguyen was a leading contributor to the company’s patented thermal computer-to-plate technology.
The Roots: American Dye Source, Inc.
Long before he could afford to build a factory in Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen, like many other successful entrepreneurs, began a business in his family home. When he discovered a demand for polymeric dyes, he began his first successful business venture in a basement in suburbia.
American Dye Source, Inc. (ADS) was incorporated in 1997 and began operating with a small group of chemists and technicians at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique Energie, Materiaux et Telecommunication (INRS-EMT), in Varennes, Quebec, Canada. By 2000, ADS was exporting its products to customers worldwide and had outgrown its production facility. At the end of that year, the company moved to its current headquarters in Baie d’Urfe, Quebec.
In 2002, ADS received the High Tech Small Business Award from the Quebec Chamber of Commerce. Today, the company continues to engage in the R&D and manufacturing of specialty chemicals and prides itself in an ever-growing patent portfolio ranging from coatings for offset printing plates to anti-counterfeiting security devices.
Realizing the Dream: Mylan Chemicals, Inc.
After spending over two decades in North America, Mr. Nguyen returned to TraVinh in 2004 to realize his dream of building a company in his hometown. That year, he incorporated Mylan Chemicals, Inc. The company began operating in 2006 in LongDuc Industrial Park with a modest staff of under a dozen recent university graduates. From its inception, Mr. Nguyen was determined to differentiate MCI from the other companies in TraVinh: “While other foreign investors were focused on commodities or garments, my goal was to run the first high tech company in the province.”
Starting a high tech company in rural Vietnam presented its share of difficulties because of a lack of infrastructure and skilled labour. Adhering to his philosophy, Mr. Nguyen viewed these shortcomings as opportunities for progress. To encourage the growth of the high tech sector and to develop talent from within the country, Mr. Nguyen joined multiple business advisory boards, lobbied government infrastructure projects, guest lectured at universities around Vietnam, and assumed the deanship at TraVinh University’s Applied Chemistry Department. For his establishment of MCI and his many contributions to the economic development of Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen received the President’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2008.
Expansion: Mylan Printing Media Corp.
At the end of 2008, Mylan Printing Media Corp. (MPM) was established to manufacture thermal CTP offset printing plates. By 2010, the company had acquired 60 percent of Vietnam’s CTP printing plate market and had licensed its technology to manufacturers in Europe and other Asian countries. MPM seeks to advance green technology by investing in the development of printing plates whose production, development processes, or disposal methods will be safer for the environment. The company is the first plate producer in the world to offer a water washable, non-ablative thermal negative CTP plate to the market.
A Partnership for Growth: Mylan Group and Jaccar
In February 2010, Mylan Chemicals, Inc. was renamed Mylan Group and converted from a one-member limited liability company to a joint stock company. After the conversion, the Vietnam Century Fund, managed by French private equity firm Jaccar Capital Fund, bought a 30 percent stake in Mylan Group for US $12 million. A part of this sum was allocated to financing the construction of two new state-of-the-art plants, which will be used for the R&D and production of environmentally friendly materials for the printing and optoelectronics industries.
The Future of Mylan Group: Seizing New Opportunities
Mylan Group’s success is a testament to its founder’s foresight and willingness to seize opportunities where others saw only shortcomings and obstacles. From Mylan Chemicals, Inc.’s intimate staff of less than a dozen individuals, Mylan Group has since grown into a profitable business with over 500 employees whose fields of expertise include chemistry, electrical engineering, and graphics design. The company and its soon-to-be subsidiaries continue to hire and train talent to keep up with its rapid growth.
As it grows, Mylan Group strives to not only preserve the environment by minimizing pollution and recycling waste, but also by becoming a leading provider of green technology. The company’s values and ambitions are embodied in its slogan, “Formulating a Greener World”. In April 2010, the Saigon Times praised Mylan Group for its green initiatives, naming the company a winner of the Green Values 2009 Award.
Through its strategic partnership with Jaccar, Mylan Group hopes to list its stock on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange within the next five years. Meanwhile, the company plans to increase its exports to overseas markets and to become a world leader in green chemistry.