Vinamilk CEO among Forbes’ Top 50 Asian Businesswomen

Mai Kieu Lien, CEO and Chairwoman of Vietnam Dairy Products Joint - Stock Company (Vinamilk) - Vietnam’s largest dairy producer - was the only Vietnamese woman to be named among Asia’s 50 Most Powerful Businesswomen three times by Renowned US business magazine Forbes. She was described by Forbes as a dynamic CEO who has built the company into one of Vietnam’s major enterprises and turned Vinamilk into not only one of Vietnam’s most profitable brands but also a respected name across Asia.

Mai Kieu Lien was born in 1953 in France and graduated from university in Moscow with a degree in meat and milk processing in 1976. She returned to Vietnam the same year and started working as an engineer responsible for condensed milk and yoghurt in the Southern Milk & Coffee Company – Vinamilk’s predecessor where she helped modernise the old state dairy collective.

From an engineer, she was quickly promoted to the post of shift leader, Deputy Director for Technique, Deputy General Director for Economy and then became General Director in 1992. After the equitisation of Vinamilk in 2003, she became Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of Vinamilk.

Mai Kieu Lien, Vinamilk’s CEO and Chairwoman.

Part of an automatic packing line at Vinamilk’s 2nd factory in Binh Duong.

Vinamilk’s milk production line.

The automatic robot system of Vinamilk’s milk production line.
Some Awards:

– Labour Medal, 1st class, in 2001

– Labour Hero in the Doi moi Period in 2005

– Labour Medal, 1st class, in 2006

– Named among Asia’s 50 Most Powerful Businesswomen three times by Forbes Asia

– The Asian Excellence Recognition Award in Investor Relations in 2012

– The title “The Best Asian Business Leader in Enterprise Management” in May 2012

Over the years, Mai Kieu Lien has made considerable contributions to developing Vinamilk into not only one of Vietnam’s most profitable brands but also a respected name across Asia.

Vinamilk is also the pioneer in meeting the demand for milk of Vietnamese people and developing material resources for Vietnam’s dairy sector.

In its production strategy, the chairwoman aims for a target of producing new products to occupy the domestic market. In 1993, Vinamilk, for the first time, produced yoghurt and ice cream products which immediately created a huge buzz in the market and people at that time had to stand in line to wait to buy Vinamilk’s new products. In 1987, Vinamilk invested in building the Dielac Infant Powder Factory and quickly obtained great success. At first, customers did not believe much in the company’s Dielac product because they were familiar with imported ones. After a few years though, this product of Vinamilk became more popular and now accounts for 30% of the domestic market and is expected to target about 50% of the market share. Its export turnover reaches hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

After nearly 40 years devoted to the company and over 20 years working as General Director of Vinamilk, the most important thing for her is that she can unify all the members in her company into one block to bring into full play their strength and overcome difficulties at work and in life.

Having become one of 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia, Mai Kieu Lien is proudly on the list of famous businesswomen of leading businesses around the world, such as HSBC, Singapore Telecom, Temasek, Morgan Stanley, Huyndai, Nomura, JP Morgan, and Horizons Ventures.
With her direction, Vinamilk has delivered consistent growth in revenue and profits and expanded its market to 31 nations around the world. Since listing on the stock market in 2006, its stocks have been blue chip.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Mai Kieu Lien at the inauguration ceremony
of Vinamilk’s Infant Powder Factory in Binh Duong Province in April 2013.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai attends the inauguration ceremony
of Vinamilk’s Factory in Binh Duong Province in September 2013.

Mai Kieu Lien (right) and Vice State President Nguyen Thi Doan present gifts
to needy children on Ly Son Island, Quang Ngai Province.

Mai Kieu Lien presents a gift of powdered milk worth one billion dong
to the National Fund for Vietnamese Children.

Talking with us, Mai Lieu Lien said that she desires to develop Vinamilk into a multi-national group and one of the 50 largest dairy producers in the world by 2017 with a turnover of three billion dollars/year. To promote the dairy sector’s sustainable development, in 2006 Vinamilk started to invest in raising milk cows with the establishment of modern dairy farms with a total capital of 500 billion dong at that time and 1,600 billion dong in 2013. Vinamilk so far has five dairy farms in Tuyen Quang, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Binh Dinh and Lam Dong. In its plan for 2014-2015, Vinamilk has built and put into operation four large-scale farms, including Thong Nhat and Nhu Thanh in Thanh Hoa Province, Ha Tinh and Tay Ninh. In the 2014-2016 period, Vinamilk plans to continue to import milk cows from Australia and the US for new-established farms. At present, the total number of milk cows, including those in Vinamilk’s farms and of cow breeders who sign contracts to provide milk for the company, reaches about 80,000 which produce 550 tonnes of fresh milk. With its development strategy, Vinamilk will increase the total number of milk cows of its own farms and cow breeders to 100,000 by 2017 and 120,000-140,000 by 2020 with the expected productivity to double, 1,000-1,200 tonnes of milk per day.

Recently, Vinamilk’s dairy farm in Nghe An, the first one in Southeast Asia and one of three dairy farms in Asia, has won Southeast Asia’s first Global Good Agricultural Practice (G.A.P.) certificate for quality and safety by the Netherlands-based Control Union Certifications B.V.

Story: Nguyen Vu Thanh Dat – Photos: Dang Kim Phuong, Forbes Vietnam & Files