Pham Minh Tri’s two-wheeled bamboo vision

16:35 | 30/01/2017 Companies

(VEN) - After completing his Master’s degree in automotive technology in the Technical University of Berlin, Pham Minh Tri went to work for an automotive design company in Stuttgart. But his passion for bamboo bikes led him to a life-changing decision - he gave up his job overseas, left Germany and returned to Vietnam to open a bamboo bike production company.  

pham minh tris two wheeled bamboo vision
Pham Minh Tri and one of his bamboo bike designs

Today he is the CEO of the Viet Bamboo Bike in Ho Chi Minh City. Tri told Vietnam Economic News that the idea of making bamboo bikes came to him after he read about a similar product in Germany in 2009. Although bamboo bikes were not popular at the time, he identified their potential.

In 2012, Tri began to research the bike production. He knew bamboo bikes would have a lower production cost than bikes made of conventional materials. He also understood they would be an attraction given the growing trend of environmentally friendly production in all areas.

According to Tri, one of the hardest parts of making a bike is finding the best match between the tubes and the chassis. Bamboo bicycles first appeared in Vietnam in 2011, but only their frame tubes were bamboo. Using knowledge learned in the Technical University of Berlin and the automotive design company in Stuttgart, Tri developed designs and simulation designs that would enable the use of bamboo couplings, too. After testing 20 different chasses for eight consecutive months, Tri found his first satisfactory product.

In late 2014, Tri found a buyer for his first bike - a German company, which has since become Viet Bamboo Bike’s distribution partner in Germany.

In 2014 and 2015, the company continued producing and testing products at the same time, providing the market with a limited number of bikes, with buyers mainly being foreign tourists. After the initial encouraging results, the company began mass production in 2016 and marketing both domestically and abroad.

pham minh tris two wheeled bamboo vision
pham minh tris two wheeled bamboo vision
A Viet Bamboo bike model - Photo: Thuy Duong

In 2016 alone, Viet Bamboo Bike exported 250 bikes (including finished products and chasses) to Germany, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and other foreign markets.

Here in Vietnam, Viet Bamboo Bike has attracted consumer interest since its introduction at a two-wheel motor show in mid-2016 in Ho Chi Minh City. Orders have since grown considerably, increasing the company’s sales in the first year of mass production to more than VND1 billion, Tri said.

According to Tri’s estimates, the conventional bike production industry has a 15-20 percent ROE (return on equity), while that of fine art and handicraft bike production is significantly higher. Buyers regard bamboo as something of an art work or handicraft item and are willing to pay a higher price for such a product, Tri said. Each of Viet Bamboo Bike vehicle is currently sold for prices ranging from over VND10 million to VND60 million.

To expand the domestic market as well as boost exports, Tri is developing products with cheaper chasses that will go for US$220-280 (VND5-6.4 million) per unit. He also has intended to make electric bamboo bikes and folding bikes to offer customers more choices.

In 2017, Tri intends to invest in semi-industrial production (the company’s production is currently totally manual) to reduce costs and better meet partners’ demands. The company will call for investment to improve production capability and competitive advantage in the near future, Tri said.

Thuy Duong