VietNamNet Bridge – After a lot of research and experimentation, Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoe, Chairman of the Kova Paint Group, has turned an agricultural waste into unique nano-paint for export.
Born into an extremely poor family in Nghi Loc district, Nghe An Province, in central Vietnam, Hoe was a very excellent schoolgirl. After years of hard studies, she became a student of the most famous university in Vietnam – the Hanoi University of Technology.
After graduation, she was kept as the lecturer of the Hanoi University of Technology. In 1979, she moved to the University of Can Tho. From the years of teaching at the university, she cherished the dream of “doing something” bearing her own stamp. And, the idea of beautifying houses was born.
At that time, the country was just unified. The common wish of people was earning enough to buy food. Nobody thought of beautifying themselves let alone their houses. But Hoe thought that owning a beautiful, modern house is the wish of anyone.
She smoldered the idea of making a special kind of paint to meet the hot and humid climate in Vietnam. At that time, all kinds of paint were imported, at very high prices while they were not appropriate to Vietnam’s climate. She and her colleague began researching to produce paint by available materials in Vietnam.
In 1986 she moved to Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and continued her research. It was a challenging time for her because the research center where she worked was a small house with simple research tools. To have money for scientific research, Hoe sold her house. Fortunately, when her project to produce emulsion and high-class emery was successful, it was accepted by the state and the research expenditure was refunded. Her center escaped from distress.
With many research works on paint, in 1993, Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoe was granted the Kovalevskaya Award. In September 1993, she went to the United States to receive the award. In the US, she met with leading scientists and accessed to the most advanced technologies of the world.
After receiving the Kovaleskaya Award, she decided to set up her own company to sell paint. She named her waterproof paint Kova, the abbreviations of the Kovalevskaya Award.
Establishing the company at the time the country was still difficult, Hoe and her colleagues could not avoid failure. During the first three years, the company incurred losses because the executive board was inexperienced; the production cost was very high. Many members wanted to give up but Hoa was not frustrated.
Recalling the first days, Hoe said: “Initially, I sold paint in cans. I even did not know how to print the brand name on the can. Everything was very primitive. Until the next visit to the U.S., I carried home a paint barrel and gave it to a packaging factory in District 6, Ho Chi Minh City as sample. It took two years to make the first paint barrel.”
That time she produced paint at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and sold right there. Thank to high quality, the product was sold very well. In 1996, she joined Vinaconex Hanoi to set up Kova – Vinaconex Hanoi joint venture as a research center.
Four years later, she decided to open the HCM City Kova Company. Her daughter and son-in-law were the company managers. Then she signed a contract with an American company. To fulfill the contract, she had to borrow capital from many sources and sold her motorbike to have a total of $500 to go to the US.
She went there with a 25kg suitcase which was full of samples of bricks, rocks and instant noodles. “During my days in America, I was like a homeless person. Besides $500 for two months, my fortune was 20kg of instant noodles. She had to sleep in the airport because she did not have money to hire a room. I had to save every coin those days for study. I think it helped me to be successful today,” Prof. Hoe said.
After the trip, the product quality was improved a lot and Kova paint began gaining a firm foothold in the market. Hoe has produced a lot types of paint to satisfy different needs of customers. Besides traditional paint, she offers fire-resistant nano paint, bullet resistant paint, antibacterial and anti-rust paint, made from rice husk, which appeared in the world for the first time. These unique products have attracted the attention of more than 250 delegates who are scientists, university lecturers, and business leaders at home and abroad.
The main material to make the nano paint is silica nano separated from rice husk. Besides, in the research program of the Kova Paint Group, Prof. Dr.. Nguyen Thi Hoe also focused on fire-resistant materials for the surface like concrete, wood and steel. The nano fireproofing paint from rice husk can protect the surface of concrete, steel, wood… in buildings under the heat of up to 1000 degrees C during 4-6 hours.
Hoe’s Kova paint has not only become popular in Vietnam but it has been exported to the neighboring markets such as Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia.
However, bringing Kova paint to Singapore, a picky and highly competitive market with many leading brands, according to Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoe, was the most risky decision.
Singaporean partners thought that Vietnam could only export rattan and bamboo fine art products or food, not products of science and technology. Being undaunted, Hoe opened an office in Singapore to learn about the local market.
Hoe understood that to enter this market, Kova paint products must be certified by reputed organizations here. She decided to take her products to the leading test centers in Singapore. The company spent a lot of money and nearly one year for the tests.
However, the certification of quality has opened many doors of opportunity to the company’s products. Currently, Kova paint products have been widely used in many big projects in Singapore, such as Singapore’s largest supermarket, a building with 650 apartments, airports, hospitals, schools, hotels, factories…
The Chair of Kova Paint Group said that if scientists only study and do not apply their research in product, it is a failure.
The success for her is putting research into practice to make a lot of products for the daily life. In the last 20 years, Dr. Hoe has never stopped research for the improvement of products.
Besides the business, she does not forget to complete social responsibility by establishing the Kova scholarship foundation (chair by Vice President of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Doan).