Ho Van Hoan

Ho Van Hoan

A clean-tech entrepreneur building a new market ‘brick after brick’

Ho Van Hoan founder of Ho Hoan Cau has developed an innovative molding machine that can produce bricks with less material and no heat. This innovative system has been specifically developed to provide low-income communities with a more affordable and sustainable alternative to the traditional oven-based molding process – more costly and less climate friendly. Established in 2007, the company has already sold 2,500 units and won several awards, including the Vietnam Business Challenge Fund Award and the more recent infoDev’s Climate Technology Program Proof of Concept Competition. After refining his business strategy at the first cleantech bootcamp organized in the country by infoDev, Ho Van Hoan discussed with us the greatest challenges as an emerging entrepreneur and his plans for the future of the company.

How did you come up with the idea of the unbaked brick-molding machine? Who or what inspired you?

I was observing workers using traditional machines to mold bricks. It is a very intense work. In that moment, I realized I needed to do something and I came up with the concept of a machine that could innovate and simplify this heavy work.

What is the value proposition of Ho Hoan Cau in a sentence?

We want to create employment opportunities for low-income people by producing affordable and eco-friendly construction materials.

What was the greatest challenge you had to face when starting your venture?

Generating interest and creating product awareness. At the beginning, consumers didn't trust the quality of our new unbaked bricks. We had to promote our product by giving it away for free in specific areas; this way people had the chance to evaluate directly the quality of our materials. Eventually, this strategy generated many orders and was very effective in demonstrating our product, so much so that we had to increase the production of our molding machines.

How will Ho Hoan Cau impact local communities, in particular in terms of job creation and benefits for both the economy and the environment?

In terms of job creation, our company creates several jobs. We need up to five employers and another three to five external contractors to handle the loading, transporting, and material supplying for each sale. Our products are also having a direct impact on rural communities by offering building materials that are both affordable and sustainable. Each year about 36 million cube meters of soil are used for the traditional production of bricks; this means that a huge portion of agricultural soil has to be dug for this purpose. With our unbaked brick-molding machines we can prevent this. By using only sand, iron, and stone powder mixed with cement, we can save precious soil; in addition, since our machine doesn’t require heat to mold bricks, the system can contribute to reduce significantly CO2 emissions.

What are the next steps and plans for the future?

Our first next step is to standardize the management process. Next, we are planning to launch a new generation of products. Finally, we want to expand our market in the south of Vietnam.

What is the key takeaway from the infoDev’s cleantech bootcamp?

After the cleantech bootcamp, I understand better the legal framework of entrepreneurial activities. I also had the chance to learn from international experts, in particular about management strategies and how to look for potential investors.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to enter the market now?

My advice would be to listen, learn, and always be patient waiting for the right time to shine.

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