Kymdan – A Strong Name Half a Century in the Making

Background

While working at the French Labbe Rubber Company in Viet Nam in 1954, Mr. Nguyen Van Dan came up with the idea of producing foam mattresses from the abundantly available natural latex found in Viet Namese rubber trees. Capitalizing on his entrepreneurial spirit, he decided to create his own foam mattress. To shape the mattress, he made a mold and then boiled it in a large metal pot using rice husks as fuel. Mr. Dan knew he was on to something and launched his mattress business under the Kymdan name in 1954. Kymdan is short for the two phrases “ky nghe mousse” (the mattress industry) and “da nganh” (interdisciplinary fields), which represented Mr. Dan’s vision to create a multi-industry mattress technology.

While the old mold and rice husks are no longer used, within ten years of its founding Kymdan became a leading international mattress and furniture brand that is synonymous with quality, reliability and cutting-edge technology. In 1999, Kymdan was renamed the Saigon-Kymdan Rubber Stock Company (Kymdan) and reorganized itself under a parent company/subsidiary structure, with subsidiary companies formed to be responsible for international markets. Currently run by Mr. Dan’s grandson, Mr. Nguyen Tri Tan, Kymdan is a private, family-run Viet Namese company that manufactures and sells 100% natural latex mattresses, mattress related products (such as pillows and linens) and furniture in domestic and international markets. Kymdan’s success has led it to become the largest mattress producer in Viet Nam.

Research and Development

Quality, safety and innovation are at the forefront of Kymdan’s product strategy. To achieve this it has continually placed an emphasis on research and development (R&D). Though Mr. Dan’s initial mattresses met with great success and enjoyed wide sales, Kymdan was not content to rest on its laurels. The company’s first major R&D breakthrough was innovating a way to increase the ventilation of its mattresses. In 1962, Mr. Dan fine-tuned his initial mattress mold with a beehive structure that increased the surface area and ventilation. This new technological breakthrough drastically increased business and was an important step for industry in Viet Nam at a time when most technical advances came from abroad.

While Kymdan products were not available from 1975 to 1988 due to social unrest, Mr. Dan never stopped his R&D efforts. Mr. Dan’s persistence paid off in 1984 through the creation of a new mattress that would not only ventilate but also absorb body heat. In 1989, Mr. Ngyuen Huu Tri, Mr. Dan’s son, decided to take advantage of his father’s innovation and a growing Viet Nam economy and bring back the Kymdan name. Utilizing new manufacturing technologies and Mr. Dan’s breakthroughs, Kymdan successfully restarted operations and developed safe, reliable and environmentally friendly products.

Kymdan takes a holistic approach to its R&D and the company established itself through using all of its available resources to innovate new products. Employees are encouraged to suggest innovative ideas whether large or small, and this has given Kymdan’s R&D efforts an edge on its competitors. The company also believes that while technology transfer from other countries can help shorten the time it takes to apply new technologies, it will not help Viet Nam companies compete with their powerful multinational counterparts. Internal R&D has therefore been the mainstay of the company’s innovation.

The company’s R&D is carried out by the Kymdan Laboratory, a modern facility staffed with professionally trained specialists researching new products as well as ways to improve the quality, safety and features of existing products. The Kymdan Laboratory is divided into four divisions: product R&D, material quality inspection, product quality inspection and physiochemical and environmental inspection. At the heart of Kymdan’s innovation, the laboratory ensures new products meet the company’s set of “fourteen unique advantages”, some of which include creating environmentally friendly products that are safe, fire resistant, insect repellant and durable (lasting over twenty years). The company is also working to make its laboratory a training center for leading specialists of the future in the Viet Nam rubber industry.

Patents and Industrial Designs

While showing his mattress at an exhibition in Japan in 1960, Mr. Dan realized that there were no similar products to his mattress on the market. Returning to Viet Nam, he wasted little time and filed for Kymdan’s first patent in 1962. Kymdan filed its first domestic patent application in 1962 for its unique beehive latex mattress, and another application for an updated version was made in 2004 with NOIP Viet Nam. A patent for the company’s ventilated heat absorbing mattress, which was the impetus to restart the Kymdan name, was first obtained in 1984 through an application with the European Patent Office (EPO).

Because Kymdan designs and manufactures mattresses and furniture, obtaining industrial designs IPRs is a critical part of its business. The company therefore always registers new industrial designs of its products with NOIP Viet Nam, and by 2009 it had over two hundred domestic registrations. This prevents copying and maintains the link between quality and the Kymdan name, which fosters customer loyalty and allows further expansion into new markets.

Trademarks

Kymdan has made two trademark applications under the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks, one for its name and another for its “Kymdan Since 1954” slogan. By 2005, Kymdan made over twenty domestic trademark registrations for various versions of the company name and slogan with the National Office of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam (NOIP Viet Nam). Trademarks are used to boost the growth of Kymdan’s brand name and are essential to its business, and the company continues to register new trademarks associated with its innovations.

Commercialization

In early 2000, after the company reorganization, Kymdan used capital from its investors to build a new factory with modern equipment and automated production lines in an industrial park close to the infrastructure of Ho Chi Min City. This new factory was expanded twice, once in 2001 and again in 2007, to meet demand for Kymdan products. In May 2008, Kymdan opened two new factories: one focusing on producing mattress related products for export markets and another focusing on producing natural latex furniture. All of the latex used in Kymdan’s products is produced in Viet Nam.

Kymdan products are sold directly at its showrooms and through resellers and agents. As of early 2010, the company has six showrooms in Viet Nam and its products are sold in over 680 locations. Internationally, Kymdan sells its products in over twenty countries through three official subsidiary companies and other exporters and resellers. The subsidiary companies have five showrooms in Australia, four in China and one in Germany. Kymdan’s Australian subsidiary also sells directly to Australian hospitals, as the level of elasticity in its mattresses are ideal for use as hospital beds. In markets that Kymdan does not have direct representation in, such as the United States and Japan, the company’s products are sold through third party exporters and resellers.

Business Results

Kymdan’s strategic use of IP in its strategy has helped it grow from a one man operation into an international company and the largest producer in Viet Nam of natural latex mattresses and furniture. IP protection has fostered innovative R&D and the creation of a strong brand and from 1999 to 2009 Kymdan has enjoyed a revenue increase each year, with revenue in 2009 exceeding 850 billion Viet Nam Dong (₫). Securing IPRs for its innovations played an important role in this dramatic increase from ₫67.9 billion in 1999.

Kymdan’s successful use of IP has also earned the company many awards, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Trophy for Innovative Enterprises in 2004 and the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s award for being one of the Ten Best Known Brand Names in Viet Nam in 2006. In April 2005, Kymdan was also chosen as one of eleven main manufacturers in Ho Chi Minh City by the Ho Chi Minh City Industrial Product Development Program.

Product quality and safety are important qualities of Kymdan’s products that came about through creative use of R&D. These qualities have been consistently recognized in Kymdan’s markets and increased the strength of the company’s brand name. For eighteen consecutive years (from 1993 to 2010), the company has received the environmentally friendly and fire resistant certificate from eco-Institut, a prominent German quality assurance organization. In May 2010, Kymdan received ISO 9001:2008 certification, which recognizes the company’s quality management system used in the design, manufacture and supply of its products.

Building a Name for Development

Creating a strong brand name does much more than increase revenue, foster customer loyalty and maintain a company’s competitive edge. It also creates a culture that can be associated with not just a product, but also a country. Kymdan has successfully used its IP to not only build one of the largest companies in Viet Nam with broad international reach, but it has also built a Viet Nam brand that is associated with quality and success. This creates a positive image not just for Kymdan, but for the entire country of Viet Nam. Kymdan’s success is an example of how IP can be used to strengthen a developing country’s products and industry and help integrate them into the world economy.

Source: WIPO (http://www.wipo.int/ipadvantage/en/details.jsp?id=2584)