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VietJet Founder Makes Forbes' List of 100 Most Powerful Women in the World

VietJet founder and CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao has once again made Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women.

VnExpress reports that Thao jumped seven spots on the list this year to 55th and is the only Vietnamese woman on it. The list takes into account the assets, impact, spheres of influence and media presence of nominees.

Forbes places Thao’s estimated net worth at US$1.93 billion, up from US$1.2 billion in March, making her the richest woman in Vietnam. She made her fortune from the airline she founded in 2011, as well as banking and real estate investments that include three beach resorts.

While only six years old, VietJet operates more than 40% of the country’s flights and boasts US$1.2 billion in revenue according to Forbes. Thanh Nien predicted that it will surpass Vietnam Airlines this year to become the country’s largest domestic carrier.

VietJet received attention early on thanks to a notorious promotional campaign featuring bikini-clad flight attendants. It turned a profit in its second year as it rapidly expanded its fleet and list of destinations. The carrier now operates 300 flights a day, including 63 domestic routes and dozens of international ones. Some might be disappointed to find out that, despite the racy old ad campaign, VietJet flights don't actually feature employees in swimwear.

Thao studied economics and finance in the USSR in the 1980s, where she then traded commodities before returning to Vietnam a decade ago. She decided to launch the low-cost airline because of her accurate prediction that there would be a significant rise in air travel in Vietnam: between 2012 and 2016, the country’s air transportation market grew by 29%.

"I studied and I did my research. It was a lot of hard work, and to be successful you need to be passionate about the business that you invest in," Thao told CNBC.

She has plans to continue expanding the airline: VietJet will gradually move away from its low-cost model as it transforms into what she describes as the “Emirates of Asia,” in reference to the luxurious Dubai-based airline.

Thao, who is 47, is one of only three women from Southeast Asia on the Forbes list, and one of just two billionaires in Vietnam.

[Photo via VOA]

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