Hong Kong & Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam | 18 – 30 April 2016

HappyTap  is a Vietnam-based company that currently sells the  Labobo,  an affordable handwashing station. It is the result of a partnership between WaterSHED NGO and IDEO.

HappyTap is a Vietnam-based company that currently sells the Labobo, an affordable handwashing station. It is the result of a partnership between WaterSHED NGO and IDEO.

In April 2016, GIFT returned to Ho Chi Minh City to examine a pressing challenge: how to improve public health in rural Vietnam.

Working with HappyTap, a company that has produced a low-cost and low-tech handwashing station for Vietnamese families and communities, GLP participants designed a business plan that developed new distribution and sales channels for HappyTap's revolutionary handwashing device and designed a path towards its further expansion in Vietnam, which could easily be applied to other developing countries.

"Participating in the GLP was an unforgettable experience. Although we all had different jobs and cultures, we worked intensively towards a single goal. This was a very different experience which I believe will turn into a lifelong friendship. I am looking forward to applying this experience to my work."

Kapik (Maggie) Lee | Researcher |  NEC Corporation (Japan)

The Global Leadership Pogram has been a very engaging and interactive leadership course. Working on a real world project improved my skills in how to work with different styles and nationalities.

Niels Bardelmeijer, Robeco


Vietnam is one of the last remaining Communist countries in the world, though it has pursued a path of economic liberalization and market-driven reforms since the 1980s. The country has recovered from the economic and political aftereffects of the devastating Vietnam War, joining ASEAN and normalizing relations with the United States in 1995. 

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is Vietnam’s largest city, with a population close to 9 million. It contributes 20.2% of Vietnam’s GDP, and the city’s economy grew at the rate of 9.5% in 2014. Ho Chi Minh City, as Saigon, was the traditional capital of both the French colony of Cochinchina, and then the independent Republic of South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City, as well as South Vietnam in general, is the centre of Vietnam’s growth engine.


Vietnam has made great progress in reducing poverty, from 60% in the early 1990s to about 20% in 2013. Vietnam’s poor today are its ethnic minorities, which make up 15% of the population.

Like many developing countries, Vietnam is seeing a widening gap between urban and rural Vietnamese. Average monthly incomes for urban Vietnamese are around US$100, while rural communities may make US$30-40 a month.

In 1986, Vietnam launched its campaign of market-driven reforms, named “Đo I Mớ i”, or “Renovation.” The reforms combined state planning with free-market incentives, and opened the gate for international investments.


In both Hong Kong and Vietnam, GLP participants heard from respected leaders in business, civil society and media.

WILLIAM KUAN, CEO for New Markets of Prudential Asia

CHRISTINE IP, Managing Director for Greater China of United Overseas Bank


FARZANA ASLAM, Associate Director of the Centre for Comparative and Public Law and Principal Lecturer at the University of Hong Kong


The UN estimates that every US$1 spent on sanitation brings a US$9 return by keeping people healthy and productive. 

Washing hands with soap… is frequently referred to as among the most effective and inexpensive ways to avert child deaths. It has been called the “do-it-yourself” vaccine, yet despite its low cost and proven benefits, rates of handwashing with soap are very low throughout the world.
— World Bank Water & Sanitation Programme (2012)

Handwashing rates remain severely low. Only 3% of Vietnamese mothers reported washing their hands with soap before preparing food. Only 9% did the same before feeding a child. This is despite widespread access to soap and water

Rural Vietnamese, however, often do not have easy access to sinks. Millions of rural Vietnamese do not have washbasins, and sinks are often out of reach for children.


This is GIFT’s second time working with handwashing in Vietnam. An earlier GLP in 2010 with the Water and Sanitation Programme of the World Bank and iDe resulted in a prototype for a low-tech and affordable handwashing station.

The 2010 GLP resulted in the creation of HappyTap, the commercial entity that would distribute and sell the new device, named Labobo. GIFT’s return to work with HappyTap was to help start the next phase of its growth: distribution at scale across Vietnam and beyond. 

HappyTap has been featured in global media such as Al Jazeera and the Huffington Post, and its device was a finalist for the 2015-2016 ICSID World Design Impact Prize.


The group visited the fertile province of Tien Giang, home to over 1.7 million people. Tien Gian’s economy is primarily based on agriculture, and is commonly referred to as the “Rice Province.”The group visited the fertile province of Tien Giang, home to over 1.7 million people. Tien Gian’s economy is primarily based on agriculture, and is commonly referred to as the “Rice Province.”

The group visited iCare Benefits, a social-benefits programme for emerging middle-class workers. iCB uses an innovative credit mechanism combined with a seamless end-to-end retail platform: it partners with employers to boost the purchasing power of workers earning less than US$400. iCB sells products in installments, with no interest payments, and through automatic salary deductions.

One part of the population that would benefit from HappyTap's product is the "base of the pyramid," or the billions of low-income people underserved by the private sector. While many products targeting this segment of the population have been developed, marketing these products remains difficult. Many local marketers are not aware of best practices developed elsewhere.


The GLP uses real-world field projects to hone the practical skills needed to manage diverse teams in unfamiliar situations. Through meetings with government, community and business leaders, and through frank and open discussions amongst themselves, participants learn to navigate conflicting and contradictory views to transform concepts and theories into realities on the ground.

Participants developed a plan for HappyTap that recommended the development of an updated device with a liquid soap dispensor and sensor to collect and analyse consumer data. The group also suggested setting up a non-profit HappyTap Foundation focused on the design and delivery of hygiene-related educational campaigns.

Below are a few slides from the full business plan developed by participants.

Every Global Leaders Programme ends with a public forum, where participants present highlights from their business model to an audience of local community leaders, businessmen, government officials, representatives from NGOs and international agencies, and students.

For more information about the 2016 Vietnam Global Leaders Programme, or about the Global Leaders Programme in general, please write to Rachita Mehrotra.