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Social embedding as a solution to a control problem? Evidence from Vietnamese small business* - page 21 / 52





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appeared to be more accurately the expression of a single dominant individual, rather than of

a coalition. By design, the businesses were approximately equally distributed among the

rural and urban areas of the North and South. The average age of the businesses at the time

of interview (September 2002) was approximately ten years. While many businesses were

quite new (10 percent were no more than two years old), over 10 percent were over 20 years

old and several respondents replied that the business had been handed down for generations –

in a few cases, since the eighteenth century. These were mainly craft manufacturers. We

coded 1950 as the earliest date of establishment in our analyses. Our results suggest that

small business has a much longer history in Vietnam than official figures would suggest. We

did not ask the date of registration nor whether the businesses were, in fact, registered.

Although the south of Vietnam is held to have had a longer and uninterrupted tradition of

private business, we did not find that reflected in the distribution of business age in our


(Table One about here)

Most businesses were physically small with a mean floor area of approximately eight

meters by eight meters. (The median floor area was 6.3 meters by 6.3.) Many of the

businesses were essentially roadside stalls set up in the front room of the family dwelling. In

two-thirds of the cases, the business was located entirely withing the home. The reason for

the choice of location in three-quarters of the cases was that the property was already owned.

The most common operational advantage of the locations, cited in approximately one-third of

the cases, was that the area was frequented by customers. Our sampling procedure of

walking along major business routes may over-emphasize the prevalence of that factor for

businesses. In 75 cases, businesses had changed location. Most of the time the move was

near the time of founding and almost half of the moves were of less than 500 meters. Among


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