As we usher in the year of the Ox, we need to bank upon both prosperity and perseverance to face up against a prolonged adversary – the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharing ideas and solutions can also help many businesses bounce back faster and pivot their ventures to profitability, or even just survival, until the pandemic is controlled and the economy perks up again.
That’s why Globe myBusiness, in partnership with ChinoyTV, gathered some of the most acclaimed and successful Filipino-Chinese businessmen and organized a 2-day one-on-one event where Globe myBusiness loyal clients can ask questions, share stories, and pick the brains of these seasoned tycoons. Participants had the chance to ask them how they resolved to blindside problems, triumphed against the competition, and continually grew even when the odds were not in their favor.
Each Chinoy mentor had a fresh perspective to share from their industry, some from recent breakthroughs and others from lessons inherited from previous generations. This is why we call them Modern “Tao Kes” or Big Boss — out of the box thinkers whose astounding resilience and risk-taking appetites mold them into fearless and respected leaders in their fields. Here’s a chance to learn from them so you can make 2021 the year you’ll thrive.
Francis Glenn Yu is the President and CEO of Seaoil Philippines, the largest independent oil company in the Philippines with 500 retail branches nationwide.
After experiencing several economic downturns during his lifetime like the 1997 Asian financial crisis, 2008 recession, and now the COVID-19 global pandemic, he shares that crises are opportunities for learning, and for Seaoil Philippines, a catalyst for unprecedented growth.
He encourages all affected industries to diversify into similar markets they have some knowledge in and adapting their resources to address unmet needs. Evolving is key to survival and growth.
For instance, oil industry players including suppliers and service providers can tap into other resources like geothermal energy. Likewise, reach out to new and unsaturated markets that need your product, albeit with a tweaked functionality or a smaller quantity purchase.
Understanding customers’ pain points is also a must so a business can take care of its existing customer base. On the other hand, while consideration must be given to customers during this pandemic, credit should also be extended with caution and bank guarantees.
Myrna Yao is the President and CEO of Richprime Holdings Inc., the country’s leading supplier of branded children’s products like Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels, Monster High, and of course Barbie — the first product she bravely and enthusiastically introduced to the Philippines despite many naysayers.
During a health crisis that forces the vulnerable to stay at home, how does a toy company garner sales when kids are not allowed to go out? This question is echoed by many in the retail sector, especially in areas where brick and mortar is still preferred due to lack of internet connectivity to engage customers via online shopping.
Her answer is very tactical and intuitive: check which areas have good internet and start your online presence there, while using your current sales distribution records as a basis for your minimum delivery packages for motorcycle deliveries.
Going straight to your end-consumer can also be better than targeting resellers like sari-sari stores. Customers are now willing to pay delivery fees for safety and convenience, and they’ll do it in cash too with the popular Cash on Delivery setup (hooray, liquidity!), even easy-to-use virtual wallets like GCash.
Lastly, always be on the lookout for incentives offered by your local government, and for trends that matter to your target market. With kids, they want to be able to express themselves with fun stuff in various colors and styles, but their parents also want to ensure that what they eat, wear, and bathe in are natural, organic, and safe.
Cecilio Pedro is the entrepreneur behind Lamoiyan Corporation, the makers of the first and proudly Filipino-made toothpaste brand Hapee. He is also a philanthropist, offering scholarship opportunities to deaf-mute individuals, with the ultimate goal of making a difference in the world for the glory of God.
When asked what subjects are best learned at school or by experience, Dr. Pedro shares that an aspiring entrepreneur should gather all the technical knowledge he can while studying especially for fields like medicine, law, and accountancy. Selling and running the business, on the other hand, is best learned by practice and inevitably, making mistakes. He constantly tells his son, who will eventually inherit the business, to be unafraid of wrong decisions, so long as he doesn’t make mistakes that will destroy the company.
An entrepreneur should also watch out for changes in the supply chain. Interestingly, China has an even bigger impact on the global economy because now that they are bouncing back and their demand for raw materials rise, the prices also surge. This forces entrepreneurs to be resourceful in spreading out these costs over new product lines.
For Lamoiyan Corporation, offering alcohols and disinfectants was a revenue-generating move that is also relevant for their customers. It’s also easier to persevere through the challenges when you know your purpose. Supporting the deaf-mute community is an advocacy close to this entrepreneur’s heart, and with his belief that you need good people with you if you wanna go far, he invests in educating and nurturing deaf-mute scholars, with the hope that they’ll pass it forward.
Gerik Chua is the Head of Operations of Eng Bee Tin, a prominent and long-running Chinese Bakery business in the Philippines most popular for their delicious hopia and tikoy, sold in different flavors across the country.
Hopia is already a popular and beloved snack, but that doesn’t mean you should take it for granted and assume it will sell itself because it is filling and tasty. Eng Bee Tin prides itself on constantly reinventing snacks to better address the woes of their customers.
Before, hopia typically had thick skins and barely any filling — so they made sure to reverse this in their product and develop new flavors enticing for the younger generations, or consistent with the needs of the older customers who have health restrictions. From classic, 2-in-1, custard, mochipia (hopia with tikoy filling) to sugar free hopias, they are able to cater to a wide audience and excite their palates.
Innovations in the supply chain are also part of Eng Bee Tin’s strategy to stand out. Some branches accept customized pre-orders, so their customers can conveniently shop and do errands, then pick-up their goodies at their chosen time.
Their Human Resources Team also takes care of their people by providing incentives, while avoiding manpower shortages by continuously hiring qualified staff. They power this through a strong online presence that’s supported by digitalization. Thanks to connectivity and support from Globe myBusiness, Eng Bee Tin’s intuitive online shop and pages in Shopee and Lazada help them reach their market wherever they may be.
Being a successful entrepreneur goes hand in hand with constantly seeing areas for further improvement, and Chua shows that in their products, system, and business model.
Michelle Chan is the VP for Finance, Support Operations, and Export Sales of Mega Global Corporation, makers of Mega Sardines. They are also involved in the fishing, canning, and fishing feed businesses and are budding restaurateurs with Lin’s Kitchen.
Sardines are a staple in the Philippines, and while it wasn’t a hard-hit industry by the pandemic, it remains a very competitive market with many players. Because of Mega Global’s timely roll out of the Mega Prime line with canned corn and mushroom products that are home cooking-friendly, and their investment in digitization since 2015, the company was able to grow its sales amidst a global pandemic.
For their factory employees that had to be physically present at the plant, Mega Global Corporation lessened exposure risks by providing shuttle transportation. For the employees able to work from home, digitization was key to uninterrupted operations, especially when backed up by the strong connectivity and cloud services of Globe myBusiness. This strengthened a brand that already had a foothold in the online community, making it more adaptive to an ever-changing business landscape curveballed by unexpected events.
Johnlu Koa is a University of the Philippines Professor-turned-CEO and founder of The French Baker, a successful bakery and restaurant, in 1989. He is also the franchise owner of popular milk tea chain Chatime, French Boulangerie Lartizan, and premium clothing store Van Laack.
There are two options when doing business during trying times: safeguarding for market share protection, and bravely venturing to achieve market share expansion. The latter can be achieved by introducing a new product in an old market, or releasing a new product in a new market.
This means businesses have to constantly research and innovate to add value in rapidly saturated markets. Companies can bank on their existing distribution channels when launching new products. Likewise, if there are old businesses in an old market, then aggressive players can compete and make their products superior in one way or another — so if you are that company seeking market share protection, then you still need to upgrade your products to be the first choice in your market segment.
Choosing a physical location for your business should also be smart and intuitive. An example is how The French Baker positions itself within or near supermarkets to be easily seen when customers clamor to get their essentials.
With the encouragement of the Department of Trade and Industry, e-commerce is also growing as Filipinos learn to trust online payment facilities. Koa warns though that it should go hand in hand with education so customers and employees will be safe from fraud, breaches of security, or loss of personal data that can be very costly and painstaking to resolve. It pays to invest in cybersecurity now that your assets are moving to the digital landscape. Setting aside a budget for it is vital for modern businesses to stay safe and thrive.
Rikki Dee is the CEO and Founder of Foodee Global Concepts, the company behind Mesa, Tim Ho Wan, Hawker Chan, Todd English, and Llao Llao among many other famous restaurants and food concepts. His family is also behind the popular sunglasses brand, Sunnies.
Doing business where your core competency lies is always best. Go into businesses that you know well and do it right by legitimizing them with the necessary government permits. As doors open and opportunities for long term deals arise, they will likely seek certifications and proper documentation before fully trusting your brand.
When you start enjoying success, you should still be ready for anything. Foodee Global Concepts developed Mesa from scratch, but the pandemic lowered the demand as people cooked Filipino food at home and sought other flavors for their take-outs and deliveries. Receptive to market needs though, they quickly pivoted by offering solo meals to small households with no time or interest in home-cooking.
Do taste tests to ensure that your product is at par with what your target customers expect. The food business is also susceptible to changes in raw material prices — so if your raw material can be stocked, buy it at the lowest price possible and preserve it.
If you want to fund your business expansion, consider getting a loan now when the interest rate is at an all-time low. Just make sure to beat the interest rate with your growth, which can be propagated when you cater to as many customers as possible. Expanding also includes joining online communities to market your offerings. This goes with making sure you are readily connected and available when customers chance upon your business online.
Lastly, he advises to serve both end-consumers and businesses in a contract manufacture set-up where the profit per unit may be less but the deal is long term and higher in volume.
Michelle Lim Gankee is the Sales and Marketing Director for the Sterling Paper Group of Companies, which began as a photo album and stationeries manufacturer, and now a conglomerate with ventures in real estate, agribusiness, farming (banana plantation), pharmacy, call center, and office furniture and supplies importation.
Known for its diverse portfolio, Sterling Paper Group of Companies has investments in many unrelated industries. Their philosophy is to go where the opportunity is. For every new product though, they make sure to put their branding touch.
For notebooks, they were the first in the market to really invest in branding to showcase the superior quality of their products. They were also first to get licenses for pop icons and cartoon characters like Looney Tunes, setting them apart from the competition. To cover all bases, they later introduced the Avanti and Orions brand to cater to the mid and lower markets.
Likewise for rice, they were first to add branding to the Doña Maria Jasponica Rice, which elevated the product and its price point. Seeing the need to supply international products with small demand in the Philippines, they now also own and operate Galleon.ph, which conveniently ships items typically only available via Amazon for a small premium. This is one step the company took to take advantage of Filipinos’ growing trust in e-commerce.
These insights from esteemed Modern Tao Kes show that in ever-changing, challenging, and growing markets, owning your brand, keeping up with innovations, and understanding trends that work for your business are vital to moving forward. Pandemic or not, these ways to succeed will help you know how to make 2021 the year you’ll thrive.
Globe my Business can help you implement these strategies. Sign up for a commitment-free digital consultation with us now!
Get access to all our exclusive member-only content