In an episode marking Chinese New Year aired live on February 4 at the Shop Talk program on ANC TV, SERDEF Board Secretary Paz H. Diaz discussed lessons to be learned from the way Filipino-Chinese entrepreneurs do business in the country.
The episode featured Gerik Chua of Eng Bee Tin (hopia manufacturing) and Willem Ma of Masuki (siopao and dimsum house). The two firms were juxtaposed for the widely different growth strategies they followed – with the former pursuing continuous product development and innovations and the latter clinging to time-honored ways of doing things.
Dr. Diaz cited values of typical Chinese families that orient members to entrepreneurship. Including the Confucian values of hard work, self-discipline, delayed gratification for the sake of long-term future benefits, and frugality. She added that with the Chinese, even marginal profits, as long as these come steadily, are acceptable.
She pointed out that second-generation Chinese businessmen, although no longer as driven or as needy as their forbears, take on the tasks of innovation in order to keep the business abreast with the changing conditions of the market.
Referring to Eng Bee Tin, she noted that “the company was facing bankruptcy 30 years ago. What brought it through the hard times was a refocus on product and packaging and a change in leadership.”
“We innovated the regular hopia into something people would like. Hopia used to be more of a crust than a filling but we turned it around to more of the filling than the crust,” recounted Chua.
On the other hand, Masuki has banked on its traditional menu to survive and grow, which they claim keeps customers coming back.
Dr. Diaz stressed that all entrepreneurs, regardless of nationality or culture, should get to know their market very well. “You just have to discover your niche and know when to innovate and when to keep tradition.” The entrepreneur can then be creative in keeping this selected market happy through his efforts and hard work.
Chinese entrepreneurs are also exemplary in terms of networking. They help each other, especially those in the network of suppliers, creditors or customers, even as they remain fiercely competitive individually, Diaz said.
Shop Talk is hosted by Ria Tanjuatco-Trillo.