Looking for an entrePinoy on the street
I had this conversation with a French national not so long ago in Singapore. We had this discussion about why so many people perceived the French as a bit arrogant. He reasoned that no matter where he went, the market was flooded with a lot of French products and brands. He argued that even Italian brands nowadays are already owned by a French company. He said that if Japan was known for high-tech gadgets and appliances, the French were famously known for their luxury brands. He then asked me to look at Orchard Road, the most popular thoroughfare in Singapore, and then he started pointing at German, Italian, Korean, and American cars. He asked me what Filipino brands were known globally.
I was dumbfounded. I couldn't think of anything else except for San Miguel, which he said he already knew came from the Philippines. Still, I told him that not many foreigners knew that San Miguel was a product of the Philippines. A German friend of mine even thought that it was from either Spain or Mexico because of the Spanish-sounding name. My French friend pressed on and kept on asking me what other Filipino brand was popular worldwide.
I’m sorry, Inang Bayan. I failed you. At that time, I couldn’t think of anything else but San Miguel and the bottle of patis (fish sauce) that I wanted to buy for my ginisang monggo before heading home. However, even the patis being sold at the grocery was not Filipino. It was a “Product of Thailand.”
That short conversation kept me wondering what other Filipino brand could be really known globally – one that could pass on as a household name. I thought of Jollibee, but there’s no Jollibee in France or anywhere in Europe. Eat Bulaga already has a franchise in Indonesia, but then again not in France nor anywhere in Europe.
I then thought of our apparel brands. Even though some of them are now being marketed in the Middle East and the United States, they still haven’t gained any foothold in Europe for my French friend to know. As for the brand, Monique Lhuillier, it sounded more French than anything else.
In a capitalist world where the standard of living is measured by the presence of goods and services, what Filipino brands could be labeled distinctly Filipino? Even though I know there are a lot of us – Filipinos – working in multinational companies here and abroad, the fact that we work for a foreign company still does not put us and our work in the spotlight. Our creativity and productivity are not labeled as Filipino but marketed as the foreign company that we represent.
I can still remember what my late grandmother told me. She said that during her time, she worked for a local company that manufactured phones, but Imelda Marcos decided to close it down in favor of Siemens. Does anyone still remember the Siemens phones that were provided by PLDT when it was still a monopoly? Had Imelda not done it, we could have already been manufacturing phones that would rival known brands at this time.
Good Pinoy IT professionals
Now, being an aspiring businessman with overly patriotic goals, I had thought of starting a company and a brand that could eventually be known worldwide as Filipino. Having limited resources, including and especially financial capital, I then thought of getting an industrial partner for my business project. So I approached a lot of my Filipino friends, but since everyone was preoccupied with making sure that they could provide for themselves and their families, they were not open to the idea of joining me in this business venture pro bono (initially). Some were too busy working and couldn’t really provide me with enough assistance on this project.
While searching for an IT professional who could be my industrial partner, I encountered a post by an American expat in the Philippines. He bewailed the absence of an innovative homegrown software industry here and pondered over the idea of whether the Filipino IT had the chops to compete in a global level.
From what I understood from his post, he seemed to be looking for someone who's creative and entrepreneurial enough to introduce or contribute something significant to the IT industry. Based on my current experience, it's like finding a needle in a haystack, which I'm still doing at the moment.
Based on the replies and leads I've gotten, which included cover letters, CVs, and personal portfolios of Filipino IT programmers-cum-graphic designers, and even face-to-face interviews with some of them, there is truly a sizable pool of really good IT professionals in the Philippines.
I asked them why they, despite their skills and experience, didn’t even think of setting up their own company. I explained to them that we are already living in the information age where the saying "information is power" could never be more true. It just takes one simple idea to change the world, and that idea doesn't have to be a good one. An idea on the web can reach millions of people in just a few minutes. So why were they not taking advantage of this when they undoubtedly have all the skills to do so?
Poverty or anxiety?
Many of them cited the lack of financial resources or even poverty as a reason for not taking that first step to setting up their own business. But I've lived and worked in China for some time, and I've encountered a lot of Chinese who started poor – even poorer than an average Filipino – but who are now business owners just because they refused to work and remain as employees.
Some simply do not have an entrepreneurial spirit or desire. Many IT professionals who replied to a call I posted on a forum were simply satisfied with getting a stable job with a regular modest income that would allow them and their family to live a comfortable life.
I can say the same about my friends and former colleagues whom I have approached. Unfortunately for me, they are simply interested in achieving a short-term goal – an immediate remuneration for their effort or display of their expertise. In short, no one is willing to take a bold risk on investing his or her expertise over a long-term goal, which may or may not pay off. In short, a business undertaking is such a huge gamble for most Filipinos that they would rather buy a lotto ticket.
Most are preoccupied with making ends meet, which to me is totally understandable. Some even suggested helping me ONLY when my "concept" becomes a “hit,” but until then, he will not even bother at all.
Others are so self-absorbed on becoming an employee abroad – in Singapore or the US – or just working for a really big IT company like Apple, which I find REALLY DISTURBING.
So based on all these, I guess it's safe to say that a majority of Filipinos, not just those into IT, don't have the guts to explore their creativity, invent something, and be their own boss. Most are just keen on working as employees for big companies. The employee's work and his/her ingenuity shown at work are still owned by the big company. Sadly, many Filipinos are happy to remain as such, rather than be an avant-garde on their chosen field or expertise.
When I introduced my business concept to another Filipino programmer, she simply scoffed at my idea, insinuating that I was totally crazy for even thinking of going against industry behemoths. Had she told me that my business concept was flawed or needed some revising, I would have appreciated it more. However, she made it sound that it was impossible for any Filipino or any Filipino company to be at par with any industry giant.
What I find really disheartening is the lack of self-belief among Filipinos. Why are we quick to downplay each other’s ideas, especially when we aim to glorify our Filipino identity and aspirations no matter how delusional they are? I’m not religious but still spiritual. I still remember David defeating Goliath. And being a biologist, I know that a virus, which is not just small but microscopic, could kill and wipe out an entire population. Is it impossible for a Filipino to triumph over a superpower?
EntrePinoys should come out!
More than just foreign investments, what we need to have a sustainable economic growth in this country is a solid base of entrePinoys to provide more jobs to the unemployed.
I know that starting a business involves money, so I looked at some loan agencies here. However, I was told the loan programs they had for OFWs were no longer available because OFWs had defaulted on their loans. But that’s another story, which I am not going to tackle here. Should I go out on the street then and demand for the government to provide me with a loan? I’d rather not.
I will just work as an OFW for another year or two to generate some financial capital for my business project, and then perhaps only then will I have enough money to pay a Filipino IT professional not as a business partner but as an employee.
And if I don’t succeed in my endeavor, I will still remain optimistic that more Filipinos could excel and stand proud among the world's most influential and important people in my lifetime. So be it! – Rappler.com
Aside from being an OFW for the past 7 years, Bertrand is also an OFP, a proud Overseas Filipino Patriot, who remains true to his Filipino roots and identity, no matter where he goes and resides. He is an educator by profession and an aspiring writer and businessman. He hopes to retire as a philanthropist someday.