Monday, October 27, 2003

(Untitled and unpublished article on business competition)

By Moje Ramos-Aquino

Remember when a Coca Cola changed its formulation approximating Pepsi’s sweetish taste? It was a big flop. Immediately, Coca Cola switched back to its old and trusted formula and put back Classic Coke into the market. This illustrates the danger of playing by the rules of a competitor and abandoning your own competitive drive.

Splash Holdings, Inc., did not attempt to come up with a Dove-like or Palmolive-like soap. They came out with their own papaya-based soap. It rode on the aspiration of many Filipinas to have smooth white skin. Splash came out a winner with its Hiyas soap. Hiyas was sold at reasonable price unlike earlier papaya soaps that were sold with high price tags.

It is the same with their other products. They stick to their strategic heartbeat—The Filipina’s quest for beauty at affordable price. From a company that started modestly with a capital of Php12,000, Splash is now a billion-peso organization.

We’re back to our continuing Journey on Entrepreneurship. Just to refresh your mind, we were discussing about your company’s strategic driving force. It is that single strategic force that propels or drives your company to success.

From the book of Michel Robert, Strategy Pure & Simple (McGraw Hills), we learned about ten important areas a company might adapt to give it its strategic edge.

Product / service concept
User / customer class
Market type / category
Production capacity / capability
Technology / know-how
Sales / marketing method
Distribution method
Natural resources
Size / growth
Return / profit

We have so far discussed the first six. We shall now focus on distribution method and natural resources.

Bayantel, Globe, Smart and PLDT have one thing in common. They have one unique way of delivering their products to their customer. They use their network of wires, switches, cell sites to reach your telephone set at home or your handheld phone. Meralco has a massive distribution system to sell electricity in their franchise area. Rustan’s, Shopwise, SM, Pricemart, Sta. Lucia, Makro, Robinson’s will sell any product that they could push through their stores.

These companies will only sell products that will optimize the use of their distribution system. Globe sells Nokia phones at discounted price only to lure users and make it easier for them to use their distribution system. They are not in the business of selling telephone sets.

On the other hand, oil and mining companies are classic example of natural-resources driven company. They derive business from their access to and pursuit of natural resources. The big mining companies in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, all folded up when the earth beneath them failed to yield profitable quantities of gold and other minerals.

What is the key to your company’s survival, competitive advantage and success?

(Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and helps companies in their strategic thinking and planning initiatives. She receives feedback at

Monday, October 20, 2003

Filipinos in the US: Business opportunities

Business Times p.B5
Monday, October 20, 2003

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Filipinos in the US: Business opportunities

It is always exhilarating to come home from a trip abroad. There is really nothing like living in the Philippines for me. Other countries like the US of A for us are just for visiting for business or leisure.

Next column, we shall continue our discussion of strategic drivers for our continuing Workshop on Entrepeneurship. Let me just wrap up my insights from my meandering in the Americas. Look out for business opportunities as my story unfolds.

One of the points that I will never forget from Dr. F. Landa Jocano’s lectures about Filipino values goes like this: At work during the day, the Filipina may wear make up such as foundation by Lancôme, rouge by Esteé Lauder, lipstick by Clarins, mascara by Clinique and eyebrows by Mongol. But home at night, she removes this external mask and what is left is the real Filipina—loving, caring and family-focused. The made­up face is for the outside world, the naturally clear face is for family and loved ones. No matter what she puts on her face underneath that is the Filipina olive skin, Filipina values and the Filipina dream.

So are Filipinas (and Filipinos) anywhere. In San Diego, California, outwardly our fellow Filipinos have definitely embraced the American life and love for consumer products. Their houses look just like any American house, outside and inside. But if you look closely inside their refrigerator and pantry (and I suppose elsewhere in the world), you will find bagoong, tuyo, tamarind soup base, hopia, Marca Piña Soy Sauce, Jufran Catsup and other Filipino favorites. They even grow calamansi and Philippine guava trees in their backyards. My sister-in law, Ate Prima Aquino, said they regret that kamias tree and other Philippine fruit-bearing trees do not seem to thrive in the cool climate of San Diego County. Otherwise, their backyards would have been full of them.

No wonder that Jollibee is so successful in the US—they are setting up several new outlets. Goldilocks and other Filipino restaurants and stores are thriving, as well.

At work and in public places, Filipinos all over the United States might sound like Americans, but at home they speak their first language—Tagalog, Visayan, Pangalatok and Ilocano. When speaking one’s first language, one is able to express emotions better. How do you say sayang in English? The English words regret, unfortunate, pity don’t actually express what it means.

Filipinos know how to create happiness. Filipinos in San Diego don’t need any occasion to be merry – they create the situation. They work in earnest from Monday to Friday. Partying starts on Friday evening until Sunday evening—birthday, baptisms, house blessing, wedding, reunion and all sorts of parties. In one such party given by the Aquinos for their grandson Joshua, they served 25 different viands and 15 kinds of desserts. Plus a variety of sodas, juices and wines. The party started at lunch and on to dinner and midnight snack. Pig-out talaga!

At the birthday party of Lenie Velasco, she had 14 viands, 6 salads and 10 desserts for her ballroom dancing friends. Lenie and her husband run the Bert Velasco Dance-O-Rama. For $5, you gain entrance to dance lessons, ballroom dancing and a plateful of pancit from 6-10 p.m. on Fridays. The day we were there, the lesson was on American jazz. Filipinos love to dance and they do it very well. Con todo acción y emoción. Cha-cha, tango, swing, reggae, curacha, salsa, mambo, foxtrot, you name it. Fellow Manila Times columnist Becky Garcia, Hi Society, will enjoy it there.

San Diego county is sprawling and vast—if you don’t have a proper map or don’t know how to use a map, it is difficult to go places. And, for more than an hour, we cruised the area of Chula Vista looking for the house of Zeny Macaoay because the sketch given was a little off. But the warm hospitality of the Macaoay family and the array of food served more than compensated for the gallons of gas and patience used to find their place. The Macaoays are in the habit of collecting houses. Zeny says she is tired of working 8-5 and wants to pursue a real estate career. I must thank Zeny for bringing me to Tijuana, Mexico.

There are numerous Filipino associations in San Diego. They even have an association of Filipinos who have retired from their jobs. I went to their well-attended (more than 500 people) ballroom party and coronation of their queen and princesses. As usual, the night was filled with long-winded speeches. Pinoy na Pinoy talaga!

I gained a total of 15 pounds in my two-week stay in San Diego. In all these parties, there is always lechon, halabos na hipon, dinuguan, barbecue, kaldereta, menudo, puto, suman, a variety of Filipino rice cakes, maja blanca and others. The Pangasinenses and Ilocanos will always serve pinapaitan and kinilaw na kambing. The Bicolanos, their laing and other food cooked in coconut milk. The Visayans, their kinilaw na isda and sinugba.

Darwin Ferrer, the only son of Ate Lily and Kuya Alex Ferrer opted to celebrate the party of their daughter, Jackie, at the Italian restaurant, Buca. Darwin, Josephine, Alexander and Jackie don’t speak Tagalog or Pangalatok. Darwin has not been back to the Philippines since he left at 3 years old. Josephine, Alexander and Jackie were born in the US and have never been to the Philippines. Theirs is already an American family pursuing the American dream living life the American way. However, they definitely look Filipinos and exhibit Filipino values like family centeredness. Jackie and Alexander are still living in the family home and are being sent to college by their parents.

Filipinos are longing to come back or even just visit the Philippines. They nurture their ties with remaining members of their family here—aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces with remittance to help in their daily subsistence, education and emergency. The umbilical cord of Fil-San Diegans is very much connected to their roots here in the Philippines. Even Darwin, when he sets foot here in the Philippines, I am sure, will find his heart beating for his fellow Filipinos.

Now, since we are in the subject of entrepreneurship, what are business opportunities here? In San Diego—money remittance, balikbayan-box shipment, Filipino food and restaurant, party organizing, and anything that reminds Filipinos of home. Here in the Philippines—English language and American accent tutorial for immigrating Filipinos, money remittance, alisbayan box, export of anything that will remind Filipinos there of home.

They are building a Filipino Village (similar to Chinatown and Little Saigon) in National City to honor the more than a million Filipinos in San Diego.

Moje Ramos-Aquino is President of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and she loves to travel, around the Philippines and abroad. Her email address is

Monday, October 13, 2003

(Untitled and unpublished article on innovation)

LEARNING & INN0VATI0N { October 13, 2003}
By Moje Ramos-Aquino

Innovation is not just a buzzword. Companies use and benefit from innovative ideas. Here in Santee Library in San Diego, I have the opportunity to read through three newspapers {The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Financial Times} and I notice that advertisements share one theme: innovation. The ad headlines and copy by themselves are very innovative.

Consider these advertising headlines:
- Singapore Airlines: Space bed. The biggest business class bed in the sky.
- British Airways: Rarely has sleeping on the job been so well rewarded.
- Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts: You don’t find peace of mind. You arrive at it.
- Volvo: 5-star luxury. 5-star safety.
- Societe Generale Group: Innovative banking creates value. Profit from it.
- Dassault Falcon: Celebrating 40 years of helping CE0s make their wisest decisions. Falcon isn’t a plane, it’s a decision.
- Radisson Edwardian Hotels: Free to be.
- HSBC: In Korea red is an unlucky color.
- American Century, investment managers: American Possibilities. You didn’t think we go there. Guess what? We do.
- Bear Stearns: Throw us your toughest curve. The harder they come, the farther we go. A great deal depends on working with the right people.
- Reuters: Rule #8—to find the right partner play the field.
- Microsoft Business Solutions: Questions are everywhere. Insight is not.
- Hudson Global Resources: Our resources. Your expertise. Where can we take you?
- Tiffany & Co.: For your children’s children.
- American Electric Power: Focus is the mark of an experienced performer.
- Solectron, an electronic manufacturing and supply-chain services company: You spoke, we listened.
- Smith Barney Citigroup: A job well done is a job that’s never really done.
- SAAB: Rain can’t hit what rain can’t catch.
- Mercedes-Benz: If only there were a passing lane for the passing lane. The C230 Sport Sedan with a supercharged kompressor engine.
- Starwood Preferred Guest: True redemption defined—No blackouts. No limits. No hassles.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb Company: The tour of Hope--the race never stops.
- Principal Financial Group: Why do we work?
- Northwest Airlines: You used to wait in line. Now you’re flying smart.

A recruitment ad by Common Fund, an endowment investment management firm, goes: Wanted Managing Director/Relationship Officer. Will have sales/service responsibilities for current relationships in the North/East region. Will have actively develop new business as well as interface effectively with institutional investors using consultative sales approaches. Ability to manage/contribute to the evolution of change in client service and sales essential. {Surely, this job profile would require not the usual job skills, but new competencies such as innovation, consultative and facilitative skills, and others.),

What they said and why Ahh-nold won as governor of California in their recent recall election:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: It is a about the people vs the government—the people vs the politicians.
- Gray Davis: I’m optimistic that things will go well. I trust the voters. I believe in them. I know they’ll do the right thing.
- Cruz Bustamante: we’re hoping for a big turnout.
- Tm McClintock: I think we have the makings for an upset.

My biggest insights from these ads are:
- People’s {and clients’} needs have changed and are changing.
- Those who profess to serve these needs need to be innovative both with their products and the way they present these products to their customers.
- These needs are centered at the heart of the customers and the Fannie Mae ad said it best: You’re looking at the most powerful economic force in the country-- the American dream. Entrenched in the heart of every Filipino, wherever we are, is that Filipino dream: house of our own Di ba? In San Diego County, for example, Fil-Ams work two or three jobs to fulfill this dream. The success of every Filipino is based on the size and location of their house. San Diegan-Filipinos are very successful, indeed.

Conoco Phillips says it all: Elevate performance. “It can’t be done.” “You’re crazy.” “Never.” “No.” These are the words that come in the beginning. 0nly to be proven wrong in the end. We realize that impossibilities sometimes yield the best opportunities. So where the others see an obstacle, we see a chance to elevate.

It is now Autumn and the climate here in San Diego is wonderfully cool. I am blessed to have wonderful hosts: Ate Prima Ferrer-Aquino in Santee and Kuya Alex and Ate Lily Ferrer in San Diego. San Diego is a super vacation destination—vast, not thickly populated and well planned. There are many public libraries that offer free use of computers and the internet. There are successful Filipino entrepreneurs here.

{Moje Ramos-Aquino is president f Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. She designs and facilitates innovation interventions for companies. Her email address is}

Monday, October 6, 2003

Panamá time or American time?

Monday, October 6, 2003
Business Times p.B5

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Panamá time or American time?

Now I fully agree with Prof. Poch Macaranas of the Asian Institute of Management that Filipinos are more like the Latinos than Asians not only in terms of our time­keeping but also in many more ways. ASTD Network Panamá President Mayra Banez, conference workhorse Liliana de Duque, ASTD stalwart Carol Susan Davauney and tourism expert Pascual Calvosa and the members and staff of ASTD Panamá showered us with Panamanian hospitality to the max on top of the well organized and superbly run Congreso Internacional, ASTD Red Global Panamá. There were speakers from all over Latin America, US, Europe, India and the Philippines.

I had the opportunity to go around Panamá City and observe Panamanians at work and at play. It was like being in the Philippines except for the language spoken. Panamanian lives, like ours, are intertwined with their religion-Roman Catholicism. There are churches and religious icons everywhere. Likewise, the influence of Hollywood Americans is very visible in their aspirations. After all, they use US dollars more than their currency, Balboas.

The days of the conference were packed with learning sessions and the evenings were receptions. One of the interesting sessions in the conference was led by K. Jayshankar of India's Empowered Learning Systems. Jay spoke about the challenge of leading change in India. There are many lessons for entrepreneurs from their experiences.

* India is experiencing shifts in business: From protectionism to competition, the era of industrial relations is over. Days of job security are over. We see the collapse of hierarchy. Right sizing has become common. There is increased focus on the untapped and hidden rural market. The growth of the services sector and India as the new back office of the world are notable.

* The Indian Institute of Technologies is now attempting to bridge the gap between scientific and technical domain by incubating companies.

* For the family enterprise: Liberalization has spelt doom for many businesses. However, it has created new global first generation entrepreneurs (Infosys, Satyam, Zee, etc.) who no longer seek political favors. The family business has been reshaped with the induction of professional managers-family members need to prove that they are eligible for the job. Increasingly, active investor capitalism is required.

* The new market is the great leveler. Quo vadis is the dilemma for the new leader.

* Leadership and managerial skills matter. The need to have strong "leaders" and the tendency to worship them is a strong current in India.

* Corporate governance and accountability issues are at the forefront.

* The vision of the global Indian enterprise: daring to dream. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be the change that you want to create."

* Changes in business organizations include reforms in managerial styles and physical changes in workplaces. Compensation practices including stock options are now linked to performance. Individual brilliance has given way to the language of teams. There is an increasing number of women in the workplace.

* The Nirma success: this reduced the market price of detergents to levels affordable to many-this enlarged the market size for detergents. This has become an eye-opener and inspiration to many Indian entrepreneurs.

* AT Tata Steel, former managing director Dr. J. J. Irani says, "the physical changes of technology are being augmented by the liberation of the mind. With the modernization of the mind, each individual is elevated to a plane where he is comfortable with responsibility and complex ideas, who reasons every choice before him with a free mind, who has aspirations for himself, his family and society. A company with such a workforce shall, without doubt, reach the peak of achievement and success."

* The current leadership initiatives in India are centered on investing in people and calling upon their skills and ideas, creating an inclusive, challenging and nurturing environment that enables employees to develop their fullest potential through participating fully in the life of the organization, creating workplaces that inspire and motivate and emphasizing teamwork and interpersonal skills as against the obsession for analytical skills and tools.

* Infosys managing director Nandan M. Nilekani has this to say: "Downturn or not, we believe that talent finds its own level. If efforts are not made to attract, retain and nurture it, talent will walk out of the front door."

* The challenges facing business in India today include initiating and managing change, managing and developing talent, generating the spirit of innovation and adventure and resolving the issue of employability, no longer employment.

Jay ends his talk with his own quotable quote: "If you are the best or want to be the best, you can not wait for change to happen. Go and create it!"

I am missing Manila but there are miles to go and promises to keep. See you in San Diego, California.

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and facilitates the creation and management of change. You may email her at