See you again!

By: Si Eun Lee

I remember the first day Zoya and I met to discuss our business work. I remember us saying, “Wow, it’s going to be very long three weeks.” And on the last few days, we told each other about how time passed so much quicker than we expected. During the past three weeks, we have not only learned to implement the business skills we were taught in school, but we also learned to think in the minds of the small business owners.

At first, working with Irene felt awkward. We did not understand how her business operated and so had to ask her many detailed questions. I was rather confused by her response to our frequent visits. She seemed welcoming, but she was also reluctant to bring in any changes we suggested. To think back, I think she needed some time to adjust to us. After all, although we were there thinking we were being helpful, in their eyes we might be viewed simply as foreigners who are suddenly trying to change their business around. Also, even though we tried to explain to Irene multiple times that the changes will benefit her in the future, it may have been hard for her to trust us since she has never done it before. Moreover, at the end of the project I realized that I have been continuously emphasizing to Irene the long-term benefits the implementations would bring to her. However, in reality, she was concerned not with the future, but with how much money she will be able to bring back home to her family that day. Thus, asking her to incur big expenses now to gain future benefit may have seem like a burden to her.

I didn’t realize this at first though. So, when I noticed that Irene wasn’t being cooperative, I did not know what to do and felt let down. I came to Philippines hoping that I would be able to learn and experience a lot. I did not expect that so many ideas would be ignored.

In order to show Irene that we were eager to assist her business in any way, Zoya and I visited the eatery even when we did not have any planned meetings. Looking around the competitors, asking questions to their customers, and conducting customer surveys. When we wanted her to create an accounting record, we hand-drew charts in a notebook and explained to her the benefits and the steps. When we wanted to hand out coupons and pamphlets to customers, we made a sample before asking her for a permission, so that she will have a better idea on what we wanted to do.

For about a week, it sort of felt like she was trying to avoid Zoya and me. We would go see her on the time we discussed beforehand and the workers would tell us that she left work early that day and would not tell us when she would be back. On the last week, however, I visited her without any prior plan, sat down with her, and explained to her everything we had been doing, trying to show her that we would do nothing that might harm her business. That day, she opened up about the financial problems she was facing and how tiring it is to operate the business, things she had not told me about. That day, I finally learned about what kind of Irene needed but sadly only had few days left to work.

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(Irene learned to make her own accounting book!)

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(Irene-approved posters we handed outside the market)

It seemed like three weeks was too long to do one project and to write one report. At the end, however, I realized that it was more than that. It was about interacting with them and to truly feel the troubles they go through that we cannot find in big cities like Hong Kong.

Evil Indian Loan Sharks and Poor Filipino Barber Ruben

[Emma, LI Dongyi]

So one week before we left the country, our business owner Ruben finally explained why he has zero saving in hand when he’s running such a profitable business. That basically because he’s borrowing a huge amount of money from the loan shark “Bombay 5-6”.

Filipinos refer to people with South Asian descent or features, regardless of actual nationality or origin, as “Bombay.” Though I have no idea why people always think my work partner, who looks nothing but Indian, is Chinese. And the moneylenders are called “5-6” because for every 5 pesos they borrow, 6 pesos has to be returned.

Ruben’s loan also works this way: Ruben borrowed ₱100,000 from 5 Indians, ₱20,000 each. And the daily repayment to each of the five moneylenders is ₱400, during a period of 58 days. If you calculate that with a clear mind, you’ll soon notice the horrible interest rate here: Ruben is paying 20% interests in 2 months, which means 120% in a year.

Indian 5-6 Moneylenders

BDO Personal Loan

Tenor (Months)

2

6, 12, 18, 24, 36

Effective Rate/Annum

120%

26.27%, 26.63%, 26.76%, 26.58%, 25.98%

Advantages
  • Instant cash;
  • Nearly unlimited amount;
  • Easy repayment.
  • Reasonable rate;
  • No death threat.

The Indian moneylenders undertake a daily collection at the front door of Jagna Barber Shop at 5 am everyday. And I’m quite sure that if default happened, they would not hesitate to resort to any sort of violence. Ruben himself is very proud of the fact that he never delayed a single repayment. And as a popular customer with a thriving business and big volume of customers, a large purchase of their financial products and absolutely no default history, Ruben managed to have a very good relationship with the Indian sharks so that his loan can be extended by 58 days after 58 days for years.

President Rodrigo Duterte is fully aware of the terrible situation of domestic private financing market and the negative reputation of the Indian financiers in the country. In order to ease the big burden on his citizens in the Philippines, he said he’s going to adopt the toughest methods to dissuade Indians from engaging in this practice.

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These Indian 5-6 moneylenders acquire wealth from small vendor owners or struggling households who are already down on their knees in poverty. I don’t know how they can sleep at night. But we have to face a fact that there are only two ways that the evil practice can be eliminated forever: either the president can offer a much better lending program that can match the popularity of “Bombay 5-6”, or the origins of its existence, poverty, is stumped.

And interestingly, the high interest rate in the “Bombay 5-6″ scheme is, technically speaking, not a crime at all. Because the Usury Law of the Philippines has been repealed.

God bless Ruben can get rid of his debt soon.

The Unexpected Outcome

By Goh Xin Ying, Dora

Investigating the core issue

After the first week of observation and enquiring, we finally managed to know the core issue of the Eyeball’s Tailoring – the need of hiring an additional tailor. As Cyrus is the sole tailor of the business, it is no doubt that to receive more orders and expand the business, he would need an additional tailor to cater his additional orders. Well, it is often the case of easier said than done, hiring another tailor is not a trivial matter. It is more than just putting up a job advertisement in the Jagna Business Centre as this is an industry problem of shortage of tailors.

Talking to different parties

As we realized the tediousness of the issue, we decided to talk to different parties to enquire about the difficulty of hiring tailors. First, Kumar and I have interviewed the other tailoring shops as we noticed the others are putting up job advertisement in front of their shops. After our interview with them, it seems like every shop is having trouble in hiring a tailor. As mentioned by these tailoring shops, many skillful tailors have gone to cities with higher salary to work such as Cebu and Manila.

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Visiting TESDA for investigation.

Realizing this problem, we went to approach Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (“TESDA”), who provides technical training to express our concerns over the shortage of tailors in the area. Although the training courses in tailoring has been provided before in TESDA Jagna, due to maintenance cost of equipment and low demand of public interest in the tailoring, it was then being dropped off from the list. The only institution which provides tailoring courses is TESDA Balilihan, in which its graduates mainly have gone to Cebu and Manila, or work in towns at their respective home.

Thinking about solutions

After the weekly discussion with Mr. Lefler, we realized there is clearly a job mismatch within the tailoring industry. This is so as there are many people who is jobless and yet there are still job vacancies around.

We then thought of working with the tailoring shops to collaborate to launch a tailoring workshop at the same time persuading TESDA to launch their own tailoring training courses.

Before we move on to that, we went to talk to each of the tailoring shops for their willingness in giving free tailoring training to people who are interested in tailoring. Fortunately, there are 3 tailoring shops including Eyeball’s are willing to do so.

Then, we went to talk to TESDA again about our plan and asked if we could meet with the Centre Administrator to tell him about our idea. Unfortunately, we only managed to talk to the officer in TESDA, and I would say that was a fruitful talk as that was the time we finally found out about our direction on how to move on with our plan.

Diving into the macro perspective

Before launching the tailoring programmes, we thought it was necessary to do a survey on whether there is anyone who is interested in tailoring courses. We then approached the three radio broadcasting stations in the town and two of the barangay captains nearby. They agreed to help us on circulating the message of public interest in tailoring courses.

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Approached Radyo Natin for advertisement of our survey.

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Seeked help from the Barangay Captain of Tejero.

One of the radio broadcasting stations which is also a cable television even invited us for an interview. As for me, I had to be interviewed alone for twice as Kumar was not available at that moment. The interview basically covered my purpose here in Jagna, purpose of our feasibility study and some insights about the tailoring industry in the region.

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Interviewed by Kuya Ben.

Out of our expectations, many people in the nearby area are interested in the tailoring programmes. After gathering the information and investigation we needed, we decided to make a case study proposal of the tailoring industry in the region based on our findings as well as presenting the survey results to both the mayor of Jagna and the Centre Administrator of TESDA.

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Picture after presenting our case study proposal to the Centre Administrator of TESDA Jagna.

Whole new experience

This is indeed a once in a life time experience. There are not many people who would have the opportunity to talk to mayor or even enter the mayor office, being interviewed on both the cable television and radio channel live at the same time for not only once but thrice.

As it was my first time being interviewed, I was feeling excited at the same time feeling nervous as I was afraid that my performance might be bad. Fortunately, the DJs who interviewed me were real amateurs in the field as they made me feel at ease throughout the interview process. Opportunity like these cannot be demanded unless encountered hence they are undeniably memorable moments to me.

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With Nino, DJ and Manager in Operations of San Miguel Cable Network after the interview.

Aside from that, it was truly my honor to talk to the Mayor personally about the case I was working on. I guess not many people like me would had this precious chance to talk to such an important person of a town about the economic development. It was especially satisfying when the mayor was agreeing to the proposal I made and telling me his decision to pass on to his management committee to discuss the issue of reviving the tailoring industry at the same time explaining how useful was the case study proposal written. These words and encouragement definitely made my day as if my hard work were not in vain.

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Picture after discussion with the Mayor of Jagna.

Future prospect

Eyeball’s Tailoring – representing my first actual business consultation, has led me to strive upon my limits and comfort zone to where I could achieve more and add value to the business as well as the society. I eagerly hope that what I have done here in Jagna could at least could raise certain extent of awareness in the government as well as the business.

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Our last day with Cyrus.

 

Recap…

By Zoya Zaheer

Of all the days I spent here, this is the one I will remember the most because its the last. All the memories of all the days I spent in this beautiful town with these beautiful people come back to me.

First Week…

In my first week, we were introduced to Irene and her eatery. She was very warm and welcoming but also very skeptical about letting us bring any changes to her eatery. It was very difficult making her understand the importance of very small things such as book keeping and marketing. She always turned down all of our ideas by saying that they are very time consuming or not worth the expense. As much as I understood her perspective, I felt very let down. She thought of us as some young kids who have no sense of doing business. Whenever I went to speak to her she would not be at her eatery or be too busy to listen to us. We made her a very simple accounting book to maintain her records and gave it to her on Thursday. She did not write a single word on it till the next Monday.

2nd week….

In the second week we did some market research, competitor analysis and consumer analysis. We made surveys and interviewed customers. We found out that a competitor Lenny attracted much more customers just because of 1 dish they made everyday. We convinced Irene to make that same dish at her eatery every day and we saw a little increase in customers instantly. This was the point of time when Irene realized that we can actually provide insights that can actually help the business. Later, I sat down with Irene and she came up with her own accounting system she thought was much simpler. There were some obvious flaws with it but after a few suggestions we were able to devise an accounting system that Irene actually approved of and was willing to follow. From that day till now she has been collecting her receipts and writing down her weekly profits. After accounting seemed to be a little sorted, we decided to move on to marketing. Irene did not have a very big budget for marketing and therefore we had to come up with very inexpensive ways of doing marketing. The first thing we did was create her a Facebook page and asked all our local friends to like and share it. Most of Irene’s customers were school and college students and most of them used Facebook. We also met up with a few high school teachers. They wanted my insights on a entrepreneurship program and I agreed to help them if they promoted Irene in their school. The next thing we focused on was to make Irene’s stand out and be noticeable between a long line of competitors. When we met new people and told them to visit Irene, they never seemed to be sure of which eatery was Irene’s eatery out of all of them. Irene had a big blackboard that we decided to use. We put Irene’s name on the black board but it got washed away due to the rain and Irene did not bother to write on it again. So we though of using her existing hoardings and strategically placing them so that it was noticeable. We also put the exact location of Irene’s on our Facebook page in the hope that people would notice it.

 

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Week 3….

This was the week filled with nostalgia. As our time with Irene and everybody else was coming to an end, I tried to eat lunch there as many times as I could. I always spoke to Irene and told her to maintain her records even after we left. She promised me that she would try her best. To promote Irene in different barangays we designed posters in English and with the help of my host family got it translated to Visaya. We then put these posters up on the notice boards and the advertising sections of the markets and wherever we could get the permission to post it. We also distributed the left over posters on the street trying to attract as many people as possible. Irene and her staff loved the posters and this was one of the first ones that were designed for her. We also put one next to her shop so that she and her workers could see it. As soon as I put it up all the workers circled around it and chattered very happily.Irene provides discounts on all the vegetable dishes after 1 pm and all the meat dishes after 4. Not a lot of people knew about it and then we decided to put up this information also on our Facebook page. We also kept a track of the dishes that she ran out of the first like the fried chicken and told her to increase the quantity by 20 percent to meet the increasing demand.

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On my final day when I went to see Irene, and say goodbye to her, I felt very weird. I was happy that the work was over but I had started to feel like I was a part of their team. I sat down with Kumar to have my final lunch at Irene’s and then bid everyone goodbye. I was working with a real business with some real consequences and with some real people. The experience was a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs. I just hope that Irene listens to us and keeps maintaining records. I also gave her my number and my Facebook details so that she can contact me if she needs advice on anything. On my first day with Irene I did not expect this but I am going to miss working with her.

 

The Jagna Games

By: Sagar Gupta

J&B. A name familiar to the town of Jagna, where we dared to step out and scour the streets and homes for respondents to our survey, either like sales employees or census officials. A business that runs profitably, and has a name that is common knowledge to most as a popular grocery store – does it really need anything from us enthusiastic outsiders? Is having a name the same as having an identity?

These were questions that raced through my mind as I attempted to decipher how to proceed with a business that was extremely profitable, and reluctant to receive any inputs from us, so much so that we were regarded more as regular customers and less as consultants.

One thing I did know was that the family wanted to leave a mark, be it via a convenience store or a coffee shop, it wanted to be known as a place which serves every need of every customer. This requires creating a brand, which is more than a name. It is an identity. Once this was clear, Dilys and I knew what to do.

A few score pie-charts and a couple of hours on Photoshop later we had with us a surprise for the owner of J&B, one she never asked for. A cleverly planned ambush during her free-time had us seated in front of Belen who stared back at us, eyebrows raised as if to say, “What now kids?”

 

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Dilys and I working with survey data and designing the logos.

 

I began explaining to her the importance of effective branding to maintain a competitive edge and long lasting image but obviously I wasn’t much more than a babbling toddler to her until we showed her our designs. A new logo, business cards, and employee name-cards. I now had the undivided attention of Mrs. Belen Acebes, a feat sure to have made Hercules proud.

Untimely doubts and inquiries by her sales staff were dismissed as we began explaining to her our ideas of providing identity to the J&B Brand as “Jagna’s Family Store“ which would be “One Stop For All Your Needs”. She was also quite impressed with the idea of nametags for employees as she revealed how they refused to wear the t-shirts she had gotten made for them a few years ago. It was amazing how such simple tasks ended in a complete flip in our relationship. It showed me how important it is to prove yourself with hard evidence, especially if the person in concern is unsure of your background.

 

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The New J&B Logo

 

I went on to show her some past reports along with the kind of work that has been done through this course and her manner of speaking had me think of her as a wine bottle that either lets out everything at once or not at all. She described how the chaos of the business prevents her from making any further improvements – employees all over the place without specific tasks, having type in the inventory records every month for tax filings and having to deal with demands of raises, and resignations when left unfulfilled. Belen was the warden of a madhouse.

Solving the issue of the monthly grunt work in retyping all data came first. My love for technology is evident considering my CS background and hence I found them an alternative to expensive accounting soft-wares. It is an app that helps them keep track of their inventory and record transactions on the go. Belen’s Samsung tablet will be kept in the store for this work while she can monitor progress from her desktop at home. The process excited her although she maintained the composure of a businesswoman, satisfied with work of her consultants. She was, however, astonished that she didn’t have to pay us for our services.

This arrangement gave us license to spend the rest of the day free-riding on her home Wi-Fi to draft an employee-work-shift plan. Consequentially, I know all of their employee’s names now and they care to spare enough time to ask me about my dual life in India and Hong Kong, two worlds they’ve never seen. What is most interesting though, is our relationship with Mrs. Acebes. As a result of all the toil to gain her acceptance, our relationship is one forged in flames. It is only now that I realize how much she is like these Filipino coconuts, with a stern exterior but sweet and loving on the inside.

 

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Lunch at Belen’s house

 

At her house, we were her children. Like any mother would, we were instructed to put away all our work at lunch time and were fed to our heart’s content. That dinner table conversation was when she dropped her walls and spoke to us about everything – from her daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor, to her son who is a special child, to how she surprised her dad for Father’s Day. I couldn’t help but marvel at the fickleness of life and the illusive nature of first impressions.

 

We wound up by showing her the findings of our survey and explaining how a coffee shop would be a great idea considering the views of the many college students around and the increasing number of tourists in the area. She was content with this validation that her opinion had received and was ready to challenge her husbands’ views to the contrary. She said to us that we would have our first coffee in Jagna at her shop a couple of years later, and we only nodded in pride – not from having convinced a stubborn businesswoman to our own accord but from having sparked the stern determination of a motherly figure. We hope that our efforts will aid the rise of a definitive identity for the J&B brand, whilst making life just a little simpler for its owners and employees.

 

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Left to Right: Vincent, me, Dilys, Michel and Belen. Taken outside J&B.

 

As an outsider to the world of business, this experience has provided me great insight into the workings of such ventures. It’s been a roller-coaster for me, culturally, emotionally and professionally but the results have been worth it. Sharper soft-skills and a holistic view of a business are something I have this course to thank for. It’s not a regular consulting experience and the relationships we ended up forming with our “clients” have made us feel at one with this town. I’d like to end my last blog with a humble attempt a poetry, to sum-up my experience here:

“It’s been a trip like none before,

Through Jagna’s hills and Anda’s shore.

With the thought that knowledge we will provide

Alas! We met a great divide

This stoppage did humble us for sure

We learnt to prove ourselves and more

Faulty systems we did amend

But acquired much more by this journey’s end

And now what’s left, is sweet farewells and sore goodbyes

Beneath the crescent moon and these starry skies.”

 

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The Jagna Night Sky

 

Goodbye

By Kenneth Ng

In the first two weeks of the course, we have done our data collection and analysis. In the third week of the course, we will be suggesting some improvements as well as prepare for implementations.

 

Via talking to the store manager Ruthcelyn in the first two weeks, we have an idea on how the store is operating and the problems it faces. As Ruthcelyn is only the manager and operator of the store, she doesn’t have the authority to make big changes like the changing suppliers or the prices of the products, we will provide easy to execute and superficial solutions.

 

The store’s goal is to sustain and generate a revenue. When we asked if there is a big store migrating into the market, what would she do. She said she don’t know. Therefore, we think that we should let her understand her store more so that she could devise a plan if there is an economic shock or a large competitor coming in. Our first suggestion for her is to have an accounting system.

 

By implementing and running the accounting system, she would be familiar with the daily operations and transactions, expenses, as well as knowing which product generate the most and the least revenue. Hence, it would allow her to direct or suggest plans to reform the products, allowing the store to generate more revenue by increasing competitiveness, and even open up an opportunity for expansion.

 

The market is highly saturated. Despite the high flow of people in the market, yet there are too many stores selling the same types of commodity and products. The whole second floor of the market sells wearables and other accessories. And on the first floor, there are a total of 23 stores selling rice grains or feeds for livestock. The products are very similar. The same feed could be sold at 10 separate stores, so the high overlapping of product is a problem in the market.

 

Although the products in our client’s store overlap with a lot of stores, we have some unique products and brands. For example, Greenhills feeds, as well as ABC rice and Pearl rice is unique to the store. As our store is close to the front entrance of the market, advertising could benefit the store if we feature its unique products. By tagging the products with “quality” or “low price”, it could attract customers.

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Moreover, via tidying up the product arrangements, it could also make the store look more convincing and attractive. The placement of products is now messy, only placing it in accordance to its height. Yet, if we arrange them in accordance with its brand as well as its height, its look would be much nicer. By looking nicer than other stores, it could increase its attractiveness to customers, as the price of the products are the same throughout the market for the feeds, and only a little variation in the price for rice grains.

 

In a long run, after having an accounting system implemented, Ruthcelyn could introduce new commodities into the product list, and see if it is more lucrative or not. The store could be more adaptive to changes in market.

 

Ruthcelyn now keeps receipts after we convinced her that keeping record of her business is a good idea. We just need to provide her with an easy system, so she could make use of the receipts and see trends in sales. I can see that she cares about her business very much. By making use of our education in the university, we could make other’s life easier and happier.

 

The past three weeks was fun and inspiring. I would say I have a really good roommate and project partner. My host family is the best because they treat me well. The food was nice, and I love the bamboo shack where me and Kumar sleeps at night. Although there were no hot showers, but the whole living environment is still very nice!

 

What I love for these kinds of trips, is the people I meet. I met some really good people in the trip, either from our class or from the local community. I especially want to thank my host family for taking care of me for so long. It must take lots of efforts as our living schedule is so different. I know they delay their sleeping schedule for us, as I heard that other families sleep at nine. But my host family they would sleep at eleven if I was with them.

 

I would say that the children I meet in my host family and from host’s relative’s family, are very intelligent. They learnt so much and think maturely with such limited resources. I recognize what our visits means to them as they could learn more about the world, and have a wider vision. Therefore, I love to share my view with them, and have some good conversations with my family (we even talked about my crush). They are true people. I feel no pressure when I was with them and I think it is the reason. Their personality allows me to open up my feelings and thoughts to them, and as an ambivert, it is something hard.

 

Gosh I would miss my host family so much after I leave Philippine. And the beautiful sceneries as well.

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