By Dilys Leung
This is the final 72 hours of my time in Jagna, looking back to the past three weeks, it was full of amazements, surprises and excitement. The title “Transformative Business Immersion in Developing Economies” caught my attention when I read the recruitment email of this course three months ago, the first thought that came to my mind was what I could offer to the businesses in an emerging country when I have absolutely no knowledge and experience of living or working in a place like the Philippines.
The wife Belen, like many Filipino I met, was very cool and indifferent to our project at first, thinking this was a one-off visit which would not do much to the business, it would simply be a waste of time to spare a couple of hours in her very busy schedule. To be honest, Sagar and I were quite scared of her in the first week. Many times when we tried to approach her, she would reject our request or simply ignore us. We found it very difficult to figure out the direction of our project since Belen is the one who manages most of the business operations and financial accounts. However, Joe and Belen were quite surprised to find us stopping by their shop almost every day to ask questions, take photos, do research or simply use their wifi service to write our report. They seemed to gradually see our commitment to the improvement of their business and efforts in creating a real impact on the long-term development of the brand. After two weeks of hard work, we seemed to melt the cold ice in Belen’s heart. She invited us to stay at their house at the back of their store to work on our consulting report. No longer being doubtful and reluctant to all of our suggestions in the beginning, she is now very open to new ideas and cooperative in providing us with the information we need. She would share us her stories of how they started their business empire, what is her envision to the future plans for her brand and even her views on Philippine’s current economic development.
It is not hard to understand how J&B become such a successful family business in Jagna. Combining Belen’s great sensitivity to market needs and Joe’s diligence, J&B is now a business that generates half a million pesos every month. Despite being so profitable, the couple is hoping to maintain their competitiveness and further develop their brand name of J&B by overcoming some challenges they encountered now.
A customer survey was a major part of our market research in understanding the customer preference, predicting future market trend and evaluating the feasibility of opening a “Starbuck like” coffee shop in a small town like Jagna. We drafted the customer survey in English and decided to translate it into the local language Bisaya for easier understanding. It was a very tough task since none of us know Bisaya. Luckily I lived very near to the most popular hangout place in our village Tubod Mar – the basketball court. I asked a few local teenagers to do me a favor in translating the questions and instructions of the survey. Gradually, everyone on the basketball court just gathered in a circle, discussing the correct translation of the wordings. With the effort of the crowd, the impossible task is completed in no time.
We printed out 100 copies at first, no expecting great responses from many people. The first stop was the Bohol Institute of Technology, a college right behind the street of J&B in Poblacion. The two of us stood at the entrance of the school, the combination of a Chinese and an Indian attracted a lot of attention and staring out of curiosity and confuse. We introduced ourselves as students from Hong Kong and needed their help for a survey. To our surprise, all of them were very excited about at project and helped us distribute our surveys to their friends. Half of the copies were completed in 15 minutes. We then arrived the elementary school right opposite the BIT. We first approach a little girl near the entrance. She was very happy to fill out the survey for us. She turned to the back, called her friends, and suddenly almost 20 kids ran towards us, the remaining of the copies were all taken in the blink of an eye. Sagar and I looked at each other, not believing how enthusiastic they were, and feeling so grateful for their help and kindness.
Customer survey printed out in English and Bisaya
Elementary school students filling out our surveys outside their school
After three weeks of interviews and reviewing our survey results, we came to the conclusion that J&B stood out from the crowd for its convenience and a great variety of offers. We came up with the company slogan “One Stop for All Your Needs”. Our recommendations to maintain their competitiveness in the local market is to first digitalize their sales record with an app that is compatible with their data in computers; secondly enhancing their brand image by creating a unified business logo and business card; thirdly rechannelling their marketing campaigns by setting up Facebook page and updating store information on search engines; fourthly to retain skilful and experienced employees by increasing staff satisfaction and setting up regular work shifts.
The promotional material for J&B’s new advertising campaign
Belen was very patient in listening to our explanations, constantly engaging in our discussion and sharing her views. When we were in between work, she would share her family stories with us, like how her father once immigrated to Australia, why her daughter chose to study medicine and how she and how their family spent their Father’s Day in the past weekend. She was just like a friend of us. We ended our work in laughter and content, a well as a very cute selfie initiated by Belen.
Belen treated us lunch and tea as we work at her house
Our first selfie ever!!