There is one thing that is guaranteed about setting up a new small business venture in the Philippines: before long, there will be three or four clones right alongside yours competing for the same slice of the pie. I have seen it so many times in so many industries. The one thing you can take to the bank is it will happen. Let me elaborate.
New Ideas Are Scare Commodities
In the Philippines the good news is that new ideas usually take off, at least at first, and are well supported by the general public. There is conservatism in Filipino life, sure, but when I comes to new things, they seem to be keen to try them. I saw it with the Shwarma kebab craze, the fruit smoothy craze and the car wash craze. In fact, I had hit on the car wash idea and put a simple business plan together to cash in on the lack of car wash facilities and was looking at jumping in when I was side-tracked. Six months later I noticed my first car wash, then another sprang up next to it, then a half a dozen more on the same stretch of road. That’s the bad news. Soon as you start something up, every Juan and Dong in the neighbourhood will copy you.
The same thing happens with franchise ideas. Someone comes up with a new one, say fruit smoothies and before you know it there are three or four competing kiosks flogging basically the same product, side buy side. Nobody is doing enough business to get ahead and pretty soon they all close. That, I believe has more to do with the killing off due to over supply than any fickleness on the part of the public. Having said that, fads don’t last forever and there is evidence to suggest the customers move on to the next latest greatest thing. It was hot dogs, then corn dogs, then jacket potatoes, ice cream, waffles, whatever. The thing is, I honestly believe these fad franchises would still be doing well if copy cats had come up with their own original idea instead of re-inventing the wheel.
It’s A Filipino Thing, Sort Of
You see the same copy cat mentality in many South East Asian countries. I’ve seen it in Indonesia and Thailand, personally. Row upon row of shops selling the same stuff, set out the same way. To us Kanos it seems self defeating to have so many stalls or shops selling the same stuff side by side. Not so to the Filipino. First of all, if you are making money selling widgets, so can they. That makes sense. What makes more sense to the Filipino is that if you are making money selling widgets with your store set up just so, then that is the proven way to sell widgets. Any deviation due to individual decision leaves the decision maker open to failure and thus blame. Filipinos can’t handle the concept of blame, it is anathema to them. If their store fails it won’t be because of anything they did or any decision they made. They followed the plan, the formula. Therefore, failure is the fault of the first person who came up with the idea. Everyone knows that. This is why so few are keen to lead the way, at least in the Philippines. Get the pinoy or pinay out of the Philippines and they can be as entrepreneurial and risk taking as anyone else. Makes sense, when you think about it from their perspective.
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit., MA(Writing), Dip. Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at www.streetwisephilippines.biz