A Senen turnaround

GO NEGOSYO - Joey Concepcion (The Philippine Star) - May 30, 2013 - 12:00am

Last Thursday, PLDT chairman Manny Pangilinan and his PLDT SME Nation group launched a new line of services for negosyantes who are serious about improving their business information management system through Cloud technology. They did the launch at the beautiful Solaire Casino and Resort’s grand ballroom, and more than a thousand SME clients attended the event. Aside from MVP, PLDT president and CEO Poly Nazareno, PLDT EVP Eric Alberto, PLDT SME Nation head Kat Luna-Abelarde, and PLDT SME Nation community consultancy head Gabby Cui were also there during the launch.

PLDT SME Nation’s new services include internet or cloud-based applications for HR and payroll, accounting, salesforce.com, Google apps for business, SAP Business One, Coupa, among others. These applications will definitely revolutionize the way SMEs do their business, because it will now be possible for them to consolidate critical data from a single store branch to up to 500 branches nationwide.  With the presence of cloud-based technology in business, SMEs are now in for a sudden turnaround for the positive, as any entrepreneur could now focus their time to continue expanding their negosyos.

Speaking of a sudden turnaround, let me share a story of one Filipino entrepreneur who has brought technology, prosperity, and peace in a conflict-ridden place. Through his negosyo, not only was he able to uplift the lives of Filipinos there, he has also showed that it is possible for people from different backgrounds to work together in harmony towards the better good. I am talking about La Frutera’s Senen Bacani, who we have featured in our newest book “Go Negosyo: 50 Inspiring Stories of Agri-Entrepreneurs”.

Senen, who hails from Pampanga, is the eldest among six siblings. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the De La Salle University with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Commerce. He is a Certified Public Accountant. Later on, he pursued his MBA degree at the University of Hawaii back in the late 1960s. He was with Dole for 20 years, where he worked his way up to become its country manager for Costa Rica and the Philippines—the first non-American to hold the position. In 1989, he was appointed as the Agriculture secretary by then-President Cory Aquino.

After his stint in the government, Senen was bent on starting his own negosyo. His decision to have his own fruit plantation may be influenced by his previous experiences in Dole and in the Department of Agriculture. He knew that Mindanao has a lot of potential, considering that it has very fertile lands and that it is hardly visited by typhoons. However, the growing insurgency from the armed rebels is driving investors away. This has left parts of Mindanao idle and untapped. 

One fateful day in 1996, one of Senen’s employees met an accident near Datu Paglas, Maguindanao. As he and his group went to the municipal hall to relay the incident, they were met by the town mayor, the late Datu Ibrahim “Toto” Paglas III. When the mayor found out about the purpose of Senen’s group in the area, he immediately offered his family’s land as a potential site. To Senen, it was a sign that they were on the right track. A joint partnership was then forged in December of that year.

With everyone’s hard work, the once idle agriculture land became a sprawling 1,000-hectare banana plantation, making La Frutera the largest banana exporter in the country. But the greatest contribution that Senen and the company did is spread peace among the community. The threats of insurgency, plus the all-out war declared by the government against the armed rebels, did not hinder their operations. In fact, several armed rebels became returnees and underwent training to work in the plantation. The government and the private sector started to lend their support to Mindanao after realizing that progress is possible even in conflict areas as shown by the growth of La Frutera.

Senen’s efforts earned him a lot of recognitions over the years. Among his recognitions were the Ramon V. del Rosario Sr. Award for Nation Building, SGV Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006, The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) award for Agriculture in 2009, and the La Sallian Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship. In one of his speaking engagements, he shared his belief that “only real development can bring about an enduring peace”. La Frutera became the symbol of how someone with a passionate heart and a can-do attitude can turn around a conflict area into a region of peace and progress.

The story of La Frutera happened during the Philippines’ worst periods in terms of peace and order. This goes to show that if Filipinos can reach success in times of conflict, we can definitely do it now that we are in our better days. What we need to do is to stay focused on growing and expanding our negosyos, while remaining true to the real purpose of entrepreneurship, which is to empower other people and help them move out of poverty.

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Go Negosyo’s third Negosem run for the year was successfully held last Friday at the RFM Auditorium. Our Angelpreneurs Ardy Roberto and Carlo Calimon gave a comprehensive session on entrepreneurial mindset, opportunities spotting and seizing, product development, and guerilla marketing for SMEs. The participants were able to get vital tips and very practical approaches that they could apply in their respective businesses.

After the success of Go Negosyo’s MBA on Franchising, we will be conducting another series on marketing and Innopreneurship with Go Negosyo Angelpreneur and the Philippines’ marketing guru Josiah Go. Catch us at the University of San Carlos in Cebu on July 6; in Davao on July 13; at the Mariners’ Polytechnic College in Naga on July 18; at Eurotel Angeles in Pampanga on August 9, and in Lipa on August 30. Call 637.9229 for more information.

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Contact me at feedback@gonegosyo.net.

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