Business As Usual

A self-made shipping magnate

- Rose Dela Cruz -

MANILA, Philippines - Eugenio S. Ynion Jr. is a self-made shipping magnate, who got to the top through a circuitous route.

After finishing an economics degree at the University of Santo Tomas in March 1992, Ynion became a medical representative of United Laboratories Inc. distributing United American brand of drugs in Manila from August 1992 to February 1993.

In April 1993 to June 1997, he founded the Thousand Cranes Taxi Services with 10 units driven by 20 drivers but this venture failed. He also worked as import account manager in May 1993 to June 1996 of the Evergreen Phils., responsible for sales generation and maintenance of import service accounts in Metro Manila, where he easily and consistently topped the quota of 1,000 TEUs on the fourth month till he left.

Then in June 1997 to June 1998, he became the export account manager of Maersk Filipinas Inc. with export accounts in Metro Manila, Bataan and Subic. While at Maersk, Ynion was assigned to a difficult client, Edward Bouhana, a French-Jew, whom none of the shipping industry people wanted to handle.

For Ynion, no challenge is too difficult to overcome, not even poverty.

By July 1998 to January 2000, he was director and general manager of Index Craft Inc. which manufactures and outsources handicrafts for export to the European and US markets using productive ties with 30 manufacturers from Pampanga, Laguna and Metro Manila. This achieved an annual sales of $1.2 million on the first year and $500,000 in 2000 despite the export crisis in the Philippines.

In June 1999 until 2005 he became the buying agent of Le Soleil International, a buying agent of France Gift, one of the biggest importers/buyers of house furnishings in Europe which maintained a steady gross sales of $200,000 a year. He kept meeting Bouhana.

He recalled his first encounter with Bouhana: “I was to pick him up at 5:30 a.m. When I got to his hotel, he asked me to hurry not even offering me breakfast as this was a waste of time. Then he packed a sandwich for lunch, which he shared a piece with me. By dinnertime, I was so starved. Since I did not complain at all, Bouhana was impressed by my attitude. He invited me to a feast that night at the hotel.

Bouhana and Ynion met several times more but his third meeting with Bouhana was when Bouhana wanted Ynion to drive him to Makati from the heavy traffic of Las Pinas in 15 minutes. “He asked me to turn right, then left then right. But I told him we would land in a ditch. Still I followed and we landed in the ditch,” he recalled.

Because of this obedience, Ynion earned the respect and admiration of the Frenchman to the point that the latter invited him to his abode once. “I did not even know that he lived in a castle with a forest as his backyard,” he said.

He told Bouhana he wanted to meet with the owners of Zim Integrated Shipping Lines of Israel. “It turned out they were good friends. The Israeli shippers stopped by Bouhana’s castle and we met and forged a deal,” he said.

Now, Ynion is the exclusive agent for Zim and its affiliate company, Gold Star Line Ltd., one of the leading shipping companies in the world.

Bouhana taught Ynion to always be organized (hired someone to teach him this) and to spend only what he can afford. “He was such a miser that when I visited him several years later, I could not believe that the man actually lives in a castle with a forest as his backyard,” Ynion recalled of his visit to Bouhana’s estate.

At 40, Ynion is one of the youngest CEOs of a shipping agency. “I’m not sure if I am the youngest (shipping agency CEO) but I am sure that I’m the youngest CEO who did not inherit the business from his parents,” he said.

Creating well paying jobs, he says, is his way of “paying forward” (to others) the bounties that he gained from one erstwhile challenging and difficult man earlier on.

“I feel that the only way to repay a person who helped me is to make him realize that, by helping one man, he generated jobs for others,” Ynion said fondly recalling his mentor, Bouhana, a French-Jew who owns France Gift, one of the biggest importers of house furnishings in Europe who linked him with the owners of Zim.











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