Keen One

- Wilson Lee Flores -
Ignoring the recent roller-coaster turmoil in politics and other negative news, a group of seven young people and a senior business leader are bullish on the future of the Philippines as Asia’s next information technology (IT) hub, boldly forging ahead with their e-business ventures which are pioneering Philippine enterprises in diverse fields.

In November 1999, Yapster e-Conglomerate Inc. was established by Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) chairman Felipe Yap, his two children, Christine and Bryan, along with his nieces Abigail, Annabelle and Arlene and nephews Patrick and Sherman. None of them are computer science or IT graduates, but most are economics, marketing and business administration graduates from North American universities who have embraced the New Economy. Most of them spent their elementary and high school in Grace Christian High School. They have worked to elevate their family’s solid traditional business operations into Internet ventures. They estimate that there are over one million Internet users in the Philippines, but added that this figure might actually be bigger.

What is the biggest challenge to their bold new business? They said that there is a need to promote more public awareness about the benefits of e-commerce to Philippine economic development. They foresee the Internet totally revolutionizing the way business is done in the Philippines, improving the overall quality of life of the people.
Business vision, experience, right partners
Like many of the country’s leading entrepreneurs – the Gokongwei, Uytengsu and the Aboitiz clans – the Yaps are descendants of immigrants who, three generations ago, settled in Cebu, before venturing out to Manila, Davao and even Cagayan de Oro City with textile, retail and other early commercial enterprises.

The Board of Investments (BOI) had granted pioneer status to five companies in the conglomerate – Yapster e-Trade Inc., Yapster e-Learning Inc., Yapster e-Travel Inc., Active Business Solutions Inc. (ABS) and SourcePilipinas.com. Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. and Manila Mining Corp. boss Felipe Yap is chairman and founder of Yapster e-Conglomerate, with his niece Abigail as president and chief executive officer, his son Bryan Spencer as chief financial officer, and other young generation Yaps as CEOs of various e-business ventures.

How do the young generation Yaps view the many high-flying dot-coms in the West which recently encountered severe financial difficulties? How could these problems be averted in Asia? Abigail Yap said: "The whole dot-com crash in the West is more of a weeding out process, reminding us that even if it’s in the technology field, this is still essentially a business. Dot-coms anywhere in the world with business experience, vision and with the right partners, will survive and thrive."
Yapster e-Learning Inc. (2StudyIT.com) is the country’s premier provider of technology-based learning, with a library of over 1,000 IT and business courses. An Economics graduate of the University of British Columbia in Canada, CEO Arlene Yap said 80 percent of top American corporations now utilize e-learning to train their employees. She pointed that using the Internet to train and educate employees will cut costs for companies, including for travel, minimize time wasted outside offices or the work areas, etc. "Studies have shown that e-learning is on average only 10 percent of the cost of the traditional instructor-led training," she said.

One of the recent breakthroughs of Yapster e-Learning was its agreement with STI for training of 10,000 users. The company will install and implement an online learning system within the education and training network of the country’s leading computer education school. The company also signed an agreement with Phinma for the training of 2,000 employees. Its most popular product is the International Computer Driving License (ICDL).

Yapster e-Trade Inc. (2TradeAsia.com) is the country’s leading online stock trading authority, as well as the first and only financial website that integrates the transactional ability of online stock trading with real-time portfolio management capabilities. ABS-CBN Network has signed a partnership agreement with the company for an information swap arrangement, whereby 2TradeAsia.com’s financial news and researches can now be viewed on abs-cbnnews.com and PinoyCentral.com. In return, the television network will provide news updates to the company. An Economics graduate of Simon Fraser University in Canada, CEO Christine Karen Yap trained in one of the country’s top foreign stock brokerage houses.
Airline tickets, car insurance, PCs via Internet
Yapster e-Travel Inc. (2TravelWorld.com) is scheduled for launch in July this year, hoping to cut unnecessary costs and delays in the customers’ access to travel. The first phase of this new venture will involve online reservations and purchases of airline tickets. The main target market are business corporations and corporate accounts. A Marketing graduate of the University of British Columbia, CEO Annabelle Yap said the travel agency business which her family put up in November 1999 will be integrated into this newest venture.

Yapster e-Insurance Brokerage Inc. (2InsureAll.com) is the country’s first online insurance brokerage with transaction functionalities offering mainly non-life insurance products. An Economics graduate of the Simon Fraser University in Canada, CEO Sherman Yap said the family started out with the Philippine Fire and Marine Insurance Co. Their strengths in e-Insurance are now on motor car, fire, marine and bonds. Will e-Insurance work out in the highly personalized field of life insurance sales? Yap said the company hopes to enter life insurance within the year.

Started only last year, SourcePilipinas.com is an e-marketplace for indirect expenditures, busy with auctions on supplies such as office items, personal computers and other things. A Business Administration graduate of Kwantien College University, Patrick Yap said over 350 companies have registered as trading partners. Most of the suppliers are small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), while most of the buyers are big multinational firms. Buyers enjoy 15 to 20 percent price savings. San Miguel Corp. (SMC) recently awarded a contract for its personal computer requirements through SourcePilipinas.com, with 56 bids from 11 suppliers yielding a winning bid that reflected a 17 percent discount on its last purchase transaction. 

(For comments or suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or write to P.O. Box 14277, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.)

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