Philippine Retailing 2019 Philippine Retailing 2019 Q4_Digital - Page 9

IN MEMORIAM... PHILIPPINE RETAILING Inspiration from a Champion In November, retail legend John Gokongwei, has left the world. Known in the retailing world for his spanning Robinsons Malls and Supermarkets, Mr. Gokongwei, may be gone among us, but has left memorable lessons and inspiration from his life. He was named as the Champion of the Retail Entrepreneurship by the Philippine Retailers Association in its Outstanding Filipino Retailers (OFR) Awards in 2009, for his amazing entrepreneurial spirit, rising from rock bottom to being one of the richest men in the country. Here is an excerpt from the Legends, Lives and Legacies coffee table book, published by the PRA in 2017, which recounts the story of how John Gokongwei rose above adversities in life: His story reads like fiction and seems every bit like an urban legend, straight out of a movie—there is a chauffer who drove him to school in Cebu, there are friends who watched for free in their family's chain of air-conditioned movie houses, there is a sprawling house in an upscale gated village, and lots and lots of money. But all that would change one fateful day. His father, a Chinese immigrant from Fujian, China, would die of complications due to typhoid. The story changes in an instant. Gone were the chauffeurs, the sleek cars, and the big house. But this isn't a script from a movie or some fictional plot, it's the story of John Gokongwei, Jr., who was only 13 years old then when his father died. "Everything I enjoyed vanished instantly. My father's empire was built on credit. When he died, we lost everything—our big house, our cars, our business—to the banks. I felt angry at the world for taking away my father, and for taking away all that I enjoyed before. When the free movie disappeared, I also lost half my friends, "he recalls in a speech delivered in 2007. Suddenly, Gokongwei had to walk two miles to school. "I cried to my mother, a widow at 32. But she said: ''You should feel lucky. Some people have no shoes to walk to school. What can you do? Your father died with 10 centavos in his pocket.' So, what can I do? I worked," Gokongwei recalls. To survive, mother and son opened a small stall in the market, selling a wide array of goods, candles, thread, and some peanuts. In 1943, when he was able to earn enough to expand, he traded goods between Cebu and Manila. "From Cebu, I would transport tires on a small boat called a 'batel'. After travelling for five days to Lucena, I would load them into a truck for a six-hour trip to Manila. I would then purchase other goods from the earnings I made from the tires, to sell in Cebu," he recalls. When World War II ended, he put up Amasia Trading, which imported onions, flour, used clothing, old newspapers and magazines, and fruits from the United States. In 1957, at age 31, he ventured into cornstarch manufacturing. "But I was going to compete with Ludo and Luym, the richest group in Cebu and the biggest cornstarch manufacturers. I borrowed money to finance the project. The first bank I approached made me wait for two hours, only to refuse my loan. The second one, China Bank, approved a P500,000 clean loan for me. Years later, the banker who extended that loan, Dr. Albino Sycip, said that he saw something special in me. Today, I still wonder what that was, but I still thank Dr. Sycip to this day." Gokongwei says. Today, there are two conglomerates—JG Summit Holdings Inc, which has business interest in food & beverage manufacturing, airline, property, banking and petrochemicals, and Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc., one of the largest multi-format retailers in the country. Its subsidiaries include JG Summit Petrochemical Corp.; Cebu Pacific; Universal Robina Corporation; Robinsons Land Corporation; and Robinsons Bank Corporation. Its branded food business, both factories and marketing offices, are in China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand. It also has a property development in China and a core investment with a property development company in Singapore. He is proud of how his story has evolved. It wasn't easy but no doubt much better than the way it was before when he was that young boy of 13. He cannot wish for anything more but for his countrymen to enjoy the same success. "As a boy, I sold peanuts from my backyard. Today, I sell snacks to the world. I want to see other Filipinos do the same," Gokongwei says. ------ From the PRA Board of Directors and Executive Secretariat, good bye and thank you for the inspiration that is your life. As a boy, I sold peanuts from my backyard. Today, I sell snacks to the world. I want to see other Filipinos do the same