Micro Business, Macro Profits!
By: Preksha Sood
When I got the opportunity to be a part of this course, I thought it would be extremely interesting and adventurous to be a part of a new culture, adapt to a new environment and be a consultant for a microbusiness.These three weeks have flown by so fast and now it’s nearly the end of my trip to Philippines. Not only do I feel I have experienced the Filipino’s rich culture and lifestyle but also had the chance on understanding the working of businesses, the mindset of business owners and the concept of entrepreneurship in a developing economy.Initially, I had created some pre conceived notions about the functioning of a small business in an underdeveloped town of Bohol. Many points such as limited resources, lack of basic management skills and low literacy rate usually hinders the growth of small businesses and I assumed it will be a similar case in Jagna as well. However, after arriving here and having regular conversations with the owners of my business, my perspective changed but to an extent.Manol Pharmacy is a two branched, small family run business by Lorde and his family. The entire family having a background in the medical field, the father being a retired Physician, the mother a retired nurse, Lorde, with a degree in Pharmacy and Medical Technology and the sister, Pamela, having a degree in nursing as well as accounting. The concept of having a pharmacy was started by the mother, who wanted to provide medicines as well as assistance to all those in need at a low cost. The family works diligently, with good conscience and a positive attitude to make a profitable and successful business.
“More than profits, the well-being of my customers” – PamelaPamela is one of the owners who stays at the JBC branch. She told me that the main ideology of the family is customer satisfaction over profits. They focus on educating their customers on the doses of medicines and its side effects instead of just selling the medicines to them. Even if it means reducing the business sales and profits to an extent. Although they know that profits are essential for a smooth functioning of the business, they do not believe at the expense of her customers. This concept for me was refreshing because in big cities it’s rare to find businesses and companies which care about their customers more than their profits.Having a strong bond with customers is necessary for the successful running of a business. Not only does the pharmacy provide free consultation to its customers but also sell their generic medicines at a low cost. In Philippines, people trust their doctors immensely. Hence, having free consultation done by the father, who is a retired Doctor, in indeed a competitive advantage of the pharmacy. It also helped them to strengthen the bond with their customers as well as built trust with them. I feel it is essential to build relationships between business owners and its customers because it serves as good starting point in the establishment of the business and gives competitive advantages.Not only is it important to have customer satisfaction but also employee satisfaction. The Pharmacy provides assistance to their customers as well as care and benefits to their employees. They have built a small condominium for them to stay in without any charges. They also provide them with free meals and some social benefits. I think it is very important to have a constant and stable number of employees so that there is less employee turnover. However, providing so many benefits to the employees also increases some cost for the pharmacy. Whilst working with my business, I realized that the owners have an idea about their competitors and how can they improve themselves. However, despite having good work ethics, the main problem with the business is its inefficient working and management.The major problem which the business faces even after successfully running for 14 years is the implementation of the basic managerial principles, the inefficiency in recording financial statements and lack of computerization. Lorde was one of the few business owners I had regular meetings with. He is a smart, knowledgeable guy with the vision of expanding his business but with least effort put in. They did not keep a track of their daily sales or even have a record of their expenses.
Another problem which the business suffers is the conservative mindset of the parents. Today, with the internet boom, businessmen and entrepreneurs have become one of the most dynamic forces in the economy. Whilst we notice how fast the world is moving and adapting to technology, many underdeveloped villages and elderly still believe in their “old mindset” and there is very less scope of creativity. For any business which wants to be successful as well as expand, it needs to adapt to technology and the new ways of working. After a couple of conversations with the father of Lorde, I realized that it is difficult to try to change the thinking of the older generations. However, I did try my best!To be a part of the pharmacy’s journey has been thrilling. It was challenging yet fun and most importantly, I got the chance to combine my theoretical knowledge with a practical experience. Even though it was only for about 3 weeks, I learnt about the basic functioning of micro businesses in Philippines. The part which intrigued me the most about the business was that how they did not follow the conventional and basic steps of running the business however, still enjoying good profits. It is very interesting to see that the business owners here are ambitious to expand their business. Building a successful business can provide it’s owners with a sense of accomplishment and pride. However, businesses in such small villages need different outlets to make them adapt to new changes. Manol Pharmacy is a strong business with decent competitve advantages.The scope of what businesses and entrepreneurship involves will continue to change and evolve as the world continues to change and evolve, yet many businesses face common issues of how to manage finances, run a business that within this community, however, we can share and learn from each other.