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John Gokongwei Jr., one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, will be given a legacy award by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council in the upcoming ASEAN Business Awards Gala Night on Sept. 6. Legacy awardees are iconic entrepreneurs who helped shape and strengthen not just their national economies, but also made a positive impact on the ASEAN Economic Community. They are those whose commitment and perseverance led them to their success today.
For aspiring and young entrepreneurs, Mr. Gokongwei is definitely one of the idols in the business community. I’m sure many entrepreneurs today admire his wisdom and passion.
But before becoming the Philippines’ 2nd richest man, he started small in the province of Cebu.
Gokongwei’s family was one of the richest families in Cebu back in the day. His grandfather, Pedro Gotiaoco operated one of biggest trading firms while his father owned the largest cinema house in the province. Unfortunately, his father died and the family lost everything.
With only a few pesos, he started selling threads, soaps, and candles in the local market of Cebu. Eventually, he expanded his business by selling rice, corn and other goods. He would even travel via batel, a small sail-powered outrigger, to Lucena to sell Cebuano products. By the time the war ended, he had P40,000, a substantial amount at that time.
John Gokongwei Jr. then opened his first company, Amasia, which imported textile, flour, onions, magazines and used clothing from US. This could be considered as the first ukay-ukay (secondhand) shop in the country.
In 1954, he started the Universal Corn Products in Manila which manufactured cornstarch, a raw material needed in other products such as beer, ice cream, and paper. This is now known as the Universal Robina Corp. Competitions were considered as challenges. John Gokongwei Jr. and his company, Consolidated Food Corp., launched the coffee Blend 45 which competed with the giants Procter and Gamble and Nestlé.
This helped launched the successful business of the Gokongwei family. The family diversified into different industries such as retail, real estate, publishing, petrochemicals, textiles, banking, food manufacturing, and airline. In 1992, JG Summit Holdings was established.
John Gokongwei Jr. is not afraid to venture into new business opportunities. Back in the 1990s, he considered opening a low-cost carrier airline after seeing the success of Southwest Airlines. Philippine Airlines dominated the market but he was sure his new venture would become successful. Cebu Pacific, now the county’s number one airline, has connected Filipinos through budget-friendly domestic and international flights.
His children – Lance, Robina, Lisa, Hope, Faith and Marcia are all involved in the family business. Lance who is the president of JG Summit Holdings shared in his interview for the Go Negosyo book: 50 Entrepreneurs of Passion, “I was running the food business at that time. And when he asked me if I knew anyone, I knew he was indirectly asking me if I could help.” Lance now leads Cebu Pacific as its president and CEO.
Today, the group distributes manufactured food in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
Aside from John Gokongwei Jr., Haji Musa Bin Hj Adnin of Adinin Group of Companies (Brunei) will also be a legacy awardee. Adinin Group of Companies started in 1982 solely as a trading company, but today it has diversified its profile and product offering in industries such as manufacturing, interior design, information technology, travel agencies, and manpower.
Garuda Food, led by its chairman Bp Sudhamek AWS, is also considered as an icon entrepreneur in Indonesia. Sudhamek is the Ernst & Young Indonesia Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004. Garuda Food manufactures snacks, biscuits, confectioneries, basic food and dairy all throughout Indonesia.
Rattana Pathomvan, managing director and CEO of EDL Generation Public Co. (Laos), will receive an award as well as one of the inspiring legacy entrepreneurs in the region. Her company engages in the generation and wholesale of electricity.
Silverlake Axis Limited’s founder and executive chairman Goh Peng Ooi (Malaysia) has led the company to its success today. Silverlake Axis Limited is a provider of digital economy solutions and services to banking, insurance, retail and other industries. The company is now a multi-billion-dollar organization represented in 20 countries.
Another legacy awardee is Aung Ko Win, chairman of KBZ Group. He founded the company in 1994 and is one of the largest privately owned diversified group of companies in Myanmar. They are present in various industries including manufacturing, finance, aviation, insurance, agriculture, and real estate among others.
Wee Cho Yaw is the chairman emeritus and adviser of Singapore’s 3rd largest lender, Universal Overseas Bank (UOB). The company was founded by his father but he eventually took over and has ran UOB for three decades.
UOB is the market leader in credit card and home loan businesses. It also offers loans for small and medium enterprises in Singapore.
Thailand’s Sakchai Unchittikul of Srichiengmai Industry Co. will also be awarded. Srichiengmai Industry was the first manufacturer of tomato products in Thailand which started in 1978. Today, the company exports to Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
And last, but not the least is Le Thu Tuy, vice chairwoman of BRG Group, who is also part of the roster of legacy awardees. Thu Tuy was named as 2016’s Most Active Banking Leader of the Year by the International Finance Magazine. BRG Group is a multi sector economic group which is involved in real estate, finance, hospitality and commerce.
Because of these entrepreneurs’ outstanding and inspiring entrepreneurial journey, it is befitting to recognize them as our legacy awardees. They have become icons of the business community across the ASEAN region.
We will recognize other awardees for various categories in the ASEAN Business Awards. We are all excited to name this year’s awardees!