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A couple of weeks ago I had a meeting with David Lim, together with Mon Lopez (our Executive Director in Go Negosyo). David is now the big boss of Solid Group, a company that was started by his mother Elena Lim.
Solid Group has been in the retail industry for more than 50 years, starting out as the exclusive distributor of Sony and has expanded into a big group that offers several electronic items like Sony and Aiwa. Mrs. Lim is also the partner of my mother in their waitekung exercise. Their group gathers very early in the morning in our village. Mrs. Lim is also in her 80s and still is very sharp. She was also a recipient of the “Yes the Filipino Can” award during RFM’s 50th Anniversary about three years ago at the NBC tent.
The Solid Group story is about an enterprise that would look at changing and improving continuously a business model. It is about moving away from the old distributorship model to a full-fledged manufacturing operation but still in a similar consumer products line that is a favourite gadget of Filipinos today – the mobile phone.
Now, the second generation has taken over, under the leadership of the eldest son David. We saw innovations taking place. Among Solid Group’s major projects is the very first dual-SIM mobile phone launched in 2006 –the My Phone. It is also the first Filipino brand in the category, which David started. He had his friends try it as their first locally made phone. After four years, it has become a major contender as it now averages a sale of 30 thousand units per month, from less than 500 units when it started. With this momentum, David and his team were encouraged to develop even better phones at much affordable prices. They were able to develop a qwerty phone, with a price ranging from P2,000 to P6,000.
David seems to be a low profile person. He lives a simple life and avoids the luxuries and accessories that men in his position could afford. He doesn’t spoil his kids. His family is more like the Sy family. They drive simple cars and do not live an extravagant lifestyle. They are down to earth families that best display the value of modesty and simplicity.
I find him soft spoken, but David has lots of inspiring stories and anecdotes to tell. I find him to be definitely a principled man. He is philosophical at times. I was told that he applies very good business practice, especially in enforcing a rule to his dealers to fully record all sales and pay the right taxes. I learned that he is disciplined in work habits, as he comes early to work and starts his day at 7:30 a.m. with meetings and works until late at night. He even confessed that he hardly sleeps and has practically no weekends, as his mind continues to work.
David also shared that many years ago he wanted to develop a Filipino-made cellphone. But, he probably wasn’t ready then with his business model. With the genes of an entrepreneur, he still pursued his passion. He made use of his experience and focused on where he is good at. We know David’s vast experience in the consumer electronics line. He also has the knowhow when it comes to developing a strong sales and distribution force for electronics products, which channels to use, and the need to have extensive 400 after-sales service centers, which is a very strong selling point for his brand. He then decided to enter the cellphone manufacturing business.
He also recognizes that there is still a big chunk of the market out there that he could carve. There is still the broad-based mass market who would buy either his first brand new unit that is priced like a second-hand cellphone or as a second phone for other uses like a radio/TV phone, unique applications or customized content like recipes, jokes, prayers.
In fact I was amazed to see that David’s phone has novenas, all sorts of prayers, a full rosary audio, and you can even select which day as it would have the Joyful, Light, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries. But David was quick to claim that he is not a very religious person, but he said the prayers content is an excellent idea to serve the needs of many Filipinos who are very religious. He said that he simply listens closely to the pulse of his Pinoy- target market.
The phone also gained recognition many months back when he introduced the yellow phone as a tribute to President Cory, a close friend of his mom. This was endorsed of course by Kris Aquino, who by the way is also our famous Fiesta pasta endorser. The My Phone latest endorser is Piolo Pascual, as seen in their latest ads.
Being the first Pinoy phone, David rightfully positioned the brand towards being nationalistic, a proudly Pinoy phone. Thus we now see his phones with the Philippine map at the back, and more Pinoy-inspired programs like Pinoy salawikain, bugtong, history and trivia.
Meeting David again was refreshing, as it inspired us once again that changing the business model of a business, leveraging on its strengths and adapting it to the current wave of the market and needs of its
consumers can do wonders in growing the business even bigger. We also saw that an innovative and hardworking entrepreneur always has a place in the market, as long as it can introduce a game changing product idea that would attract new users because of its unique features and a more Pinoy-friendly price.
In the end, owning your own brand is what will give you the greatest value. I saw that when we sold Cosmos Bottling years ago. Also today, Selecta ice cream and milk brand is now a household name. Many entrepreneurs have started to build their own local brands, some of them generations before their time. Reinventing oneself or a business model is key to surviving a very competitive environment today.
Go Negosyo is calling on all young entrepreneurs out there. If you are an entrepreneur below the age of 36, with an inspiring journey to tell, send us your story. You might be one of the 50 young negosyantes to be featured in the next Go Negosyo book. Email me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact me: email@example.com or Joey Concepcion Facebook account. Visitwww.gonegosyo.net. Watch the top rating entrep show GO NEGOSYO: Kaya Mo! on GMA News TV, Saturday and Sunday 8-8:30am. Get daily Go Negosyo Text Tips in your mobile phone by sending GONEGO to 2910.