John Gokongwei, Jr life story and message is really not difficult to learn, as these matters have been incorporated in his speeches. In fact, it would be more productive to read his speeches, which also contain the lessons on life and entrepreneurship that he learned along the way.
This is his story”
“Then, when I had enough money and more confidence, I decided to travel to Manila from Cebu to sell all kinds of goods like rubber tires. Instead of my bike, I now traveled on a batel — a boat so small that on windless days, we would just float there. On bad days, the trip could take two weeks!
During one trip, our batel sank! We would have all perished in the sea were it not for my inventory of tires. The viajeros were happy because my tires saved their lives, and I was happy because the viajeros, by hanging on to them, saved my tires. On these long and lonely trips I had to entertain myself with books, like Gone With The Wind.
After the war, I had saved up 50,000 pesos. That was when you could buy a chicken for 20 centavos and a car for 2,000 pesos. I was 19 years old.
Now I had enough money to bring my family home from China [sent to China after the death of his father]. Once they were all here, they helped me expand our trading business to include imports. Remember that the war had left the Philippines with very few goods. So we imported whatever was needed and imported them from everywhere-including used clothes and textile remnants from the United States. We were probably the first ukay-ukay dealers here.”
Then, when I had gained more experience and built my reputation, I borrowed money from the bank and got into manufacturing. I saw that coffee was abundant, and Nescafe of Nestle was too expensive for a country still rebuilding from the war, so my company created Blend 45.
That was our first branded hit. And from there, we had enough profits to launch Jack and Jill. From one market stall, we are now in nine core businesses-including retail [Robinsons Retail Group], real estate [Robinsons Land Corporation, Robinson Galleria, Manila Midtown Hotels, etc.], publishing, petrochemicals [JG Petrochem], textiles [Litton Mills], banking [Robinsons Savings Bank], food manufacturing [Universal Robina Corporation], Cebu Pacific Air and Sun Cellular [plus Digitel].
As previously noted, Marites Khanser analyzed the entrepreneurial style of Mr. Gokongwei, as well as entrepreneurship in general, in the book “John L. Gokongwei, Jr.: The Path of Entrepreneurship” (Loyola Schools, Ateneo de Manila University, 2007). Here, we discuss the observations of Dr. Khanser in the book, as well as lessons distilled from Gokongwei’s speeches.