Bit of a diary post for those interested in business in the Philippines. The biggest issue I find most people face is the fact of others in business locally don’t want foreigners here regardless of how it is touted in wanting foreign trade etc. its pretty much an attempted closed shop on many things. It doesn’t mean give up it just means often more than not your probably easier trying to work things offshore. A prime example of this was a company in Manila that trades in computer systems which are surplus and second hand units, they are imported into the Philippines and the company done everything legally. What happened though was customs were not happy they were getting a big enough slice of the pie so carried out a raid and took over two hours to write down a single serial number on a PC telling the owner he couldn’t sell any equipment until they had completed a full audit. In the end the businessman succumbed to bribing the customs officials and as soon as they had a regular pay off they disappeared. This mentality or should I say sickness plagues the Philippines in many ways as its more likely you will be approached for extortion by the same people who are supposed to be stopping it.
So progress can often be difficult and often needs more diplomacy than you would need in the West purely because even getting materials people will up the price just on the colour of your skin. Recently someone requested if I knew where a house was for rent and I knew of one recently constructed, they had agreed a price of around P7000-P8,000 a month earlier and it was the price I quoted. We arranged a meet up with the landlord and while finalising the meeting the landlord asked if it was a single tenant and if they were foreigner which then seen the price go to P10,000 which was a case of racism over anything else. At which point I cancelled the tenant and obviously the house still sits empty as marketing isn’t done well here. Had several what should be called friends try to pull fast ones and discussing it with other expats seems a common issue. Many expats who are here long term have simply given up trusting the majority of people as well as their circle of friends hold very few Pinoys amongst them.
Is it all negative? to be honest I think it takes several years to see how bad things are so you can start wading through the crap. There is a learning curve where common sense of the West isn’t any use except for the fact of education of methods that nobody seems to know or adopt in business here but you need to spend time seeing how it can be implemented. The internet cafe for example has reached a stage now where I can reduce its hours to suit around when I want to work in there with other projects such as this blog or CAD. This pretty much just leaves the students in the net café which spend the majority of the money and cause no damage getting rid of the younger kids. With the fact its quiet in noise level starting up the next business venture with the computers is a lot more practical as well as the fact its still bringing in a regular income via the other net café users.
The interesting thing I find though is that you need to be a lot more business savvy here than you would in other countries purely down to the racism and anti-foreigner way the country works. Doesn’t mean all Filipino’s are racist but I do find when it comes down to buying materials or anything else there is always an arm reaching out for payments for something they haven’t earned. The longer your here the more hostile you become to it. The “Hey Joe, you give me money” which is a phrase I have heard way too many times gets the “correct” response instead of the lets be nice as simply people who say it lack any respect in the first place.
What you do realise over time as well though is that you often find when talking with other long term foreigners that your all sharing the same issues somewhere down the line over a period of time. Another thing is that things become easier the more organised you become and more aware of when people try to exploit you. At the same time the inner workings of doing business like elsewhere in the world. So in honesty if you stick it out eventually you can swim through the bad and start seeing what you can make work and hopefully something you can build upon. I have a few ideas for this year and hopefully the container housing will take off to allow expansion into other projects.