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Use technology to expand your business

Investing in technology can be worth it
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Ten years ago, Joseph Calata joined the family business, Planters Choice Agro Products Inc., with this major goal in mind: to make it the country’s top distributor of animal feeds, fertilizers, and agrochemicals.

Today, Planters Choice now ranks among the Philippines’ top 1,000 corporations—and it’s still growing. Calata achieved this by doing what his parents had felt was unthinkable: computerize their company’s operations and expand its market beyond its base in Plaridel, Bulacan.

Joseph Calata, now 30, joined the family business in 2001 as its cashier. The first thing Calata noticed about the family business was that it was so paper-based that the paperwork was seriously slowing down its operations. “Everything was mano-mano [done by hand] and my parents had to be at the office every day,” he recalls.

He therefore thought of introducing innovations to run the business efficiently and avoid losses—and without requiring everyone to be at the office seven days a week. To prove why this was necessary, he showed to his father, who was reluctant to spend P2,000 for a printer, two checks worth P100,000 each that the company had issued erroneously to pay for the same item.

In 2003, Calata went further and convinced his parents to computerize the company’s operations, including its accounting and purchasing, as well as to expand distribution. “I wanted to develop our brands and distribute them in other areas like Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Bataan, and Pampanga,” he recalls.

These undertakings entailed a level of expense that initially fazed his parents, but in recognition of the value of his efforts, they made him CEO a year later. Then, with the company’s computerization in place, Calata started hiring experienced professionals to help him run the business.

Now, Calata’s target is for Planters Choice to join the league of the country’s top 500 companies. He believes that Planters Choice can make it by continuing to strongly support the efforts of both local and multinational companies to create demand for their feeds, fertilizers, and agrochemicals.

He has hired area managers to look after the company’s distribution outside Bulacan. Helping him run the company is his brother Melvin, who joined the company’s legal department in 2006 and is now the general manager of Planters Choice. Melvin Calata oversees a company that now has 200 employees, a huge leap from the 30 workers the company had when it was still a small trading firm.  

Joseph Calata, now the chairman and president of Planters Choice, attributes the company’s success not only to being a distributor of leading feed products. He says it is also largely due to the company’s improved operations systems, better logistics, and enhanced relationships with their retailers.

Last year, Planters Choice set up offices in Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan, making itself a troubleshooter for its suppliers in areas where their product sales had not been meeting expectations. And that, Calata says, is where their good customer service comes in—an effort that includes guaranteeing one-day deliveries of orders and making credit available to retailers if necessary.

“If you have a good organization, you’d gain the trust of your suppliers and you’d be given more areas to distribute,” says Calata. He particularly takes pride in his company being the first Philippine agrochemical distributor to fully computerize. “If I want to check how sales are doing in Pangasinan, I can  check it online right now,” he says.


This article was originally published in the August 2009 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines.

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