Edgar “Injap” Sia II has a neat trick to manage fear. The founder of Mang Inasal believes in working through all the concerns about the business at the onset, that way he could anticipate what would happen and plan for the unexpected. This leaves him little room for self-doubt or fear about the business going forward.
And go forward it did: Sia was the talk of the entire country in 2010 when, having created and built up the Mang Inasal chain, he sold 70% of the company to fast food giant Jollibee Foods Corporation for a staggering P3 billion ($60 million).
Now, he uses the experience he gained from Mang Inasal in his real estate venture, DoubleDragon Properties Corporation, which went public in 2014.
Brand positioning, massive growth
“I strongly believe it is the store positioning which attracted Jollibee,” said Armando “Butz” Bartolome, chairman of the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc. and president of GMB Franchise Developers Inc., which helped Mang Inasal venture into franchising. Jollibee bought Mang Inasal to “attract a synergistic flow of customers,” allowing it to capture a wider market which then has more meal choices: hamburgers and grilled chicken meals, he added.
Marketing guru Josiah Go, who is also an entrepreneur, said Mang Inasal became successful because it was more flexible than the big fast food chains. “When Injap came to Manila, he took advantage of big fast food companies’ rigid operating processes in securing space, while he was willing to pay rent on the spot to a lessor,” he said. This allowed Mang Inasal to add stores quickly, and in prime spots.
Indeed, Sia made sure to build a business that he could scale up. He worked on the operations, the procedures, from the kitchen to the cooking, to dealing with customers, Bartolome added. “That was his priority: to get the restaurant in order.” By the time Jollibee acquired Mang Inasal in 2010, it already had 303 stores. Now, it has 460.
Sia knew he would be throwing the gauntlet at big players when he plotted Mang Inasal’s expansion. He knew he had to plan and train, too: Having grown up in the province, he anticipated that Metro Manila market would be foreign to him. So he decided to build his confidence first before he took the brand nationally. He visited Manila several times, as well as other cities where he wanted to bring Mang Inasal. “I’ve been to almost all cities and all towns in the Philippines, even in Visayas and Mindanao.”
Building community malls
This obsession with preparedness followed him to DoubleDragon. As with Mang Inasal, Sia spotted an opportunity in the sector which the bigger and more experienced players did not see. “The only available clear potential in the property sector is in community malls. That’s only available in the next two, three years,” he said. Call it Mang Inasal reloaded, but in the property sector.
In this case, Sia partnered again with Tony Tan Caktiong, Jollibee’s founder and chairman. DoubleDragon aims to pioneer the branded community mall concept in the provinces. The company aims to address the dearth of developments for retailers looking to expand in Visayas and Mindanao. Investors seem to agree that the idea will click, as the real estate firm was able to raise P1.16 billion ($32 million) from an initial public offering in April 2014.
Spotting viable opportunities, though, takes mad skills. “It’s generally always difficult to penetrate an already mature market. The only way to succeed is to identify a specific window of opportunity. Yes, the opportunity, given the very mature business landscape now, is very rare, so identifying is a very delicate exercise. You need to properly analyze. And correct determination of the opportunity is the key,” explained Sia.
And his targets for this next venture are, no less, just as bold: “We intend to roll out a total of 100 community malls around the country in the next three to four years.”
Maricris is the former managing editor of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine.
This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine.