Thanks to the Internet, entrepreneurs no longer need a physical store to sell their products or services or be content with the customers coming their way: the Web lets them reach buyers wherever they are.
One entrepreneur who has been experiencing such growth is Jovel Cipriano, a businessman selling danggit and dried mangoes to customers in the United States, Japan, Dubai, and Switzerland. An IBM executive assigned to Cebu, Cipriano started offering the province’s delicacies in 1999 through a website, pinoydelikasi.com, that he put up for P10,000. Demand was so strong that he quit his job a year later to concentrate on the business, and soon he added two more online portals to his name: kusinaatbp.com, which started selling cookbooks and kitchen supplies, and galingpinoy.com, which sold products such as barong tagalog, lanterns, and Cebu guitars. He now ships out 50 kilograms of products a week.
Cypriano credits his success to his knowledge of marketing and the Internet. “It helped that I was a former programmer and marketing man—two jobs that let me gain the skills I needed to succeed in online retailing,” he says. “I knew how to create a website, and I had a network of friends who helped me design and achieve the overall look and feel that I wanted. I also used the Internet connection and the laptop that was assigned to me when I was starting out, so my expenses were minimal.”
Equally, his knowledge of information technology put Parc Cruz on the right track when he started selling DVDs on the Internet in 2001 and raised P20,000. Cruz was an ordinary gamer and a DVD collector buying video games and DVD movies on the Web before his venture. “In my spare time I surfed the Internet for good deals, and I discovered a dearth of good sources of DVDs despite the growing market,” he says. “I started out by joining online communities to get a feel of what people there liked or disliked, then I started selling my personal DVD collection.”
Even established companies are realizing the benefits of selling online. Philippine Cut Flower Corp., a 25-year-old family-owned concern, started selling on the Web after it opened its electronic commerce site, islandrose.net, in 2001. “Because of the online store our gross sales almost doubled,” says marketing director Dustin Andaya. “It’s the biggest contributor to our growth.”
Andaya had thought about selling online while preparing a paper for his masters degree, and that let them reach people who could not visit their stores to buy flowers. Andaya says more than half of islandrose.net’s clients live abroad and most of them are males aged 22 to 35. They’re also tech-savvy and think nothing about giving credit-card information.
Believers in e-commerce say the advantages of trading online far outweigh its downsides. You may start with a small capital, count on minimal overhead, and worry not over rental fees or having to open and close a bricks-and-mortar store.
But you can’t have walk-in clients and clients who don’t have access to the Internet, your virtual store will have to be open all the time, and you’ll have to deal with credit-card fraud, late deliveries, and delayed supplier shipments. You’ll also need technical know-how to build an online site, but any of several Web-based solutions will let you create one by simply following instructions and using your mouse.