An Entrepreneur’s Bounty

May 12th, 2011

I am a big fan of simple things that work. I also believe that modern technology can improve the lives of many. Technology can become instruments for progress of a country like ours.

I remember Tennyson Chen sharing this principle. He explained how it can affect one’s negosyo and how it can impact the lives of people. Tennyson has proven it himself and is considered one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Philippines today. He is the President of Bounty Fresh Food, Inc. and he is also the 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

One of the factors needed for the survival and success of negosyos these days is the entrepreneur’s ability to keep up with the times. This is one of his winning traits as a negosyante. Tennyson is a graduate of Industrial Engineering from La Salle and started out in general construction in the 80s. But, he shifted to the food production industry in realizing that food is in demand throughout the year.

Tennyson’s first venture was in an egg layer operation in 1986, then a piggery the following year. In 1992, he decided to shift to broiler chickens in anticipation of better opportunities. Despite having little background in raising poultry, he was focused on doing his negosyo right, and he practically lived in a chicken farm for half a year in order to learn the process. But even with technology, hard work is still needed to grow a business. And, indeed, all of his hard work paid off. In 1996, he established Bounty Fresh Food, Inc. It was start of one of the largest and reputable food producers in the country today.

Taking Tennyson’s lead, Bounty Fresh aims to provide fresh chicken and other products to more Filipino families at affordable prices. This is their 2020 vision. By improving the company’s operations, they can lower the cost of their production and make their products more affordable to average Filipino families without giving up the quality of their chickens. And according to Tennyson, this is where technology steps in.

Tennyson takes pride in Bounty Fresh’s state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, from the hatcheries to the broiler farms, to the processing and packing plants. He shared that he searched the world for the best technologies and brought it to the Philippines to constantly improve the productivity and efficiency of his negosyo.

Despite starting small, Bounty Fresh was able to take a big chunk of the local chicken market by being a pioneer of many of the systems that are now the standard in the poultry industry. This includes temperature and climate control, advanced feed production systems, and single-stage hatcheries, among others. Tennyson believes that superior technology gives them the edge to compete with foreign chicken suppliers in the country. He recalled that that was what also helped them survive when the Asian Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) was implemented.

Managing and growing a business is never easy but an entrepreneur must always be prepared for what lies ahead. The Avian flu scare in 2004 was one of the biggest challenges Tennyson faced as an entrepreneur. The market for chicken practically evaporated overnight. To recover from the disaster, he did whatever it took to find solutions to the problem, including flying to other countries like Indonesia and Vietnam to study.

Tennyson pointed out that an entrepreneur should never stop conquering challenges, whether it’s small or big. I definitely agree with him when he said that negosyantes must never give up in the face of any challenge and must continue to move forward. It is what we have been teaching Filipinos for years through Go Negosyo. That positive entrepreneurial attitude is what’s going to help this country fight the bigger problem we are facing –poverty.

Tennyson is also including that problem in the list of things he plans to conquer in the next ten years. Apart from his goal of doubling chicken consumption from 7.6 kilos per capita to 15 by 2020, he also wants to help bring nutritious food to more Filipino families. To get closer to this vision, Tennyson created Chooks To Go (through Bounty Agroventures, Inc.), which now supplies more than 100 million chickens a year. By increasing their production and efficiency, they will be able to provide more employment in the coming years. Today, Bounty Fresh has over a thousand partners including chicken growers, hatcheries and even truckers all over the country.

Agribusiness is quite challenging. Our company, RFM Corporation, was into poultry many years ago. At that time, the brand Bounty Fresh was never heard of. In fact, Blue Ribbon Chicken was started by my father Joecon, Vicky Zerrudo and Joe Claudio. They had a very hands-on management team. The environment was also crucial, from the summer heat to the super typhoons that affect the mortality of chickens and the price of corn, which had the largest input in chicken cost. The Philippines is a “chicken country”, with Mang Inasal, Jollibee, Max, among others. RFM, like the Gokongwei and Uytengsu companies, eventually got out of the poultry business. Agribusiness is a very hands-on business, which requires sustained passion and perseverance.

I truly admire Tennyson’s approach and style. His view on technology has made me see how much more entrepreneurs can achieve in the coming years. Life has gotten so modern and there are many things that can distract us from achieving our dreams. But, we must never be afraid to change with the times and learn new things. Maintain that entrepreneurial spirit like Tennyson. New things or technology should never be a threat. Instead, it should help improve the negosyo and survive the ever changing market.