Saturday, June 26, 2010

Red Dragon Farms

WHO doesn’t love success stories especially if it’s preceded by some kind of a major setback? Some people say things happen for a reason. When a door closes, a window opens.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to a veterinarian on his way to supposedly greener pastures in the land of opportunity except in his case, the opportunity knocked right where he already is.

Here’s one of the more inspiring news items that I wrote for the Infotech section of the Manila Bulletin last year. And yes, nice guys don’t always finish last.


MORE than 20 years ago, veterinarian Dr. Robert Lo was all set to migrate to the US. For reasons he could not understand to this day, the consul denied his visa application. “I was not even asked a single question,” he recalls. “And I thought I had all the necessary papers.”

It turns out that denial was a blessing in disguise. Dr. Lo went on to successfully head his own commercial livestock venture that is now one of the most successful in Central Luzon. And after more than 20 years of operation, Red Dragon Farms (RDF) has emerged as the winner of the Philippines edition of the ASEAN-wide IBM Business Reality Challenge as it bested over 100 small and medium-sized business ventures or SMB’s all over the country, including a formidable microfinancing company in the final round.

With 12 poultry grower farms across the region and a 2,000-sow level swine farm with their own respective feed mills plus a meat shop called Fresh Options that has over 58 stores all over Luzon including Metro Manila, RDF has done very well for itself despite being weak in the area of IT.
“Although we’ve been around for 20 years, we are still stuck with the same manual systems that ended up fragmenting our processes,” explained Dr. Robert Lo, founder, president and general manager, RDF. “Even as it has not adversely affected our success, our disparate ERP system often results in delays in the processing of documents. Sometimes, even check payments are delayed.”

The lack of networking and automation capabilities, among other IT challenges, is actually what tipped the balance in favor of RDF as far as IBM is concerned. As explained by Natalie Pia Azarcon, IBM Philippines Country Manager for ibm.dotcom, the whole point of the Business Reality Challenge is “to assist small and medium-sized businesses in improving productivity and profitability while reducing operation costs through the efficient use of information technology.”

Moreover, Azarcon said that compared to the other companies that participated in the challenge, it is RDF that best met IBM’s selection criteria as it also stands to benefit the most from the top prize that consists of IBM’s suite of free hardware, software and consulting services worth US$30,000 or about P1.47 million.

“Even with their phenomenal growth over the years, the IT side wasn’t emphasized,” Azarcon points out. “Imagine how much better they would have been if they had IT capabilities from the start. Now with the best IT company behind their back, RDF’s first enterprise-level should enable them to work faster and smarter than their competition, allowing them to get quick and accurate reports to improve management decision and have better systems management and controls for overall operational efficiency.”

For his part, a beaming Dr. Lo hopes that IBM can help them create a system that will not just only integrate the financial, administrative and people aspects of their overall operations but also help in the area of what he calls “business intelligence.” “We hope to be able to forecast good locations, popular products and deal with volatile prices in the market if we can set up good business intelligence for our company.” he says.

When asked if he still has plans of migrating to the US after his company had just won the IBM Business Reality Challenge, Dr. Lo can only sheepishly smile and shake his head. It looks like Red Dragon Farms will be around for at least another 20 years.

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