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  FILIPINO DELICACY SITE SETS SIGHT ON EUROPE
By Ruby Jane L. Cabagnot

Armed only with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a starting capital of only 10,000 Philippine pesos (US$207 at PhP48.323=$1) over a year ago, the owner of this one-year-old upstart company offering Filipino delicacies is now setting his sights on foreign shores, even as plans to expand business locally continues.

In an interview with i.t. matters last Friday at the eCommerce Expo in Mandaluyong City, central Metropolitan Manila, Jovel Cipriano said that at least two businessmen from Germany and Sweden have expressed interest in becoming the distributor of the company's goods in their respective countries. He added that negotiations with a German businessman were finalized a few weeks ago. The German businessman, who Mr. Cipriano said is married to a Filipina, is also planning to put up a German version of the site. He added that his German connection would be the one to distribute his items to Asian stores in some European cities.

The site, located at http://www.pinoydelikasi.com/, now carries about 70 products online coming from various parts of the country from an initial offering of nine items when it began operations in January last year. Some of the more popular items are dried mangoes, danggit (a kind of fish eaten as dried), pusit (squid), pastillas, barquillos, dilis (anchovies) and even lechon (roasted pig). Mr. Cirpiano said, however, that about 200 additional items will be uploaded on the site, adding that he expects these items to be part of the Web list within the year.

"It takes a lot of work to upload an item because you have to set each item up for a photo shoot in a studio, and then write a description per item," says this 34-year old entrepreneur who quit his five-year-old job as an IBM executive to devote his full attention to his new start-up company.

Currently, though, he gets about 60% of his profits from his two brick-and-mortar stores in Cebu (central Visayas) and Manila and the remaining 40% from online transactions.

Depending on the item, Mr. Cipriano said that his marked-up price from the supplier's price is only about 10% to 20%. There are now about 20 regular online customers.

Other plans for this year include at least three brick-and-mortar stores in malls in Metro Manila, Mr. Cipriano said, although he admitted that he expects future growth of the company to come from abroad. He also expects that, in two years, online transactions would exceed that of his brick-and-mortar business.

"Eventually, my network should be bigger out of the country, compared with my network here and the benefit of e-commerce would come in once I sign up with foreign distributors already," says Mr. Cipriano, who now employs nine people, including a content manager and other technical and field staff. He added that some Filipinos living in California have likewise expressed interest in becoming distributors of Pinoydelikasi products.

Aside from being a virtual distributor of other branded delicacy products, Mr. Cipriano said that he is exploring opportunities of developing Pinoydelikasi's branded products like crispy dilis, dried mango and polvoron.

Mr. Cipriano said his company now faces the challenge of meeting stringent global quality standards, from quality of the product itself, to packaging to reliable delivery.

"The payment solution is all too expensive, and the reason why I did not put up it yet in my Web site is because I'll be paying more for its service fees instead of making money on my product," he said.

Customers currently pay through bank transfer or cash on delivery, with a minimum of five items per delivery.

 

   
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