Dr. Bernardo Villegas presenting statistics orienting the young entrepreneurs to the Global Market situation. (Credit: Oliver Tuazon)

by Bino Socrates

San Fernando, Pampanga – “[T]he purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavouring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society.” Quoting Saint Pope John Paul II, thus was how Gab Hipolito, President of the Young Entrepreneurs of Pampanga (YEP), closed his opening speech for the program. This was to remind the YEP members of the raison d’etre of their organization as they celebrate its second year of existence. 

In the noon of 18 May 2018, the members of YEP gathered at Fortune Restaurant, San Fernando, Pampanga not only to celebrate their achievements and growth as an organization, but also to talk about business, as usual. The event was titled “The Best Businesses to Invest on in the Next Ten Years”. The highlight of the celebration was the keynote address by the renowned Harvard economist, Dr. Bernardo Villegas, who was brought to the event by Universitas, as part of its partnership with YEP.

Having a long experience as an economics professor at universities here and abroad, and as a consultant to various companies, Dr. Villegas’ talk shifted back and forth from the theoretical to the practical, from economics to business. He started by commending the young entrepreneurs for starting at such an early stage of their lives. He talked about how fortunate this generation is, especially for those who are into the business industry, because they will be the ones to witness and enjoy the fruits of the country’s transition from Third World to First World that is forecasted to happen in the next twenty to thirty years. This prospect is even more advantageous for entrepreneurs in Pampanga because it is going to be one of the major areas of development in the next coming years, i.e., the so-called Pampanga Growth Triangle.

As an advice to the young entrepreneurs, he called them to think global. He meant for them to aim high, to aspire for great endeavours, and to know what is going on out there, to be aware of the opportunities, as well as the threats, for the variety of ventures available. In today’s world, no one can escape the impact of globalization. One has to go beyond parochial outlook, for there will always be big businesses out there that will come to dominate the field and eat the small ones. 

To do this, he advised them to read! To have an idea on how globalization works he suggested reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (2005). But more importantly, an entrepreneur should always be up to date, and should make decisions based on empirical data, as oppose to gut feel. He recommended reading Financial Times as it offers, according to him, credible, accurate, and unbiased picture of what is happening in the business world. 

When all is said and done, however, he mentioned two traits that every entrepreneur must have: innovativeness and willingness to take risks. Without them one will not survive in the competitive arena.

After presenting the economic landscape and the good business prospects in the Philippines, Dr. Villegas suggested venturing in industries where Filipinos have cultural and geographical advantage. He named Food and Beverage as well as Bed and Breakfast as the leading ones. 

As a country, he also mentioned two strengths that could bring rapid economic growth. One is our agricultural potential. He encouraged the young entrepreneurs to consider venturing into this industry, especially that the region has a very productive agribusiness backyard (e.g. Nueva Ecija). He recommended investing in high value crops as they are more lucrative for exportation in the market. This would also be a great help for the families of the farmers. 

Another strength that he mentioned was the large population of the Philippines. He mentioned how a lot of developed countries are now suffering from lack of labor force because they stopped making babies in the past – they underwent what the experts call demographic suicide. Because of this, he encouraged the young entrepreneurs to have babies and even suggested half-jokingly that each should have at least three (3) children as they will be the drivers of economic development.    

Dr. Villegas concluded his talk by going back to the idea that businesses exist to promote the common good and encouraged the organization to support local and national policies that are geared towards the good of everyone even though they may not be profitable. 

The program ended with some engaging questions from the young entrepreneurs. It was attended by 35 participants.

NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.

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