The pioneer is also a loyalist
ARTHUR BALMADRID still vividly recalls the first days he was with Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) where he was one of the pioneer employees. Since IPC was starting operations in 1996, its first staff had to work beyond eight hours a day, six days a week.
“You know the Japanese expats, typically they are hard workers, workaholics,” said Balmadrid, currently the senior vice president for the Sales Division of IPC.
Since Balmadrid was among the top-ranked executives in IPC when it was starting its operations in the Philippines, he also had to set the example for the company’s rank and file.
“What I got taste of is first in last out. Since you have to show to your people so they will emulate you, you have to be the first to come to the office and the last to go home. So you to set the example even if you are one of the management executives,” Balmadrid said.
He recalled there were days during the first two years of IPC that he and the other top executives had to work up to 11 pm.
“Especially during the first two years, our end of work is 5:45 pm, but usually we have lots of things to do during the first few years of operations, because we had to establish everything like policies. So I really experienced the hardships [during the first two years],” Balmadrid said.
INTO THE CAR INDUSTRY
Although Balmadrid is one of the pioneers of IPC, his first job out of college had little to do with cars or even the motoring industry. After obtaining his engineering degree from the University of Santo Tomas, Balmadrid joined the marketing department of Engineering Equipment Inc. (EEI) in 1978.
Under the marketing department, Balmadrid helped sell EEI’s products that included heavy equipment and transport.
“I worked there [EEI] for 11 years. I left EEI as product manager. I had the chance [to work abroad]at the time and Saudi [Arabia] was available. In my case, I preferred working here [in the Philippines],” he said.
Balmadrid then joined Columbian Motor Sales Corporation as general sales manager. That company is a dealership of Columbian Motors Corporation and sold Nissan diesel trucks.
Although he was new to the automotive industry, he said he was able to learn about the industry in less than six months.
“I got a clearer picture of what the auto industry is in the Philippines. As I went along, you will encounter all areas of the industry. You have to know everything as quickly as possible. It took me not too long [to learn], maybe less than six months,” Balmadrid said.
But it was at IPC where he was able to widen his knowledge on the Philippine vehicle industry. Also, IPC was aiming to become a manufacturer of vehicles and the company was just starting its operations in the Philippines.
“I was asked if I would like to join Isuzu [Philippines]. Of course, I accepted. It’s another big challenge. That was 1996. This time [I was joining a manufacturer] not just a dealership,” Balmadrid said.
“Actually what widened my knowledge in the industry was when I joined Isuzu Philippines. I saw the ins and outs of the industry because when I was at Isuzu I had the chance to participate in all kinds, different types of meetings. I had to join government meetings, dealers’ meetings and even manufacturers’ meetings,” he said.
Balmadrid’s first position at IPC was head of the Fleet Sales Department that was part of the company’s marketing group. But since IPC was a start-up company in the Philippines when he first joined it, he was actually tasked to put up the Fleet Sales Department.
“That’s how I started. They hired me to put up a Fleet Sales Department,” he said.
Eventually, the Fleet Sales Department evolved into the Corporate Business Division that Balmadrid was also tasked to head.
“We called it the Corporate Business Division [and]I was the division head. It included all corporate-related activities like public relations or PR. It also included corporate sales. All corporate activities fall under this division including government relations where a group handles all government-related policies that Isuzu should comply with,” he said.
All the hard work Balmadrid and his colleagues invested in IPC eventually paid off because the company is now the leader in the commercial vehicle market in the Philippines.
The company has more than a 50-percent share in the commercial vehicle market. Its share in the light-duty truck segment is more than 60 percent and at least 50 percent in the medium category. For the heavy-duty or ten-wheeler trucks, IPC has cornered a 35- to 40-percent market share where the competing brands are Hino and MAN, among others.
When it comes to pick-ups, the all-new D-Max is among the top five in the market while there is a long waiting list for the Mu-X. What makes the D-Max unique among pick-ups sold in the market, however, is it is the only one in its segment assembled in the Philippines. Only the Mu-X is imported fully built-up by IPC.
“For Mu-X we are targeting to sell 6,000 units, but we can exceed the 6,000 units at the rate we are going,” Balmadrid said.
“In pick-ups, we are at the top 5. It’s [D-Max] the only locally-produced pick-up while the rest are imported. We still prefer to locally produce it to help in [providing]local employment. We would not like to give it up [in the assembly line],” he added.
The greatest performer in the IPC line-up is still the Crosswind that accounts for about 40 percent of the company’s sales. Like other vehicles in the company’s line-up, the Crosswind is known for its reliability and durability.
“That is a given fact with our vehicles, that of being durable and reliable. The best selling point of our vehicles, however, is the fuel economy, their fuel efficiency. That is one reason the resale value of Isuzu vehicles is high. If you buy an Isuzu, you don’t worry about reselling it afterward because you can immediately resell it at a very reasonable price,” Balmadrid said.
IPC also has a streamlined organization with three divisions: Administration; Manufacturing and Sales. Balmadrid heads the Sales Division as senior vice president.
“The Sales Division handles sales, parts, service, product development, marketing, government relations group, customer relations team, PR and advertising and all corporate events and activities,” he said.
“Actually, I have handled most of them [functions under Sales Division],” Balmadrid added.
With IPC’s dominance in the commercial vehicle segment, its top executives need not go home hours after the company’s official time out of 5:45 pm. Also in 1999, IPC compressed its six days of work into five days, which gave the company’s officers and rank and file two days off during weekends.
“It’s smooth sailing and normal now [for our operations], but we don’t leave the office at 5:45 [pm]. We stay a little longer, 6:30 up to 7:00 [pm]to discuss what happened on that day and what are the plans for tomorrow,” Balmadrid said.
Also because of the IPC’s five-day workweek, its executives, including the Japanese expats, can play golf during the weekends particularly during Saturdays.
Balmadrid has been with IPC for 19 years and seems bent on staying with the company. He even admitted that at least three major companies, including a multinational, had offered him senior executive level positions in the past but he declined.
He said he does not want to leave IPC because he was among those who invested a lot of effort in helping establish the company.
“First and foremost, you have seen how it started and how it grew. It’s really very hard to leave the company, because for the first few years there, you really had to give more extra effort, extra time,” Balmadrid added.
“And as they say, once an Isuzu guy, always an Isuzu guy,” he said.