• Beyond Cars and the Philippines

    Joseph Hong, managing director for Robert Bosch Inc. Philippines and Thailand. PHOTO BY EDWIN MULI

    Joseph Hong, managing director for Robert Bosch Inc. Philippines and Thailand. PHOTO BY EDWIN MULI

    Walking into the company’s conference room, Joseph Hong is a picture of cool composure. As he greets us with a smile and a firm handshake, one will never guess that this chief executive officer (CEO) had actually just gotten back from an overseas trip on official business. Without skipping a beat, he gets right into the matter on hand, as if he never left. Joseph Hong is the managing director for Robert Bosch Inc. Philippines and Thailand, an international company with a recognizable brand more commonly known simply as Bosch.

    For many, being the country manager for one of the world’s largest private companies may seem like a daunting task. But in reality, Hong says it’s all about collaboration. The point is to get things moving, he said, which means being able to effectively communicate the strategy and vision, and making sure everyone is moving together in the right direction. It does seem simple enough, but when one takes in the fact that the company is present in over 150 countries, then moving together involves an almost herculean task.

    Bosch Philippines is part of the huge German conglomerate Robert Bosch GmbH, or Bosch. It is a German multinational engineering and electronics company whose headquarters is in Gerlingen, near Stuttgart, Germany. The company is currently the world’s largest supplier of automotive components. Its core products are automotive components, including brakes, controls, electrical drives, fuel systems, and the like. They are heavily into industrial products such as drives and controls, packaging technology and consumer goods, and even building products which include household appliances, power tools, security systems, and “thermotechnology.” The company is also best known as one of the first companies in the world to implement the use of “soft robots” in its factories.

    In the Philippines, Hong explains how Bosch is also at the forefront of supplying the most reliable products that form part of what Filipinos use in their everyday lives. “Here, we are active in the automotive aftermarket supplying products ranging from spark plugs, products in the diesel injection systems, batteries, rubber blades and wipers, and brake pads.” He added that they also sell “a very comprehensive line of automotive diagnostic equipment, which is now widely used to diagnose and repair the vehicles today.” Hong explained these equipment addresses the newer types of cars produced today, which are more electronic, and repairing them would entail the right scanners and softwares to interface with the electronic control unit or ECU of the car.

    Hong said that they also have this workshop concept called the “Bosch Service,” which he explained is a concept where if one joins the network, it ensures that certain standards are followed, training is provided, and customers can expect a certain level of quality assurance when they bring their cars for repair. At present, they have around 30 workshop centers nationwide and their goal is to keep expanding. Hong said that they also recently did a tie-up with Chevron (Caltex), where they put their workshop in one of the Caltex stations and the feedback had been very good, and they have both agreed to expand this concept to the other Caltex stations.

    Beyond cars
    More than cars, however, Bosch is also very much popular among consumers for power tools, both for the commercial and the DIY (do-it-yourself) market. Their other divisions here include the security division, where they sell a wide range of security systems products from fire alarms to CCTV (closed circuit television) systems, which Hong noted is getting more popular these days, and the sound systems, especially for concert halls, stadiums and even churches, that need a reliable and quality sound system.

    When Hong was appointed in 2010, one of his first projects was to open a Bosch communications center, riding on the coattails of the Philippines’ huge success in the business process outsourcing industry. “We are providing a mix of internal and external services to clients, and we project a strong growth in this area for the next years,” he added.

    Hong said that one of the mega trends Bosch has identified is what they call “the Internet of things and services,” where the key message is more and more of the things we use in our daily lives will be interconnected via the Internet. This, he said, opens up a lot of potential new business opportunities for them and they aim to be one of the biggest players in this field.

    Hong’s world is certainly as dynamic as huge companies go, but he said that he is somehow able to balance his numerous meetings, collaborations and travels to still make some time for his personal life. “I like to think of myself as a collaborative manager,” he said, and this enables him to empower his people and together they are able to do more. This has also enabled him to take on more tasks such as being in charge also of their Thailand business unit since October 2013. This year, he said that he will be concentrating much more on Thailand, and he looks forward to paving the way for his successor in the Philippines.

    As for his personal life, he said that despite the numerous travels, he tries to be back during the weekends, enjoys a round of golf with his friends whenever he can, and most recently has endeavored to learn the guitar as another way of relaxation. Most of the time on weekends that he is free, Hong said that he likes to simply read books and spend time with his family. He is currently busy and excited as he prepares to relocate his family with him to Thailand. His family doesn’t really mind the move he said, pointing out that this isn’t the first time. At the end of the day, home is where the heart is, and for him, this adage is true whether he is in Manila, or elsewhere.


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