Perspective: Looking at it from a different shoulder

Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

JOHNNY, a food entrepreneur came to me with a question: “How can I compete with local big names like Jollibee, Mang Inasal, or Chowking?” For more than seven years, the company had been fighting fiercely without much success against these homegrown giants for a portion of the fast food industry.

Now, hold on to that until this story: Two fellows were bass fishing out on a lake, side by side in a boat. Tony was getting all the fish, while Mario had nary a nibble. After watching Tony pull in a big hoard, he finally got exasperated and said: “I don’t understand what’s happening here. We are sitting in the same boat, on the same lake, using the same kind of pole, the same kind of bait, and yet you’re getting it all.”

Tony smiled and said: “Well, my bait has a plus factor.” So Mario looked in his buddy’s bait pail and noticed the earthworms were moving around with a great deal of enthusiasm than his own. He investigated more closely and realized that his friend had poured some brandy that gave the minnows a good dose of spirit.

Mario got one sample and tied it to his line and threw it in right away. Immediately, he had a strike against a five-pound fish. The poor bass didn’t have a chance. What’s the lesson of the story? My nosy, 75-year-old neighbor says: “Work is for those who don’t know how to fish!” It’s a joke, but imagine how people could have a different perspective out of what seems like a ho-hum, made-up story. Tim Burton is right: “One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.”

But why can’t entrepreneur Johnny do it without putting brandy, MSG or opium to the food he’s selling? Your guess is as good as mine, except that I’ve a sophisticated and well-informed conjecture. He can’t understand it from another perspective.

There are many probable answers that Johnny can take. One is from innovation guru Clayton Christensen who advocates “compete against non-consumption” or anything that enables a larger population of people who previously lacked the money or skill to begin buying your product or service.

A similar strategy is the “blue ocean” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, who are betting you can win over competition by making them irrelevant. Another is C. K. Prahalad’s prescription of targeting the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Whatever name or buzzword (or road) you take, the trick is how to make your business different from the rest.

Now, how about putting up a buffet restaurant for indigents, so they can taste a bit of luxury and pig it out for P99? There are two related buzzwords on this — social entrepreneurship and target pricing.

That’s doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. After all, it’s not rocket science. Take the Japanese cubic watermelon being sold at a premium price of about US$100 a piece. How do they do it? Japanese farmers use scrap wooden template boxes to shape an ordinary melon into any geometric shape they want.

It’s one simple, practical, and low-cost Kaizen idea.

In the local scene, the bibingka (rice cake) has taken the same route by morphing into several pieces to become Bibingkinitan™ (small rice cakes). And in case you haven’t noticed it on Facebook, the pandesal (morning bread) has been transformed to become kambal-pandesal (twin bread).

Let’s wait until we hear them go big-time.

Go ahead. Do your own thing. Dance the night away and let people think you’re crazy. That’s all right. They don’t hear the music, anyway. The list can be endless if you only know how to have a different perspective. Genius has limits. Stupidity does not. You only have to become stupid at one time. If the idea of a P99 buffet meal is not successful, then change course right away. I wrote this piece Sunday morning, several hours before attending mass. What if a priest gave each of his parishioners a gift certificate worth hours of free advice?

Rey Elbo is a business consultant on human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random thoughts.


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