It could be a leap of faith. Yu Ming Chin explains that putting up a business in the Philippines certainly was not the first thing on his mind when he stepped out of the plane to visit the country. A Malaysian by citizenship, Yu says he first came to the country more than a decade ago to help with a religious undertaking. He eventually became professor for 12 years at the institution that was known then as the Center for Research and Communication (CRC). He helped transform it to become the University of the Asia & the Pacific, where he was also in charge of the school’s IT program. It was also then when he saw another opportunity to help people, this time to look for jobs.
Yu is the founder and executive director of Viventis Search Asia, an executive search and human capital consulting company. The company has practice areas for corporate officer (C-Level searches), consumer markets, telecommunications and wireless services, call center and outsourcing, information technology, and financial services industries. Their searches range from senior-level or middle-level management, but they also conduct specialized searches as well. Viventis started its operations in August 2001. Through the years, it has developed credentials that include a list of top-level and strategic successful placements spread across various top multinational and local clients in Southeast Asia, South China, India, USA and Europe.
Yu says the company serves a wide range of industries, and apart from the Philippines, currently has branches in Jakarta, Singapore and Malaysia. They also have existing tie-ups with partner organizations in Vietnam, China and Thailand.
In a nutshell, he says “Viventis is all about helping people with new career options and new career directions.” He adds, it is also about understanding clients’ expectations and more importantly, matching the clients’ expectations with potential candidates. For some, Yu says the work they do may look easy enough, but he says more than just filling a gap, it is more about finding the perfect match. He elaborates further saying, “the complexity in doing this is like match-making, and being a commercial business, the expectations are very high.” This is why he says his business was built on reputation and successful track record for the company.
After 13 years in the business, Yu names the industries which he saw performed exceptionally well compared with the others. Apart from the business process outsourcing and call center industries, he says it is the “consumer-centric” sector, including retail, that is now riding on growth in the BPO. Specifically, he mentioned fashion and food. “Retail is gonna be very big because of growth in disposable income and, more importantly, a higher level of urbanization. This is why you see the sprouting of global brands locally, especially in recent years.” Yu says this means the country is now moving to a highly progressive, middle-income stage, where the spending power of people has remarkably picked up.
In looking at the industry where he belongs, Yu says, “the executive search market in the Philippines is very developed. It has few foreign global players, and probably that is because the market here is highly competitive, but very fragmented.” Asked to explain further, he says the country has “small job shops or the ‘mom & pop’ type of firms which former human resources career officers decide to put up on their own,” and there are also “manpower agencies that are trying to go into the executive search business, and that’s what makes it fragmented.” As for competitiveness, he explains that in the proper context, executive search is run like a professional service, like a project manager type, where a retainer fee is paid regardless of whether a match for the client is found or not. In the Philippines, as well as in some parts of Asia, “it is all-or-nothing,” he says.
What sets them apart from the rest, he says, is their vision and goal to be a market leader from the company’s inception. “We have developed strategic client value propositions and the three basic foundations that we incorporated, which are velocity, quality (of candidate) and intensity.
Yu says over the years, he has seen the rise of new positions being sought out. In particular, apart from CEOs, CFOs and CTOs (chief technology officer), he has seen a significant rise in companies looking for chief strategy officers (CSO). This is a position that has evolved from a corporate planning role, and whose definition now is one who sets direction and guidance, someone who can help the organization check expansion potentials and go into new industries that may be relevant to organizations or even nation-building. He cites a major Philippine conglomerate as an example, where the CSO has opened up a business into other industries where the group would traditionally have gone into, a few years back.
Nowadays, despite the stiff competition, Yu says he is very much excited at the aggressive growth seen in Philippine industries, because this means more and better jobs on the market. He also values the professional and personal friendships he has built with heads and owners of large and medium-scale businesses through the years. And as he reveals during the interview, he says the word “Viventis” was chosen from a reading on Easter midnight mass, which means “living.” At that time, Yu says, he was thinking of an appropriate business name for a company that helps people with new career options. He may have left his original ministry when he first came here, but by his work it seems he has never really abandoned his mission—to help people find new direction by opening new doors for them.