Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Entrepreneurship - Manila Style

One can't help but wonder how do the people in Manila survive?

The local currency compared to the dollar is miniscule.  For example a cab ride is 50 pesos, that's about $1 US! Can you believe that? In Manila, they don't have the dollar menu, they have the 50 cents menu!!! That's wild! For 25 pesos you can get a hamburger, sundae and some other stuff. I didn't go inside, I just looked at the ad. How are they surviving? Well, in Manila the people are hungry! Literally on some levels, but I really mean this figruatively.

The people in the U.S. and Japan have grown soft. We have food on the table, we can pay our bills, late, but we can pay them.  We have allowed places like the government to take care of so many of our needs that we have forgotten what it means to fly by the seat of your pants.

I'm from Gary, Indiana. The land of U.S.X. Steel! The home of the Jackson's! When the Jackson's started, they were hungry! Joe had them singing at every talent show, festival, stoop, titty bar between Gary and California.  Well, I can see that same hunger on the streets of Manila. People have set up shops selling nuts, meat on a stick, and tons of other things. In the states, especially if you lived on the Southside of Chicago or frequented 25th Ave in Gary, you are pretty used to seeing guys sell socks, belts and incense. But have you ever seen anyone sell steering wheel covers? Nope, didn't think so! These are examples of street hustling businesses. We all may know someone who does that, but when you are here, you'll meet at least a third of the population that's doing it.

Another example of entrepreneurship is something that must happen in a lot of developing countries. You don't see it too often in the states unless you live in Brooklyn, NY.  That's the dollar van. When I lived in New York, you could catch a dollar van instead of the city bus. The van would ride by with a driver and a handler. The handler would flag you down and help you hop on board the van. I was surprised to see that type of thing going on when I lived in NY. However, it's alive and well out here in Manila. For less than 10 cents you can hop on a jeepney and go from one part of the city to another. A jeepney is a cross between an elongated jeep and a taxi. You don't have to wait for long because the vans fill up rather quickly. 

These jeepney's got me to thinking. What's stopping people from Gary or Chicago from starting their own renegade bus service?  We all know that the services is unreliable and inconsistent.  Especially in Gary, if you need to catch the city bus you can forget it. It takes about 1-2 hours for one to come by and when it does, it doesn't even try to stop.  The busses have low ridership because they aren't convenient. However, if you had a dollar van  riding through the city taking passengers to Southlake Mall, WalMart, and other parts of Munster you could be in business.

I think we have forgotten what it means to be really hungry. How do we grab even the smallest opportunity?

In order to be an entreprenuer you have to have hunger! You have to keep smelling that cooked dinner in order to survive. You have to keep thinking of ways to make a difference. More importantly, sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to figure things out!

Let's eat!


uzoma said...

In the States, people often stick their nose in the air at people who they don't view as having a "legitimate" business. The street hustlers get little or no love from many in their own community. Somehow, having a fixed location (with the high rent and extra overhead expenses that go with it) gives many here in America the idea that the products and services are superior. I cannot tell you how many times while I was living in Chicago, that I saw people hustling selling socks and towels, bottled water, etc., yet some high-falutin' snob dismissed their enterprise as insignificant.

As far as I am concerned, these entrepreneurs are the smartest out there because at the end of the day, they go where the needs of the people are and serve them there.

Maybe that's the real issue, folks don't want to work and live among the people. Better to sit in your ivory tower and signify about how they are out of touch with the "mainstream" of society.

Forget mainstream, get the money, and serve the people.

Dave Yaros said...

Being from Gary, IN (as I also am) you may have in interest in the offerings on the Dave's Den web site. A lot of "Steel City" info there!

Dollar Van Demos said...

here's something you should try in Manila: music videos in the jeepney. This is how we do it in Brooklyn http://www.dollarvandemos.com

good job on your cool blog!