The man behind the success of Mang Inasal: Edgar “Injap” Sia
How Edgar “Injap” Sia started on his way to a big hit success
Born to second-generation Chinese- Japanese-Filipino parents, Sia grew up in Roxas City in Capiz, a small town 280 miles south of Manila. His parents ran a grocery store where Sia worked on weekends as a cashier from the age of 10. He went to the University of St. Agustin in nearby Iloilo City to study architecture but dropped out one year short of graduating. “My mind was always somewhere else,” he admits.
His wandering mind got fixated on starting his own venture. In quick succession, he opened an express photo shop and a Laundromat. He then took a bank loan to set up a small budget hotel. But broader ambitions of going beyond his provincial roots got him thinking again. Along came the offer to rent a corner in an upcoming food hall. “The overhead at the time was low so it wasn’t that risky,” he says.
As a frequent customer of McDonald’s and KFC, Sia knew what he’d been missing in the fast-food scene. Sia think of something to offer that other fast food store doesn’t have and that is Filipino-style street fare served in a restaurant-type setting.
Before long customers were lining up outside Mang Inasal as word spread quickly through Iloilo City a
bout Sia’s new eatery. Its charcoal-grilled chicken served with rice wrapped in a banana leaf wasn’t like anything on the menus of McDonald’s, KFC or even Jollibee, the local burger chain. The flavours were distinctively Filipino, as was the earthy décor with wooden tables, handmade paper lamps and walls painted in orange, green and yellow.
During Mang Inasal’s first few days of operations, there were so many customers that Sia himself had to help with the cooking, cleaning, serving and other tasks in the restaurant during the day. Afterwards, he had to work at home, marinating the chicken to be cooked and served at the restaurant the following day. Sia realized that running a restaurant was no easy task, and he contemplated giving up altogether. However, his belief in the promise of the concept kept him going.
It’s not surprising then that Sia should say that the key to his success are hard work and a good work ethic. His parents immersed him in these values, he says, when they made him help at the family’s supermarket at a young age. This was also when his eyes were opened to entrepreneurship, he recalls.
When Inasal was opened for franchising in 2005, the company rapidly expanded a complete surprise for Sia. It got to a point, he says, that he was going to four cities a day and flying every other day. The core of this early expansion was the Visayas and Mindanao where people were more familiar with Inasal. To help him with his expansion efforts, he joined the Philippine Franchise Association and the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc., the country’s biggest franchise organizations.
“We really wanted to create a new category in this business, one that wasn’t influenced by American food,” says Sia, 34, who’s often referred to by his nickname, Injap.
Sia’s eight-year-old barbecue chain, with 380 outlets, has even overtaken McDonald’s. And it has lately put him on the road to riches. “Mang Inasal was gaining ground and becoming a competitor to Jollibee. It made sense to acquire it,” says Lovell Sarreal, a consumer sector analyst who tracks Jollibee at ATR KimEng Securities, a brokerage firm in Manila.
As for Sia, he admits that butting heads with giant competitors wasn’t conducive to his chain’s long-term future. “How long can an 8-year-old win against a 30-year-old?” he argues, referring to the older Jollibee. He insists that being part of a bigger fold will boost Mang Inasal’s fortunes: “Jollibee’s operational know-how and our entrepreneurial energy is an unbeatable combination.
Mang Inasal, which means “Mr. Barbecue” in the local Ilonggo dialect of the western Visayas region, from where Sia hails, almost missed out on its name. When he tapped his father for the $65,000 capital he needed, the elder Sia agreed to the loan but shot down the name, saying it had too many letters. Jollibee and Chowking, the country’s biggest chains, had eight letters, an auspicious number, while Mang Inasal had ten. Stumped, Sia hung up but quickly called his father back; Banco de Oro, the Philippines’ largest bank, also had ten characters and was doing well.
Mang Inasal’s 2006 debut in Manila was awkwardly timed as it was in the midst of a rice shortage in the country. Sia’s response was to offer a value meal of grilled chicken and unlimited rice for the equivalent of $2. This had already become an instant hit in Iloilo and Manila’s budget-conscious crowd took to it, too. The “all-you-can-eat campaign”, which was supposed to last two months, became a permanent item on the menu. Today, Sia says, it’s their most popular product. Manila alone has over 100 Mang Inasal outlets; 200,000 customers are served daily nationwide.
Aiming to make his chain a national brand, Sia hit the road. He spent a year visiting over 70 cities in all. “Today if we want to expand somewhere, I can say I’ve been there,” he says. (Mang Inasal is present in 68 cities.)
Years ago, Injap partnered with potato chips king Carlos Chan for the Indonesian donut brand, J. Co. which has now 19 outlets in the Philippines. Ten more JCo outlets are planned this year. On his own, Injap keeps nurturing his Lapaz Batchoy chain of eateries. Don Carlos is the majority owner of another joint venture with Edgar Sia—the Hotel 101 chain of business hotels.
These days, Sia is setting his sights in a big way on the property market. He recently put up Double Dragon Properties, partnering with Jollibee’s Tony Tan Caktiong. His vision, he said, is to put up at least 100 community malls all over the country under the brand CityMalls. To further raise capital for this ambitious venture, he had his company listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange.
“Work hard. Keep innovating. Keep a lookout for opportunities. Strategize and look at the big picture. Have the right attitude.”
He said the entrepreneurs should have a can-do, never-give-up attitude. You need to think that problems could be solved. “When there is a will, there is a way.” Edgar “Injap” Sia II
Source:Rappler/Lala Rimando & Business News Philippines
Author: Angelene Vergel