Ronald Mascariñas is the President and CEO of Bounty Agro Ventures. Aside from launching Chooks-to-Go and Uling Roasters, now the dominant cooked chicken brands in the Philippines with over 2,000 take-out stores, Bounty has launched HeiHei, Chooks! dine-in restaurant, and made their products available through an omnichannel strategy. He and his team innovated on Bounty’s business model from being a poultry integrator to being the biggest cooked chicken retailer in the Philippines in order to address import liberalization, shrinking margins, rising operating costs, high bargaining power of major fast food chains and supermarket groups, and commoditization. Ronald is also a recipient of the 2nd Mansmith Innovation Awards. In this interview, he shares about innovating amidst crisis.
Q1: Seeing your massive success today, what are your biggest learnings from a failed pilot test and failed buy-in of the salesforce of your initiatives when you initially innovated on your business model in 2007?
A1: Managing change was the most difficult part in our major pivot to the rotisserie business from the traditional poultry integrated business selling dressed chicken especially at a time when the traditional business was doing fine. It took 100 highly successful and profitable stores for the organization to finally realize that we are heading in the right direction and embrace the shift. It is very important to accept that people will naturally resist change and it is the responsibility of leaders to relentlessly pursue it by improving the picture of the future. A vivid picture of the future is not as powerful though compared to seeing actual positive results which drives momentum.
Q2: During the first ECQ in 2020, you were able to launch over 100 rolling stores in a week’s time when consumers started working from home. How does an organization like yours create strategic agility and speed?
A2: We take care of our chicken but we take care of our people even more. We spend close to average of 6 months salary for the professional and personal development of our people, employee engagement programs and CSR activities that make them feel proud of their company. We give credit to our consultants from the Investors in People who advise us on how to improve our people management practices based on the best practices of the top companies in the world. The primary objective is to create a culture that employees behave like owners and treat the company as their own and therefore “nagmamalasakit.”
The creation of rolling stores came out naturally and strictly on voluntary basis. Everybody saw that communities on lockdown didn’t have access to food because public transport was suspended. The opportunity to serve was first on our minds but it turned out that people were willing to pay at any price, what was more important at that time was availability of food. We were able to sell at a premium and kept the business afloat. The spirit of volunteerism was in full display at that time and that was because employees treated their company as their own and therefore nagmamalasakit despite the real threat of contracting the virus.
Q3: Aside from rotisserie, Chooks-To-Go stores also sell dressed chicken and you have launched HeiHei crispy fried chicken and sandwich at the height of the pandemic. What’s the strategic role of HeiHei, and the fried products it carries?
A3: The product offerings of our rotisserie stores are mainly for lunch and dinner. HeiHei which was imbedded inside existing Chooks-to-Go stores were snack offerings outside lunch and dinner.
Q4: Your value chain keeps extending. What made you open Chooks! the new dine-in restaurant? How many do you plan to open? How do you mitigate risk?
A4: We are nearing saturation point for new rotisserie stores that we can open across the country. The restaurant business is a natural next step for us given the experience gained in running rotisserie stores and our competitive advantage of having processing plants and good talent across the country.
Q5: You have thousands of community dealers, recruited when the unemployment in the Philippines was at its highest. But as an omnichannel player, what are typical channel issues you need to address?
A5: Creation of the Community Reseller trade channel was possible and relatively easy because of the massive unemployment brought about by the pandemic. I don’t think we could have created that under normal circumstances. Many tried that as well but were not able to sustain it because of the high cost of logistics. We had a natural advantage because of our store infrastructure across the country. Resellers order online from their designated Business Center and they pick-up stocks from a designated rotisserie store. Stocks intended for Resellers were co-loaded with deliveries for our rotisserie stores.
Continuing recruitment of Resellers was through my personal FB page which has over 1.6 million followers. My FB social media page created and sustained the Reseller business. My followers in the sports community and various CSR activities became our Resellers.
Q6: Bounty has proven itself as a market leader in its industry that thrives in crisis. What’s next for Chooks To Go and Heihei in innovation?
A6: We see gaps in the Fastfood landscape in the Philippines. Watch us fill those gaps and hopefully build another robust business in the coming years.
Josiah Go is chair and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. The 2nd Mansmith Innovation Awards and Summit can be viewed for free for a limited period via www.continuum-edu.com