The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2019 has concluded its search for the country’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc. with the participation of co-presenters Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. In the next few weeks, BusinessWorld will feature each of the finalists for the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2019.

Sindulfo L. Sumagang
Oneworld Alliance Logistics Corp.

Sindulfo “Etchin” Sumagang has his roots in accounting, but his entrepreneurial journey has proven his mettle as a businessman.

He persevered in growing his family’s small customs brokerage company, which has become one of the country’s preferred logistics firms.

Mr. Sumagang graduated from Siliman University with a degree in accounting. He is a CPA. He pursued the Executive MBA program at Hult International Business School, then took Advanced Studies in Business Law and Taxation at the University of Toronto.

He honed his entrepreneurial skills under the mentorship of some of the country’s top business leaders when he worked for the management team of a top conglomerate and a land development company.

However his transformation as an entrepreneur started when Mr. Sumagang belatedly found out that his family had invested P2 million in a customs brokerage company that went bankrupt. He was told that the only asset remaining with the company was a truck worth P200,000.

Mr. Sumagang assessed the company’s situation and volunteered himself as president and chairman, since his family had the much larger investment. He carefully put in more money over six months. He also hired a general manager and operations manager to run the business.

Right after he hired these people, the original owners of the company unexpectedly called Mr. Sumagang for a stockholders meeting. To his surprise, the company’s other stakeholders said they were buying him out and presented him with a check for his principal and the additional capital he had invested.

With his money back and two capable employees on board, Mr. Sumagang decided to turn the unexpected development into an opportunity. This led to him to set up in 2003 his own customs brokerage company called Oneworld Alliance Logistics Corp. (OALC).

OALC started as a low-volume customs brokerage managed by Mr. Sumagang’s wife and his sister-in-law. He served as nominal chairman and was not involved in the day-to-day operations.

This changed in 2014 when the company was sued by a large, US-based airline that insisted OALC cease operations due to alleged name infringement.

While the names were similar, Mr. Sumagang recounted that the airline had a weak case as it had limited brand presence in the Philippines. This meant that despite the similar name, the airline had a weaker claim to its intellectual right.

Mr. Sumagang and his family decided to fight the case, but on the condition that Mr. Sumagang assumed the presidency. “Kung lalaban tayo, ako na presidente. Pag ikaw makulong,” (If we will fight, let me be president, because what if you were the one to be imprisoned if we were to lose?) Mr. Sumagang reminisces on a conversation with his wife, “Kawawa naman mga anak natin! (I pity our children).”

Fortunately, before the Intellectual Property Office could issue a ruling, the airline company agreed to an amicable settlement.

Upon assuming the company’s leadership, Mr. Sumagang decided to focus on growth and expand OALC into a full logistics company.

As a small player, he knew that his company couldn’t compete with bigger logistics counterparts in terms of scale.

Instead of relying on additional equity, OALC focused on winning clients in three niches: large domestic companies importing raw materials and exporting finished products, international traders carrying international brands, and large multinational logistics companies with shipments to and from the Philippines.

According to Mr. Sumagang, these groups tend to correctly declare the values of their goods with the Bureau of Customs and follow proper procedures. By focusing on clients with the same values and ethical standards, OALC managed to grow and become one of the top five custom brokerage companies in Manila for four consecutive years. OALC also became one of the firms that the Bureau of Customs entrusts with sensitive shipments.

Under his leadership, OALC expanded to become a total logistics provider servicing local and international clients. Its services range from international and local forwarding, warehousing, and trucking to customs brokerage and other related logistics services for importers and exporters.

Mr. Sumagang implemented internal changes in benefits to help ensure that his people’s contributions are properly recognized. He claims to provide his people with better benefits, including work and leisure travel, a non-contributory retirement fund, car plans, health and life insurance and bonuses, which have helped OALC achieve 95% people retention and a reputation as one of the most sought-after employers in the logistics industry.

In addition to ensuring proper procedures and compliance at all times, OALC also set itself apart in the competitive logistics industry by providing enhanced service speed. The company takes pride in exceeding industry service standards, such as completing in only two days what other companies need more than five days to accomplish. He achieved this and other efficiencies by forming dedicated teams within OALC that address specific client needs and manage processing times. He also implemented a three-level cargo monitoring system (operations-finance-sales) to ensure fast processing and counterchecking through every area wherein their cargo transits. In addition, OALC outsources its trucking requirements to reduce the possibility of delays. They work with over 20 trucking companies, with a combined fleet of over 500 trucks, to ensure a faster turnaround time for their clients.

Considered a maven in his field, Mr. Sumagang’s foresight allows him to prepare for future transitions in the logistics industry. An example is his expectation that the World Trade Organization will impose the single window policy upon the Philippines within a decade. This policy, which has been adopted in other countries, will allow parties involved in trade and transport to submit standardized information and documents through a single-entry point to fulfill all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements. In anticipation of this policy, Mr. Sumagang said that OALC is gearing up to maintain its competitive edge when it happens.

He also understands the impact of digital and other technologies on all industries. He claims that OALC has pioneered the adoption of technology in the industry by being the only local logistics company implementing advanced CRM tools that are further customized to handle its finance needs and eventually, automate its business processes.

Looking back at his entrepreneurial journey, Mr. Sumagang is grateful to his mentors for lessons he learned in the past, crediting them for molding him and teaching him the valuable lesson he now imparts to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Focus on your goal. Be the best at it, and success will follow.”

The official airline of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2019 is Philippine Airlines. Media sponsors are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. Banquet sponsor is Uratex.

The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2019 will be announced on 15 October 2019 in an awards banquet at the Makati Shangri-La hotel.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2020. The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is produced globally by Ernst & Young (EY).