A Korean missionary discovered a large flock of believers in the Philippines and a thriving market for innovative products and services in the early 1990s. She believes the country’s economic potential is so vast, even garbage in cities seem to offer ‘powerful’ opportunities.
Son Eun Kyoung became one of the first Korean entrepreneurs who established businesses here, long before the ‘Korean wave’ hit Philippine shores. Son, who is also known by the name Grace Jeong, is the president and chief executive of Rainbow Holdings Inc., a company which started as a travel agency and language training facility and later grew to become a trailblazer in the renewable energy sector.
“Actually, we were [Christian] missionaries when we first came to the Philippines. Then later on, we saw an opportunity to do business privately. We went through all the process and built our way up to be a fully incorporated Philippine corporation,” she says.
Grace has been serving as a missionary for more than two decades in the Philippines. In 2002, Grace who has a Master’s degree in Education Psychology from Kosin University, started working as the director of Han EOL Education Foundation Inc. based in Paranaque City.
She put up her own business, Hanbit Travel & Tour in Alabang, Muntinlupa City in 2004. The company was later renamed Rainbow International Business Center Inc.
From a travel agency, Rainbow Holdings now spans various businesses such as immigration liaison work, English language training, online education, business consulting, real estate consulting, trading, government project consulting and recently renewable energy technology marketing.
Rainbow Holdings has recently signed an agreement with REMCo Ltd., another Korean company, and the local government of Tacloban City, for a solid waste management plan for the typhoon-ravaged city.
The two South Korean companies are building Tacloban City’s first waste integrated management plant this year. The plant, the first of its kind in the country, will convert garbage into electricity for the use of Tacloban residents.
Solar plant donation
Initially, a multi-million-dollar solar energy harvesting facility donated by the Koreans will be constructed to provide the necessary electricity requirement for the construction of the solid waste resource recovery facility. The solar energy system can produce at least 1 megawatt of electricity, which is more than enough to power 1,000 households.
Meanwhile, the resource recovery system will process the city’s solid waste and convert them into power for the city, with no harmful by-products released to the environment. Both technologies are acceptable and compliant “green” systems based on the guidelines set by the Solid Waste Management Act.
Grace says she now sees Rainbow Holdings as a renewable energy technology provider, diversifying from its simple origin as a travel and tour company.
“We have gone through various fields and learned our way through the Philippine way of doing business. We started in the Philippines in 2004 as a travel and tour company. We later grew more in the travel industry, became a DOT accredited immigration liaison office, catered for exchange students, did online education and the likes. We also did real estate consulting, then did golf course and housing development, also bid for various Philippine government projects. And now we added renewable and alternative energy technologies in our profile,” she says.
She says from a service-oriented company that handled travel assistance, online education and real estate consultancy, Rainbow Holdings now aims to diversify into renewable energy. “We have various Korean-developed technologies that are highly efficient, globally accepted and internationally patented. These technologies have undergone and passed all Philippine test and accreditation requirements with the concerned agencies and we are proud to say that we have merited their approval and test results were very satisfactory,” she says.
Waste to fuel
Among these technologies are solar energy systems, waste-to-fuel or waste-to-energy technologies and other customizable hybrid systems. “Virtually anything in the field of renewable and alternative energy technologies available in Korea, we can bring in for the Philippines,” says Grace.
She says these technologies will help the economy, reduce the cost of power and create jobs for Filipinos. “Just imagine this, with the “green” technologies and projects we are bringing in, we can help provide a lot of local employment, provide alternative fuel, generate low-cost power and simultaneously address the perennial problem of waste management.”
Grace says Rainbow Holdings hurdled several challenges along the way before becoming what it is today. “Since our incorporation, as with all businesses, we had an uphill struggle, coping with all the bureaucracies, government compliance and product acceptance of the public. We can now proudly say that we have overcome those challenges and have learned how to address them,” she says.
Grace says the growth of Rainbow Holdings is guided by the principles of honesty, customer satisfaction, new business approaches, global thinking and a firm faith towards excellence. “These are our guiding principles, but of course there will be a lot of challenges. In transacting with government alone is very difficult, the challenge of dealing with corruptions, red tapes and politicians with vested interest in the projects,”
She says the company had to reject several projects. “We had to say no to many projects when we see these red flags. We need to stay focused and be an example to others that we can succeed in the midst of these challenges. We will rather do thing right and fair than just mere profit. We need to sow right seed to bear the right fruit – fruits that the next generation will enjoy. And yes, these are all possible,” she says.
“From a handful of staff from our different business groups, we have grown into as much as getting Korean experts to train Filipino staff with the technology transfer, up to training and employing personnel for the implementation of these multi-million-dollar projects. So, the numbers of current and incoming employees are now starting to build up even more as we implement the project sites. These projects will promote local employment and more business opportunities with the local entrepreneurs,” she says.
Grace says the plan is to grow the renewable business in the Philippines, which requires a long-term commitment. “Definitely, we are here to stay, with long-term partnerships. We are helping to build a good future for the next generation. We are at the moment preparing our partnerships with different groups in different areas. We have 10 projects in the pipeline all around the Philippines,” she says.
Such investments involve tens of millions of dollars. “”We are trying to bring in more investors and partners. Investment-wise, it may range from $20 million for simple 100-tonner facility up to $40 million for a 200-tonner facility per site. As a renewable technology provider, we work closely with the government, complying with all its regulations and its advocacies,” she says.
The technologies and products, all from Korea, are suitable for the Philippines, she says. “We work closely with the local businesses for anything we can locally source out. Only the Korean proprietary equipment will be coming from Korea to maintain the quality standards. We would like to cater to both private and LGUs but at the moment, out pilot projects will be more with the private groups. In general, we do deal with all sectors, since most landfills, MRFs and waste management companies are typically outsourced and run by the private sectors in parts. We also know that the mandate of waste management is with the LGUs, so we coordinate closely with them to be fully compliant with RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,” she says.
Leadership by example
Grace says as the head of Rainbow Holdings, she has to set an example for her staff to follow. “I am very focused. I stand by my words and my principles are not for sale. It is also important that everybody in the company must have the same philosophy. All must work together as a team – in harmony and a common goal,” she says.
She says while she spends of a lot of time meeting people and traveling, she makes sure weekend is family time. “There is no dull moment at work, but I do a lot of travels, meeting and continuous trainings. But there must always be balance. Work is work during the week, family for the weekend,” she says.
Grace says the company will have very hectic months ahead. “So far, we have numerous projects–real estate projects and government biddings and our renewable projects are now starting the next phases. We have done MOAs and groundbreakings and very soon, we will start constructions,” she says.
“These projects are milestones not only for our company but for the country. These are one of the first of its kind systems in the country. We hope to address the waste issues of the country and at the same time, with these technologies, we can help answer the employment, power and fuel needs of the country,” she says.
Grace says “we are very optimistic” about the company’s long-term prospects. “Contracts and projects like these go to a minimum of 10 years or more. The renewable energy technologies alone will provide solution to the waste management issues, and it doesn’t happen overnight. The company is here to provide these solutions, as the need arises,” she says.
She advises other entrepreneurs to tap the vast opportunities available in the Philippines. “Stay focused, keep an open mind, open your eyes for opportunities. Be fair and honest. Stay away from negative people and keep good friends. Don’t be misled. Bad company corrupts good character. Be resilient. Things will not always go as planned but press on, keep the faith and adapt to changes needed,” she says.
“Remember, we may not be perfect in everything, every time and we will at times fail. But, it is all a matter of attitude. No good deed will bear bad fruit. For what you sow, you will reap. And that principle applies to all,” she says.
Grace says once a person achieves his or her business goals, the next thing to do is “stay humble and be thankful.” Roderick T. dela Cruz