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Mang Inasal owner shares pain of letting go

MANILA, Philippines – The owner of Mang Inasal Philippines Inc., which was recently sold to giant Jollibee Foods Corp., said letting go of his chicken-based business was “painful.”

In a letter to his “Mang Inasal Family,” Edgar Injap Sia II expressed “deep sadness” like a “father parting with his child” as he hands over the care of the restaurant to the giant conglomerate.

Sia, who is in his 30’s, founded Mang Inasal on December 2003. In a 250-square meter space in the parking lot of Robinsons Place in Iloilo City, he started to offer the tasty vinegar-marinated chicken served in skewers and paired it with unlimited rice, an almost irresistible come-on. Innovating further, he began offering the menu in the familiar fast food dine-in concept. Business grew by leaps and bounds, conquering markets beyond Visayas, including Metro Manila, the make-it-or-break-it city.

For Mang Inasal’s phenomenal growth—about 100 new stores a year—Sia was recognized this year as the Small Business Entrepreneur awardee in Ernst & Young’s annual search for Entrepreneur Of The Year-Philippines. The same group named Jollibee founder Tony Tan Caktiong as its first awardee in 2004. Caktiong went on to win the World Entrepreneur of the Year title at an awards ceremony in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Currently the 6th largest fastfood chain in the country, Mang Inasal was dubbed by a local magazine, almost prophetically, as “the new Jollibee.”

Growth was fueled by franchising, which started only in 2005. Of the 303 Mang Inasal branches, only 24 are company owned. Franchise holders of the 279 stores paid P800,000, about the same amount as Sia’s seed money when he started the business 7 years ago.

That Jollibee will be paying P3 billion for a 70% stake in Mang Inasal has made Sia “a very successful businessman,” according to bloggers and online commentators. The buying price of Jollibee, which courted Sia for the transaction, values the entire Mang Inasal business at P4.3 billion. Not a bad deal for a business that has an estimated annual total revenues of P2.6 billion and system wide sales of P3.8 billion.

Since Sia’s holding company, Injap Investments, will continue to hold on to 30% of Mang Inasal, the Jollibee deal actually valued Sia’s remaining stake at a staggering P1.3 billion. By the way, Sia already received a P200 million downpayment.

Still involved

In his letter, however, Sia stressed that the deal will also benefit the intended readers–the employees, franchise holders, and loyal clients.

“I have full confidence that we will reap the benefits of cost improvement of supplies, greater operational efficiency, reliable and response-on-demand servicing, and well structured and professionally managed organization. This will mean increased revenue flow, better margins and limitless opportunities for you—not to mention better service, better quality and “mas sulit” food selection for our loyal patrons.”

He also assured them that, during the turnover process and beyond, their “voice will be heard every step of the way.”

He said two board seats in the new organization have been reserved for him and Ferdinand Sia, the current chief operations officer. Both will also be part of the management committee “for the coming years.”

Global brand

Sia stressed that the deal with Jollibee will strengthen the brand. As the business is on its way to becoming a “Global Mang Inasal,” Filipinos will be “proud,” he said.

“Mang Inasal will have the professional support and vast resource needed to steer the business to the next level,” Sia wrote. “Knowing that [Jollibee’s] Tony Tan Caktiong share the values and business principles I have, I know that my VISION of better quality lives for the Pinoy Diners and Pinoy Entrepreneur will live.”

Growing the business was part of Sia’s goal when he decided to offer the company to the public early next year. Since 2008, Sia has been ramping up interest in Mang Inasal’s success story in preparation for a planned Initial Public Offering. Fresh funds from the capital raising exercise were supposed to finance further store expansion. The aim was to have 500 outlets by 2012. Before the Jollibee deal, it just opened its 300th outlet at the SM Mall of Asia.

Thus, despite the pain and the deep sadness, Sia said he is “ecstatic and in high spirits” since the future of his “7-year old child…is secured and filled with great optimism.”

More “little Jollibee’s”?

It is likely that keen watchers of entrepreneurship have not had the last of Sia’s genius —or luck.

Aside from Sia’s remaining 30% stake in Mang Inasal, Sia’s Injap Investments also has a stake in Deco’s, another up-and-coming food business that serves “batchoy”, a soup made of meat stock, noodles, and garnished with local herbs and spices.

Batchoy was first started by a young butcher called Deco Guillergan Sr., in 1938 in a carinderia at the La Paz public market in Iloilo City. Sia’s Mang Inasal also first flourished in the same city.

Just like how Jollibee has grown through brand extensions and numerous acquisitions, Sia has forged a partnership with Guillergan’s children. Deco—and its “heavily guarded batchoy secret”—was eventually folded under Sia’s Injap Investments.

Deco stores have been slowly expanding to neighboring provinces in Visayas and Metro Manila. Will it be Sia’s new “little Jollibee”?

Inasal's Ed Sia

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