Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc. (BAVI) President Ronald Mascariñas recently shared in an international conference his company’s secret in navigating the “treacherous seas” of the pandemic: a genuine love of country.
Speaking at the 3rd Global Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship (GAME) Conference organized by the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Mascariñas detailed the strategies BAVI took to survive the pandemic.
“Striving to love our country through an innovative, inclusive, and sustainable business model is what enabled BAVI to be resilient amidst crises and to adapt to the pandemic,” said Mascariñas at the virtual event.
He said the company’s various programs were key in fostering solidarity among employees — and with the communities they serve.
Having sincere and robust programs that benefitted Filipinos had a positive impact on employees and customers, which came in handy during the health crisis, Mascariñas added.
The renowned sports patron also urged the audience to find their “purpose”.
He said BAVI’s purpose is love of country, which has been the company’s north star since the beginning.
“And when you do find your purpose,” he advised, “pursue it like it was all that mattered — even if it takes breaking the mold. Success will naturally follow.”
Below is the full text of Mascariñas’ speech.
LOVE OF COUNTRY: THE KEY TO BUSINESS RESILIENCY
My fellow speakers,
A bountiful day to all of you!
Nothing could be more appropriate than the theme of this year’s Global Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship Conference. In the past 20 months, we have seen how people and organizations have been breaking the mold, discovering in themselves hidden potentials, and actualizing them in the crucible of the pandemic.
It is my honor today to share with you how my company, Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc., also broke the mold, which the pre-pandemic mindset put us into, and realized that we are capable of much greater and better things, for more people.
Since the beginning, we at BAVI were aware of our bigger Purpose, and that is to inspire PUSO PARA SA PINAS, or Love of Country, within our ranks and also to everyone we encounter in the many communities that we serve.
The line “PUSO PARA SA PINAS” is more than just a hashtag for us. It is the expression of our deepest affections and dreams. And for over 24 years, its essence has been the north star that guided us to safe port.
Indeed, striving to love our country through an INNOVATIVE, INCLUSIVE, and SUSTAINABLE business model is what enabled BAVI to be resilient amidst crises and to adapt to the pandemic.
CREATING AN INNOVATIVE COMPANY
BAVI started as a small company in 1997, operating in Cebu and Davao. It was when I joined BAVI in 2002 with the new management team that we began the development of a nationwide business operation, with a desire to harness the talents and entrepreneurial skills of our fellow Filipinos.
Our first big innovation came during the implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in the mid-2000s. We realized that cheaper imported chicken from our ASEAN neighbors would flood our market.
We believed then that we were in a sunset industry, and that if we did not make ourselves viable, we would need to walk out from the poultry integration quickly, rather than risk losing whatever financial capital we had built over the years.
The AFTA scare forced us to radically innovate, giving birth to Chooks-to-Go, selling oven-roasted chicken.
We figured that if we are forced out of the poultry integration, we can import dressed chicken and sell it as roasted chicken in our own stores at significantly higher margins.
We calculated that we needed about a thousand stores selling roasted chicken to generate the same income stream from our poultry integration and to preserve the livelihood of our existing employees.
This proved to be a game-changer for BAVI, as Chooks-to-Go quickly evolved to become our flagship brand and our most reliable cash cow.
Today, our retail stores have grown close to 2,000 and have provided employment opportunities to over 5,000 workers across the country.
We are now the dominant market leader in the roasted chicken market. Even if we add up the businesses of the #2 to #10 competitors, Chooks-to-Go is still bigger than all of them combined.
And we were able to keep our traditional Bounty Fresh poultry integration, which has likewise grown many times over pre-AFTA volumes.
BAVI was likewise recognized by the Asian Livestock Industry Awards in 2009 as the Best Poultry and Livestock Company in Asia, and was named Most Innovative Company of the Year at the Asia CEO Awards in 2018.
Our second major innovation came as the result of our continued pursuit of offering a healthier chicken alternative for Filipinos with our No Antibiotics Ever Chicken.
In 2017, we became the first and so far the only one in the Philippines to raise chicken without ever antibiotics, giving Filipinos a truly healthy chicken option, but also a means to combat antimicrobial resistance or AMR, which the World Health Organization predicts would kill 10 million people by 2050 if no actions are done today.
Through BAVI’s No Antibiotics Ever Chicken production system — which supplies chicken to our retail stores such as Chooks-to-Go, Uling Roasters, and HeiHei — responsible antibiotic stewardship is upheld, helping to protect Filipinos from the growing threat of AMR.
Our commitment to antibiotic stewardship is best seen in how we are now among the world’s key players in that area, even once beating our better-funded and public policy-backed counterparts in Europe.
And, we are proud to say, just over a month ago, the Asia CEO Awards recognized our No Antibiotics Ever Chicken by awarding us a Circle of Excellence Award for Innovation.
INCLUSIVITY: A COMPANY FOR ALL
Right from the start, we saw and valued the talents and potentials of our kababayan, whatever their backgrounds in life. The idea was to make our success the success of our countrymen as well.
We began collaborating with hundreds of poultry farmers, suppliers, and other agribusiness partners across the country.
We created contract growing partnerships with farming facilities of all sizes, and provided technical expertise while maintaining a highly efficient supply chain in poultry integration.
Even today, we continue to intensify our efforts to empower farmers and enterprises nationwide. Unlike other companies, we still accept backyard farmers for a more inclusive enterprise.
We have also maintained stable contract growing partnerships in underdeveloped and even conflict-stricken areas like Sulu and Basilan, where we’ve opened business and livelihood opportunities to rebel returnees.
We are the only poultry company operating in those areas. The cost of production in those areas is significantly higher. But we are committed to continuing this initiative as our contribution to peace in Muslim Mindanao. We believe that attaining peace does not come without risks, and that its rewards go beyond economics.
Beyond growing our business, our dream is to help Sulu and Basilan win the peace by gaining for itself a real stake in development. We share their aspirations for economic independence along with the rest of marginalized areas in the country.
We are also opening our doors to livelihood opportunities with retired soldiers through the KAWAN Project, a partnership with the Philippine Army retirees, who retire at the age of 56. Many retired military personnel turn out to be interested in contract growing and planting lemongrass, among others.
Of course, our pursuit of a more inclusive society goes beyond our daily internal operations. Our various CSR programs are the outward manifestations of our PUSO PARA SA PINAS.
Through our Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas program, we ignite national pride through sports by showcasing Filipino athletes on the world stage. We were at the forefront of leading the country in the first-ever FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, while also working towards making it to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
In the traditional five-on-five basketball, we united the regional leagues such as the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, the National Basketball League, and the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup. Together with all three regional leagues, including Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3, we will usher a brighter future for the Filipino basketball player.
Truly, through this program, we unite Filipinos to support our national athletes and to take pride in their Filipino identity.
We’ve partnered with the Ayala Foundation, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and DepEd in the Maging Magiting Flag Campaign. It aims to promote love of country by handing out flags to thousands of schools, police precincts, and government offices across the country. To date, over 11,000 flags have been given, from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.
We will continue to support this campaign led by Ayala Foundation. We recognize that there is no emblem that can represent our Filipino identity better than the Philippine National Flag.
We’ve also partnered with Special Olympics Pilipinas to promote the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities—such as those with Down Syndrome and Autism. Through our “Kaya Yan, Manok ng Bayan” campaign, we provide employment and sports training opportunities to Special Olympics athletes.
Unilab Foundation is our partner in this initiative as well. We truly admire their work in training and preparing people with disabilities for gainful employment. We hope to increase hiring of PWDs in the years to come.
And last, but definitely one of our most important CSR activities, is providing food to people affected by various disasters – from typhoons, floods, fires, volcanic eruptions to earthquakes, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Our efforts to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals are now stronger than ever. We have been ramping up our efforts to reduce negative effects on the environment, particularly through innovative animal nutrition strategies.
Through our No Antibiotics Ever Chicken production system, we have been formulating our own plant-based feeds that are less dependent on soybean meals as protein source. It is well known that soybean farming causes more deforestation, contributing to climate change.
Superdosing our feeds with phytase also reduced our use of inorganic phosphate, reducing our partner farms’ carbon footprint by 59%.
Finally, in an effort to increase efficiency and avoid waste, our high-tech broiler housing and equipment have been enhanced over the years. To date, our controlled-climate system chicken houses have grown by 78%.
PUSO PARA SA PINAS
Indeed our culture of patriotism that is built on innovation, inclusivity, and sustainability saved our business at the height of the pandemic last year.
PUSO PARA SA PINAS inspired and propelled our people to a bigger Purpose.
In an unprecedented show of solidarity and generosity, our employees from Administration, HR, Finance, all the way to managers and executives, volunteered to help in our rolling store operations, to bring our products to communities on lockdown.
While most companies froze and played it safe during the early months of the pandemic, all our employees were out on the streets every day, Monday to Sunday, including holidays, to peddle our chicken to communities affected by the lockdown.
I knew it was needed to survive the crisis, but I could not, in conscience, demand that from my people because of the risk to their lives. I never imagined that our employees would volunteer to keep the business afloat.
Fast forward to May 2021—we’ve achieved our full year 2021 financial target seven months in advance, making 2021 another banner year for our company with record revenues and bottom line.
The crisis brought about by the pandemic forced us to pivot and in the process discover better ways of running the business. A few months since the lockdown, we found a new opportunity not only for our business to thrive in the new economy, but also an avenue to help our loyal customers to earn a decent living amidst the crisis through the Chooks-to-Go Reseller Program.
With many Filipino workers displaced by the pandemic, many families were in urgent need of income. For a very low capital, our partner resellers could already share in our success in navigating the rough seas of the pandemic.
As we did 24 years ago — trusting in the gritty entrepreneurial spirit of Filipinos — we have come full circle, providing livelihood to the very people we sold our products to.
And I am happy to mention that even as we struggled to keep afloat in those early months of the crisis, our support to people severely affected by disasters still continued. We were able to launch our largest-ever disaster relief campaign.
Throughout the pandemic, we donated chicken to over half a million Filipinos — people who were stranded by lockdowns, people recuperating in quarantine facilities, people whose homes and loved ones were destroyed by typhoons
And all this because of BAVI’s passionate love of country.
Let me end with the lesson we learned during these difficult times: Find your purpose. For us at BAVI, it has always been to love our country. Experiencing the pandemic only made us appreciate our Purpose more deeply.
And when you do find your Purpose, pursue it like it was all that mattered — even if it takes breaking the mold. Success will naturally follow.
Maraming salamat, at mabuhay po kayong lahat.