Many of my readers know that I've been in the food business for more than 20 years. I love everything about being a restaurateur. I get a natural high conceptualizing new restaurants, trying out new recipes, building the place and interacting with my guests. To me, the creative process of it all is what makes the business worthwhile.
Back in the '90s, I started a fast-food chain to feed my passion. The first few years were fun as we opened one store after another with quite a bit of success. As we approached the sixth or seventh store, structural problems began to rear their ugly heads and I found myself becoming more involved in the back office side of things. Issues like warehouse management, systems for purchasing raw materials, delivery and logistics were concerns I had to grapple with. Even if this was not what I signed up for, as an owner of a fledgling business, I had no choice but to tackle them squarely. Not to do so would mean the demise of my enterprise.
For the next few years, I devoted the lion's share of my time building and strengthening the structural backbone of my company. After countless trial-and-error attempts and investing a sizable portion of our earnings, we finally got our house in order. My business was efficient and in tip-top form. But I was burnt out and had fallen out of love with my own company. I spent too much time in the back office doing things I didn't enjoy.
The business continued to grow in succeeding years, but only marginally. I was too preoccupied to think creatively and pursue growth. If only there was an expert back then to do the backroom job for me, my company would have been bigger by the time I sold it years later.
My story is not new. It is the story of every entrepreneur in the creative field on the fast track to expansion.
The Arkipel Solution
I recently met a Swiss-American investor, René Mader, who put up a business solutions company based in Manila called Arkipel, Inc. I was both delighted to know that the range of services Arkipel offers is exactly what I needed when I was building my restaurant chain. I told him I was glad that he is now operating in the Philippines, but regretted that he came five years too late!
Arkipel provides local companies with solutions to better manage their backroom operations. In other words, they create systems to make warehouses operate efficiently, a fleet of trucks operate up to schedule, retail stores properly stocked, and accounting departments up-to-date, among other things. All these free up the business owner to focus on what is most important-creating better products and growing the business.
Arkipel also provides the manpower and the computer hardware to make its solutions work. This allows massive savings on the part of the business owner who would otherwise have to shell out millions of pesos to purchase computer mainframes, back-up mainframes and related accessories. It also saves him the need to hire his own technical engineers who he'd have to pay on a monthly basis, not to mention their tenure cost.
But the biggest savings of all is the cost of trial and error, which, in my experience, can run up to millions. Arkipel delivers its business solutions to its clients debugged of glitches. All the business owner needs is a computer terminal and an Internet connection, and the information he would need (e.g. delivery schedules, inventory stock positions, cash status, etc.) can be accessed at the press of a button. The beauty of all this is that data can be accessed in real-time and in multiple locations. In contrast, Excel, the spreadsheet program most Filipino firms use, does not provide real-time information unless uploaded or sent via e-mail.
From experience, I know too well that errors are more likely to occur as more people handle a system. I had four people to sort, process and archive data coming in from my restaurants. This made the probability of human errors occurring four times more likely. The risky thing about numerical data is that if there is even one error, a chain reaction forms. The Arkipel Solution obliterates the possibility of human error as the entire system is managed with cyber intelligence at lightning speed.
The risk of downtime or data corruption is also addressed. This is because the Arkipel Solution maintains its own 24-terabyte mainframe, in addition to leased terabyte capacities in different locations around the world. This way, your information is backed up multiple times and is kept safe should catastrophes like earthquakes, floods or prolonged power outages occur in a place where your information is stored.
In as far as confidentiality and security goes, René tells me that the firewall used by the Arkipel Solution is matched in sophistication with that of the Pentagon's. A new set of data encryption occurs whenever information is updated, transferred, saved or sent.
The use of the Arkipel Solution changes the way the entrepreneurs conduct their business. It brings them to the 21st century, with real-time data available at will. It generally makes the business more efficient, one good enough for an ISO accreditation. The system not only works for those involved in retailing or manufacturing, but also for applications in schools, hotels, service providers and even government units.
Thanks to technology, entrepreneurs of today can now focus on the things that really matter. As René so eloquently put it, Arkipel uses technology to allow a furniture maker to create beautiful pieces of furniture, not to create the hammers, saws and chisels to make them.
Does It Cost Much?
When I computerized my warehouse back in 2001, I remember going for a customized program that took six months to put online. I had to purchase one computer terminal each for my purchasing, receiving, dispatching and work-in-process sections, not to mention the mainframe itself. In addition, I also had to buy another back-up mainframe plus the cooling systems it required. The hardware and software ran up to about a million pesos. But I also had to hire four IT personnel to man the system. Their monthly salaries ran up to about P90,000 a month.
While Arkipel has used the most sophisticated equipment and the best engineers in town, its cost is spread out among a number of clients. Arkipel charges a fixed rate on a monthly basis with no upfront fees. It starts from P45,000 a month for a simple warehouse system that can increase depending on the complexity of the task. The fact that there are no upfront charges frees up the entrepreneur's capital, which he can use for more productive purposes.
Business owners will also appreciate that they don't start paying Arkipel unless the system is up and running. In other words, they don't need to bear the cost of development or trial and error.
As for the time it would take to get a system operational, René says that simple business solutions will take less than a month in development. More sophisticated programs will take about three months to roll out.
Arkipel In The Philippines
''Arkipel'' comes from the word, ''archipelago'', which exemplifies René's love affair with the Philippines. He is here because he believes in the talent of the Filipino. As a man exposed to the best talent in Silicon Valley, he thinks the Filipino engineer can be just as competitive as his American counterparts if only he were exposed to the latest technologies. Rene uses the same technologies as the giants in the industry, IMB and Cisco. His team of engineers is training with the best.
It's been said that the Philippines can very well become the creative capital of Asia if only for the natural creative talent of the Filipino. Arkipel has just opened the way for that. Now, the creative entrepreneurs among us-the furniture makers, animators, garment designers, advertising agencies, entertainment producers, and the like can now thrive without being bogged down by back office concerns. If only for this, Arkipel has my full support.
Arkipel may be reached at (2) 621-4675 and 208-7008. E-mail Rene at email@example.com.