One of the first Filipino online stores is Kabayan Central.Com which is co-owned by Armin Santiaguel that sells tagalog videos, OPM CD, Filipino books, e-Load and other Philippine source products. It was started in 1998 when most of the big time players on the internet now were still rising.
Like most internet entrepreneur, it allows them to start on a minimal investment and inventory and small overhead expenses. Way back then it cost about US$70+ to register on a domain for two years and they registered www.kabayancentral.com for their first online store. Armin and his group work on building their dream, the two worked on programming, one on handling merchant account. Since those days there were no internet merchant accounts available locally, you have to have a US bank account to apply for one.
Their initial plan is to have a local counter part of amazon.com which only sells books that time. But they include CDs in their planned inventory for local artists. Since it’s not so easy to persuade local publishers to post their books in their online store even it is for free, they have turned their attention to recording. Luckily there were recording companies who responded to them: Viva, Sony and Vicor Records. They have also discovered that people were more interested in music that in books and again, with the stroke of luck found a distributor who have access to all the labels.
Like all online entrepreneurs or website owners, traffic or visitor is the most important factor in building a website. This is their next challenge. Since their advertising budget is very limited, they have to exchange links to other websites in order for them to have a good search engine ranking and visitors from other websites to visit them also coming from those links and submissions to well established directories like Yahoo for search engine optimization. And to keep customers coming back, they have to put fresh content frequently and use their feedback to improve sale and serve their customers’ needs.
Since e-commerce was still in its infancy, it is difficult to get customers and shipping problems was one of their obstacles. Added to it is their lack of experience in the retail business. But we all learn from mistakes and like the rest of the successful entrepreneurs, they have overcome it. Starting from US$154.00 and now a whooping US$25,000 monthly gross sale after eight years of patience. Their customers were mostly overseas Filipino workers who use the internet and own a credit card, which was their main objective from the very start. So the lesson here was “Commitment”, as he have said himself, “without commitment, your venture is already half dead from the very start”.