Top 10 Business Opportunities in Manila Philippines


If you want to become successful in business, you should remain focused on the tasks you need to get done. These are the factors you can control. If you want to put up an e-commerce business, spend time with your website designer to fine tune the elements that would make your site accessible, fast, convenient and navigable.

Factors such as government and fiscal policy, inflation, exchange rate fluctuations, peace and order, social unrest and foreign trade policy are beyond your control. These responsibilities belong to those who are voted into public office by the electorate.

The Philippines’ most iconic and successful businessmen were entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity when others saw none. Some of them like Alfredo Yao overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve the level of success that he has. The son of a sidewalk vendor, Yao sought to pursue his dream of having an education through meager earnings.

With his resilience and the help of well-intentioned relatives, Yao was able to finish his studies at a university. But his journey to success came at a serious crossroads when the packaging technology he purchased from Europe went unsold.

Given this predicament, what would you do? Yao used the technology as the basis for the packaging widely associated with Zest-O fruit juices. And the rest, as they say, was history! No mention was made of who the President was during Yao’s time as an entrepreneur or how the equities market was performing. Yao did what he had to do because he was driven by his desire to succeed. What about you?

Business opportunities in Manila, Philippines are everywhere. If you want to find them, you have to start looking! Here is my take on the top 10 business opportunities in Manila, Philippines.

1. Business Process Outsourcing

The BPO industry has long been dubbed as the new engine of economic growth of the Philippines. Since the year 2000, the Philippines’ BPO industry has been growing at an annual rate of 20%. From a US$1.3 Billion industry in 2004, BPO is estimated to generate US$25.5 Billion in export revenues in 2016.

Many have asked me if they need to set up a full-scale call center facility to get started in BPO. My answer to them is, “Get a client first.”

As great as the potential for BPO is, it does not subscribe to the “Field of Dreams” thinking that “If you build it, they will come.” I have heard horror stories of people who spent millions on computers and workstations only to see it gather cobwebs because they were not able to land a client.

You should only open a private facility under these conditions:

  • Due diligence confirms reputation and good standing of the client.
  • The client will guarantee you a minimum 2-year contract.
  • The client is agreeable to pay you per seat per productive hour.
  • The client agrees to establish a “seed fund” to capitalize your center.

Otherwise, here are a few suggestions you may wish to consider if you want to start a business in BPO:

  • Set up and register a corporation with the SEC.
  • If you don’t have a client, focus on networking for the first 3 to 6 months of operation. This means your business from home.
  • Invest in a company website.
  • Do not focus on Fortune 500 companies. These giants already have BPO services contracted out. The money is with small businesses who need to keep a tight rein on their expenses.
  • Always start out small; run operations from a remote location by using project management tools such as Asana, DropBox, SalesForce and communicate via Skype, Slack or Viber.
  • Hire virtual assistants to help you manage tasks.
  • Expand your value proposition and always do more than what is expected. Your clients will reward you with continued business and more referrals.

How much should you expect to make with home-based BPO services? A client that generates US$500,000 a year usually allocates 4% to 6% for BPO services. That is anywhere from US$ 1,500 to US$ 2,500 per month. Now multiply that number by five clients per month.

Depending on the scope of work you can simply designate 1-2 assistants per account. You don’t pay rent; your costs for Internet and power are distributed among clients.

Sounds good, right?

2. Food Retail

Do not let the long lines and packed seats fool you. The food industry is very competitive, and many brands have closed up. That said, the industry itself has evolved to other business models which don’t require the traditional brick-and-mortar establishment.

Here are a few food retail business models you can consider:

The “Hole-the-Wall”. Lately, restaurants are being set up in the most unlikely of locations. And people are coming in droves to eat their food. Personally, I believe people are tired of the mall culture. Food quality in these commercial centers is poor because of high rental costs. Proprietors have to scrimp on food cost to shore up their margins to pay rent.

But these “hole-in-the-wall” establishments pay lower rent because the place is smaller and I believe zoning regulations mean lower rent per square meter. Thus, they can spend more on food quality. I have been to many of these restaurants, and their food is on a higher level than those found inside a mall.

Delivery Service. I guess I’ve established that rent is the cost component that renders the food business unprofitable. Another way to get by rent is to establish a delivery service. Check first with your village association if they allow home-based businesses.

If they do, set up a separate kitchen for food preparation then contract a delivery rider. People love home cooked meals. Come up with a good packaging design that will keep food warm and promote your business as well.

Food Truck. This is slowly gaining ground although in select areas such as Mandaluyong, Makati, and Muntinlupa.

This is a capital-intensive business and given the horrendous traffic conditions in Manila your best option is to land contracts with schools, food markets and the city government.

Normally, these venues will not charge you rent. Instead, they will charge a percentage of your earnings. From what I have learned the rate averages between 5% and 7% of gross income. This is still lower than the 34% charged by mall developers.

3. E-Commerce Business

This small business idea generates large global revenues. In 2014, global sales of e-commerce retailers totaled US$1.5 Trillion. It is expected to hit US$ 2 Trillion in 2016 and US$ 2.3 Trillion in 2017.

In the Philippines, e-commerce retail accounted for 12% of the Philippines GDP and grew by Php8 Billion from August 2013 to January 2016. Best of all, this is a low capital business venture.

All you need to start out with are a computer and Internet connection. Once you have these get the ball rolling with your e-commerce business:

  • Identify the products or service you want to retail.
  • Register your business with the DTI or SEC.
  • Invest in a mobile responsive e-commerce website.
  • Find suppliers of your products.
  • Set up the value chain: support services, distributors, delivery services and customer support.
  • Set up a merchant account for your e-commerce website.
  • Network and promote your website.

Unlike a mall-based retail store, e-commerce runs 24/7. You have greater opportunities to earn good money and have lower overhead costs.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Online Business Is the Future of Commerce

4. Real Estate Agency

Property values in the Philippines are rising because of the level of development. With the BPO industry surging, more commercial areas are being set up by developers particularly in the cities of Cebu, Iloilo, Taguig, Muntinlupa and Sta. Rosa.

In addition to commercial development, residential development is also booming because Philippine population is increasing. Many developers are focusing on low to middle-class housing including multi-dwelling complexes to meet demand.

By starting a real estate business now, you will still capitalize on the growth of the property market. For example, property values in Muntinlupa have grown exponentially since 2010. The West Triangle area currently has a media property price of Php45,000 per square meter. It is estimated to hit Php80,000 to Php100,000 by 2018.

You can target both commercial and residential clients for real estate.

5. Human Resources Development

This is a separate branch from BPO that is slowly growing into its industry. In BPO, it is often referred to as Resource Process Outsourcing or RPO.

RPO is the process of overseeing the Human Resources component of business from recruitment to management. The agency is responsible for training and orienting the employee on the company’s business and guidelines.

In effect, the agency becomes the direct employer and contracts the employee to the client. The business model is similar to a headhunting agency except that with HRD/RPO the agency is actively involved in supervising and managing the employee.

An HRD arrangement is attractive to companies because of the following reasons:

  • Reduces total compensation per employee
  • Removes cost of managing its HR unit
  • Delegates a non-core competency to a 3rd party

An HRD agency can charge the client either a percentage of total payroll as a monthly retainer fee; usually 7%, or charge a fixed cost per head per month.

6. School Assessment Services

Australia has one of the most respected educational programs in the world. Many of its universities are among the top 100 in the world. Studying in Australia can be very competitive that agencies have sprung up to give students more options to improve their performance.

One such option is school assessment services such as MarkItUp! which evaluates the performance of the student by reviewing test scores, homework, and other educational metrics. Everything is done online; parents sign up and send all required documents for the agency to review. The assessors are educators themselves.

You can have an online assessment service available as well as hands-on services which double as a tutorial for students. Parents will spare no expense in giving their child that extra edge to have an advantage over everyone else.

7. Gym Business

There are Fitness Centers, and there are Gyms. What is the difference? People go to fitness centers to exercise. People go to gyms to train.

Fitness centers are highly commercialized gyms. They have the latest equipment from treadmills to machines. Television sets line up the walls, and air conditioners are running the entire day, and aerobics classes are still offered. Fitness centers are also expensive to maintain.

A gym is a throwback to the days before treadmills, and elliptical machines became the standard feature. Instead of technology, the gym features old school equipment like free weights, pull up bars, medicine ball, kettlebells, bands, chains and punching bags.

In the fitness industry, despite the evolution of technology people are harking back to the basics. People are lining up for brass and tacks programs like “Boot Camp”, “Cross Fit”, “TRX Suspension Training”, “Tabata”, “High-Intensity Interval Training”;  concepts which only use basic types of equipment.

Today’s gym resemble a warehouse; high ceilings with plenty of open spaces for members to flip tires, drag a sled and sprint back and forth. With the exception of rent, a gym is easier to maintain because you do not need air conditioners and motorized equipment. Therefore, your operational costs should be lower.

8. English Tutorial

People from South Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan have been signing up for online English instruction from Filipino teachers for years.

Over the past few years, they have also been coming over to the Philippines to learn the English language via hands-on instruction. Similar to student assessment services, you can offer online and hands-on options.

Your market will not just be our neighbors in Asia but the OFWs who want to earn a living in predominantly English speaking countries and also students who want to improve their English proficiency.

9. Cleaning Services

A household of four people needs to earn at least Php40,000 per month to live a comfortable lifestyle. The average salary of a regular employee will not be enough to support a family of four. That is why many Filipino families today are dual – income earners.

Even if they do manage to generate a median household income of Php40,000 per month, the amount remains tight to cover current and future expenses. They still need to set aside money for savings. So many families give up the convenience of household help. This opens up a niche market for cleaning services.

Cleaning services can include general house cleaning, carpet cleaning, yard/gardening, and even air-conditioning cleaning. The average rate for cleaning services is Php35 per square meter using total floor area as the basis. Households need general cleaning services at least once a week and every six months for carpet and air con cleaning.

10. Coin Laundry

This is a business idea that was presented to me four years ago by one of my writers. It seemed like a novel idea at the time because there were already managed laundry mat services available in the market. But it did have an allure to it because pricing would be lower and there should be less risk of theft and damage to clothing.

Fast forward four years later and coin laundry services are everywhere! Filipinos seem to have embraced the concept of self-service laundry. I’ve seen some who have TV sets to keep the customers entertained while waiting.

A good idea would be to set up a coin laundry with an area that has a restaurant, internet shop or coffee shop. This way you can maximize the revenue generating capacity of your space and not just rely on laundry. In the US, there are coin laundries that house a bar and a bowling alley!

Start Your Business in Manila, Philippines

These are just 10 of the best business opportunities in Manila, Philippines. I am sure you have other concepts in mind. Whatever your idea is, remember that it remains an idea until you act on it. It could be the next, great thing to land on Philippine shores.

Related: Top 10 Business Investment Ideas in the Philippines in 2016

If you have a moment of inspiration, embrace it and allow it to take fruition. Do not let the moment pass without taking the necessary steps to make your idea a reality. Write it down on anything you can find: napkin, receipt or the palm of your hand. Once the initial euphoria of discovery has settled down, start working on it.

Always keep in mind that when opportunity knocks, answer it. If you don’t, someone else will.

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