Andrew Tan is one of the Philippines’ richest men (4th in the Forbes 2007 list of The Philippines’ 40 Richest estimated wealth at $1.1 billion) yet he is probably the most low-profile.
Little is known about Andrew L. Tan yet children of all ages know one of his businesses only too well: his Alliance Global Group Inc. owns 49 percent of Golden Arches Dev’t. Corp., franchise holder of the McDonald’s hamburger chain.
His real estate group under Megaworld owns over 200 buildings (defined as four stories and above).
Born of humble beginnings, Andrew Tan was the son of a transistor radio factory worker who came to Manila from China at age 16. Tan has a brilliant mind—graduated magna cum laude with degree in Business Administration from the University of the East. This despite the fact that he used to walk from Sta. Cruz in Manila to the UE campus because he had no money. People who work with him attest to his brilliance but at the same time describe him as extremely shy.
He owns Emperador Distillers Inc., makers of Emperador brandy, the world’s largest selling brandy by volume. But his first brand was Andy Player Special which is not being exported.
The following Q&A Interview was conducted by Inquirer before tackling the success story of Andrew Tan. Q: What were your beginnings? How did you start? What was your first entrepreneurial venture?
Andrew Tan: I was about 25, and a bachelor, when I first went into business. I was a partner in a wholesale trading firm that imported appliances in bulk and sold them to appliance stores.
Q: How were you raised? Were your parents entrepreneurs? Who was and is the most influential person in your life?
Andrew Tan: My father worked in a transistor radio factory; my mother was a plain housewife. I have one brother. One influential person in my life was my mother. As a young businessman, I would consult her before I made any important decisions. We discussed not just business matters, but also anything under the sun. She and her guidance meant a lot to me.
When I married, my wife Katherine became the most influential person in my life. Today, we talk about business almost every day, especially when I have to make important decisions.
In college, many of my classmates were better off than I. They had family businesses of their own. Some owned a grocery shop; others a hardware store. Those in Quiapo ran a small textile business. I was sort of envious of their fortune, so I dreamed of becoming a businessman.
I often told my mother that I if had P200,000 in savings, I’d open a grocery store, and that would surely change our fortune. She encouraged me a lot then.
When I started working, I discovered that you learn something from the people you meet. For me, that’s always a blessing, more so if you meet the right people who can help you succeed.
Some people may disagree, but I believe that for a person to become very wealthy, 40 percent is due to luck and 60 percent to a combination of intelligence and hard work. You just have to be at the right place at the right time. If you are lucky, timing will always be in your favor; otherwise, timing will always be off. There’s a Chinese saying that big success depends on the heavens. For me, good luck accounts for 40 percent of all my success.
Q: What were some of the difficult times in your entrepreneurial life? How did you overcome the difficulties?
Andrew Tan: Business was very tough when I started. When you don’t have much capital, it is imperative that you have a very good nose. You are like a dog that must always sniff around for food. You cannot afford to fail. That is how you develop an instinct for success.
This does not mean, however, that I always succeeded in my initial ventures. I failed in some of them. I made wrong decisions, too, but I learned from my mistakes to become better and better. After all, mistakes are always a part of doing business. Some people, however,...