I was born on the prairies, where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures. [GERONIMO]
Friday, November 13, 2009
BN's monopoly on the apple business - a good analogy
Assuming (B)elum (N)yanyuk company (in short BN) was the sole apple wholesaler in Malaysia and there was no other apple wholesaler to compete with them over the past 50 years. We had another 3 individual apple sellers that we did not pay much attention to because we hardly heard any of their advertisements anywhere. All wholesale apples were sold in a bag, with each bag contained 100 apples and had to weigh around 5kg to ensure those apples were almost identical in size.
During the early days, BN’s apples were very good in quality. We as customers were very happy and satisfied with their apples supply. We were very supportive of BN’s apples to the extent of, even though occasionally we found out that there were 8-10 bad apples in a bag, we were forgiving enough to not ask for single cent refund. After all, they were the only apple wholesale seller available at that time.
After 30 years in service, BN’s directors got greedy. Their directors demanded to live like a king in a palace, so they had to come out with a way to quadruple their profits to build their palaces.
First, they started to import low quality apples to replace those high quality apples and sold to us at the same price as before. We found something amiss about the apples’ sweetness, but they assured us that the apples were the same. Being naïve, we trusted their words as we trusted them for the past 30 years.
Unfortunately, by importing low quality apples did not quadruple their profits, they had to figure out other ways to make their palaces dream came true as soon as possible. Next, they started to tamper with their weighing machines’ scaling. With that, they managed to reduce the number of apples by 30 per bag yet they continued to sell us those apples at the old price despite being cheaper in cost.
Of course we were unhappy with the move and accused them of frauds. But due to of our own stupidity, they managed to convince us that these batch of new apples weighed more because they contained more nutrition than the previous batch of apples. Since we had trusted them for 40 years, so we decided to believe them one more time; after all we yet to have an alternative to choose from at that point of time.
After 3 years, those BN’s directors happily moved in to their new palaces. To their horror – after staying in the palace for barely 2 months, they started to realise that the cost of maintaining a palace in good conditions required much more money than to build it. To make things worse, those directors’ families got greedy as well, some of them demanded that their father to bring them to Disneyland’s tour every summer.
To fulfill all those evil requests, they raised the price of apples by 50% citing rising cost of transportation as the culprit for the major increment. They were braved enough to take this drastic move as they were not afraid that we (the customers) would run away because they were the only one with apples in Malaysia.
When we protested against them, they were arrogant enough to threaten us with defamation suits and requested the police to detain us under (I)kut (S)uka (A)ku Act. Greed brought them to the point of arrogant. They forgot that - we the loyal customers were the people that kept them in business for 50 years. Because of our blind loyalty, now they treated us like their slaves -- whereas in contrary to the business’s world where the customers were always regarded as the boss.
We kept our cool and protested in silence. Quietly, we figured out ways to stop relying on BN for apples. We forced the other 3 individual apples sellers to merge together to become the alternative apple wholesaler in Malaysia. For 50 years, most of us never really bought any apples from them because we trusted BN’s advertisement that their apples were hazardous to us. They agreed to give it a try and with our support, they merged together under a single company called - (P)rotect (R)escue Company (in short PR).
With the birth of PR, we now have 2 apples wholesalers to choose from. But we yet to get the best bargain for our apples, because PR is still weak because they are still in the transitioning phase as running the small apple stalls is very much different from running a wholesale company.
After realizing their sales were dropping exponentially, BN promised to make some changes to their business conducts. However, BN’s promised is like the saying “tomorrow that will never come.” BN’s new approach is always about shouting the same thing - that they have the best apples in town, and we are getting the best bargain from the price we paid. They even come out with a slogan called “1Apple – The only apple company in Malaysia you should trust” to hoodwink us that they are changing for the better. Besides that, they also promise us that they will change their arrogant way of treating us but quietly they are still using the same old tampered weighing machines to weigh their apples behind our backs. But now, we are smart enough not to fall into their tricks again.
As for PR, they are still learning on how to be a good apple wholesaler. They are still learning on how to maintain the quality of apples, how to reduce transportation costs, how to expand their business to meet our never ending demand while moving away from the old habits of selling apples individually.
PR knows that their existence hurts BN’s rice bowl a lot. BN is getting desperate by the day as their business can no longer cover the cost of their palaces and their families are grumbling because they have not been able to visit Disneyland for the past 2 years. PR also realises that counter attacks and sabotages from BN are imminent. Hence, PR has to be always on guard to continuously fight off BN’s attempts to ruin their business.
To add to PR’s list of misery, all transportation companies, apples suppliers and packaging houses are very reluctant to accept orders from PR because they are afraid of offending BN who has given them business for the past 50 years. The business environment is tough for PR because BN is trying to influence everyone to be biased against PR. Despite all that, PR managed to stay afloat for the past 20 months because we gave them enough business to survive.
At least PR knows, we are the one that give businesses to them. Unlike BN, who treats us as we owed them the money to keep them in business. They think PR was purposely started by a certain few to rob their business away, while forgetting the fact that PR was born because of their greed and arrogance towards us.
Yes, we gave birth to PR – but unfortunately we expected too much in return and to make things worse, we expected PR to deliver instant results. We expected those 100 apples in PR’s bag to be 100% perfect. When we find 2-3 apples (mind you, not 3-4 apples), we are very quick to punish PR’s reputation and ask for refund immediately. As a typical Malaysian, we so conveniently forgotten that we used to allow BN to get away with those bad apples without a single complaint 20 years back.
Some of us even go to the extent of threatening PR that we will buy our apples back from BN if they don’t buck up. Some of us already written them off and some have even come to the conclusion that PR is just the same as BN. PR kept quiet to our critisms and threats because PR respects our views and values our importance. But to be fair to them, we must also admit that it takes time to adapt from being a small stall apple seller to a apple wholesaler because it is totally a different business altogether.
We forget that PR is still new in this wholesaler business. Their directors all have different opinions of running this wholesale company because their knowledge were limited to operating their 3 different apple stalls - which they were targeting different groups of consumers to keep their business alive. But now, it is a totally new scenario for these directors as they have to juggle between keeping their old customers coming back while satisfying the request of new customers that turned their back on BN. They are still searching for a balance business approach so that they will not offend any of their new and old customers.
Yes as we expected in PR, there will be some quarrels every now and then. We saw some directors resigning along the way because they couldn’t agree to what PR is doing or they did not manage to secure any credible position in PR. Some of them jumped over to BN because of better offers from BN to sabotage PR’s stability. Some voiced their problems and dissatisfaction over the medias because they can’t get their voices heard in the board room.
But this is not a good reason why we should lose confidence in PR. We have to keep in mind, all new companies face the same problems like PR and it takes time for them to get stabilize, and it takes time for those directors to familiarize with this wholesale business. Besides that, they have to deal with the constant sabotages from BN – which actually gives them less time to concentrate on improving this wholesale business. We can’t expect them to be as masterful as BN in such short period of time in running this wholesale business when they are having a hard time running their business in a BN-friendly environment. Problems will keep cropping out every now and then, but the important thing is those PR’s directors know how to solve those problems efficiently.
Yes, I agree that sometimes PR’s directors argue too much, and it makes them look rather instable. But are we too quick to punish them because of that? Why the impatient from our side? Why can’t we be more supportive of them?
I think the only reason why we feel so agitated when PR failed to be what we wanted them to be; is because we wanted to kick BN out of business so badly and we could not stand our hope being dashed because of PR’s incompetency. PR is our last hope to ensure we get the fair price for our apple supplies.
Just because we gave birth to PR, doesn’t mean that they can’t do no wrong. We should treat PR like our children, they must given the chance to rise again after they hit a snag. We must educate them to be the wonder child we hope for. But we mustn’t discourage them when they make mistakes. Instead, we must ensure, they are able to rise up stronger again and again after each setback they endured. We can criticize, but we must also guide them to the right path. We can’t be too quick to write them off since we know that going back to BN is not going to help us to improve the situation anyhow.
BN is still the bigger player in this apple industry. PR is still very much the underdog, and in the business’s world, everyone is biased towards the underdog. PR is going to have a hard time finding suitable low-cost transportation, suitable suppliers and loyal workers without being sabotage by BN. They have to keep their business afloat despite the rising costs of goods imposed by BN’s cronies to destabilize PR. The only way they can survive is by increasing their apples sales, which means it requires more support from us. Once they become the big brother in the apple business, they can start to dictate those suppliers and the transportation providers aligned to BN to lower their price or else they will lose the business contracts from PR.
To counter those frauds and high prices in the apple industry, we need PR to rise up in this BN-friendly environment to compete with BN, head-to-head. We must ensure there’s at least 2 apples wholesalers at any one time in the future. If we punish PR too hard, BN will take advantage of the situation to break PR into 3 small stall apple sellers so that they can monopoly the market again. And we must not let that happen because in the end we are the only one who suffer.
Now let us get back to our real BN and PR in politics. Malaysians tend to very forgetful but they also can be very unforgiving. Malaysian can be very forgiving on your mistakes for the past 50 years, but they can never forgive you for today’s mistake. One wrong statement can change their whole perception about PR regardless of how many good things PR had said or done in the past.
But sad to say, a lot of Malaysian are still generally very emotional and very ignorant about the country well-being. As long as they get their typical 3 meals a day, they couldn't care less about what’s the BN politicians are doing to our country. They forgot about the possibility that their children and grandchildren may not be that lucky as them!
PR’s death only benefits BN and its cronies and no one else. We are the biggest loser if PR goes down. Therefore, we must help to ensure PR survives at all cost. We must continue to lend our support to PR, even more so when they hit a rocky path like they are having now.
We must not lose sight of why we gave birth to PR. We wanted an alternative for us to choose from. PR’s survival and success is about us and our country - rather than it is about PR or BN’s political prosperity. We must ensure PR survives and becomes the big brother in Malaysia’s politics to kick start the healthy competition between BN and PR. There’s no real start to a 2 party system until the other side wins for at least once.
For a better Malaysia, we need PR. Punishing them now will lead us to back to BN’s dictatorship, and that’s exactly what BN wants us to do.