Ex-janitor lives it up in lively amusement sectorBy Anselmo Roque
Inquirer Central Luzon
SAN ISIDRO, Nueva Ecija—To support himself through college, Ramon Santos worked as a janitor in a Metro Manila-based firm engaged in the importation and supply of amusement rides.
His father, a farmer in their village of Sto. Cristo here, and his mother, a housekeeper, had no way of supporting him as he pursued a business administration course. At that time, his three younger siblings were also in school.
But Santos, through perseverance and his salary as a janitor, eventually finished college.
Armed with a business degree, he received a promotion in the company he worked for during his college years, becoming purchase manager and later manager for the importation of finished products.
“It was providential that I worked in that company. It opened my eyes and mind to the big business potentials in the manufacturing of facilities and equipment in this bustling amusement industry,” Santos said of the firm he served for 13 years.
Later, the suppliers of imported amusement rides convinced Santos to join them in putting up a trading company. He and his partners imported amusement rides to supply the local market.
But in 1997, the Asian financial crisis struck. He and his partners were hit hard when the demand for amusement rides tapered off.
Turning crisis into opportunity, he ventured into the manufacture of amusement rides. For Santos, it was a daring move as China and other European countries were offering the same products at lower costs.
Santos started the Westech International Philippines Inc. in the family compound in Barangay Sto. Cristo.
With a 10-man workforce that included an engineer, welders, electricians and a machinist, he began churning out small equipment for amusement rides.
“I designed the equipment we planned to produce. It was easy as there were already available models in the market, and I know how they work. I improved on the models, most especially on their quality,” he says.
Westech first produced coin-operated machines, bump cars and small rides like helicopters, fantasy cars, submarines, heavy equipment, animal prototypes and boats, among others.
“Of course, it was difficult to start such an undertaking. The market was wary about the quality and safety of the products we produced,” Santos explains.
He solved the problem through extensive training of his employees and by asking help from experienced technicians. In time, Santos gained the trust and confidence of his clients.
From single-seat rides, Santos started manufacturing medium-sized amusement equipment like trains, carousels, roller coasters, ferris wheels, balloon wheels and water rides.
“It helped that shopping mall giant SM noticed my products. It contracted me to provide safe and quality amusement rides [for their malls],” Santos said.
Soon, other establishments like World of Fun, Tom’s World, StarCity, Quantum, G-Box Amusement, Robinsons and Festival Mall, became his clients.
He also started exporting his products to Morocco, Indonesia, China, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and Australia.
Prices of his amusement rides and equipment range from less than P1 million to as high as P40 million.
From 10 employees in 1997, his company now employs 200. Fabricators, welders, electricians, technicians and engineers all keep his 5,000-square meter production area running.
He is now preparing to expand, having acquired a four-hectare land adjacent to his property here.
“There’s a huge market for amusement rides. Big resorts are sprouting in many places. Local governments are also putting up parks that need amusement rides,” Santos said.
His wife, Annie, handles the human resource aspect and procurement needs of their company. His son Venntor is in charge of finance, while daughter Caryll heads the design and conceptualization team.
Another son, Ronneal, is still studying, but helps out in the company.
Santos, who supports 26 high school scholars, also devotes his time to the affairs of his village. He is now on his second term as village chair of Sto. Cristo.
He also runs the Westech Training Center, a training facility accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
“It certainly gives me much pleasure in being able to provide quality equipment for our amusement rides industry and being able to provide jobs for our skilled workers,” Santos says.
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