Uratex looks to the future
(Last of three parts)
We are the last company in the country that still makes textiles for upholstery,” says Dindo Medina, Uratex business unit head for monoblock and home accessories. When I express shock, he lists textile enterprises that have already folded or diversified. I tell him that Uratex cannot give up this undertaking. He says, “Iwojima,” likening their efforts to the iconic image of US Marines raising the Stars and Stripes on that Pacific island during World War II.
“Filipino companies are known for services, not as much for manufacturing,” Dindo continues. I agree. Our country relies on retail, but only when our local manufacturing sector strengthens can our country truly progress.
The multi-awarded RGC/Uratex Group of Companies, founded by Robert and Naty Cheng half a century ago, is famed for its manufacturing prowess. It has since become a household name for innovating mattresses with cutting-edge technologies.
“Many businesses do not reinvest their earnings,” Dindo says. “When they get money, they buy a car, etc. But it’s wise to put profits back into the company. Several businesses depend on and lobby for government help, which is important, but we also have to help ourselves.
“Take furniture. Many Filipino companies have excellent craftsmanship but are not cost-efficient. Chinese companies can choose our designs, and use three-dimensional capture to make more items faster, quicker, cheaper. We have to improve our processes.”
In the spirit of win-win, Uratex believes in partnership. “We champion locally made industries. In our stores, we sell metal double-deck beds from one partner, quality furniture from another. Our partners also display our items in theirs. Tunay na tulungan (real cooperation).”
I hope that Uratex remains in the family in succeeding generations, I tell Dindo’s wife, Peachy Cheng-Medina, one of the founders’ daughters. She and her siblings play key roles in the business, and it is heartwarming that some in the third generation are already working with them to carry on the founders’ legacy.
In earlier times, the need for trusted labor is urgent. Through the decades, because of the perseverance and savvy of the first and second generations with the help of stellar employees, the younger ones today can, if they choose to, explore various career paths.
Dindo and Peachy’s eldest child currently works in a finance multinational. “We will not force anyone to work in our company,” says Peachy, “but he is open to working with us in the future.”
Companies benefit when children work for the family straightaway, but working for another boss first also has its advantages.
“Mapapagalitan muna ang anak namin sa iba (someone will have to reprimand them first),” says Dindo, who initially worked for a multinational corporation after graduation. “He will learn to meet strict deadlines given by others; he will be corrected by others. Because even if he starts from the bottom, when the employees know that he is part of the family, deadlines may be relaxed, supervisors not as strict. We want our child to learn good practices from others, which he can share with us later.”
Uratex gives generously to the community, donating mattresses to those hit by typhoons, among other civic works. In their personal lives, Peachy and Dindo are owners of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) 3 x 3 teams Uratex Dream and Uratex Tibay.
The first woman inducted into Ateneo’s Sports Hall of Fame for college exploits in basketball, football and track and field, Peachy takes her responsibilities as team owner seriously. “Every night she goes through NBA statistics, [studying how they] trade and manage,” says Dindo, himself an Ateneo college varsity volleyball player. “The NBA is her bedtime story.”
The two Uratex teams are WNBL champions, but going against international opponents is tougher. Whatever the outcome in global games, “we benchmark and we learn,” says Dindo. “Sports, with its sacrifices and the discipline it requires, makes us grow.”