EACOMM Corporation is featured in the July 2008 Issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. Entrepreneur Magazine is published by Summit Media and is available at most book stores, magazine stands, and convenience stores for Php 125.00. You can also check out the article below. The Interview was conducted last April, 2008.
Jul 02, 2008
By Katrina Tan
After early gains in producing interactive yearbook CDs, this IT venture set up by a group of friends now offers a range of services to clients here and abroad
The idea for EACOMM Corp. came up when five friends—Elias Ravillas, Arvin Sanvictores, Christiane de la Paz, Odnerolf Fajilan, and Mikhail Torres—chanced upon an interactive yearbook CD back in college.
“Interactive CDs were just entering the market at that time and had limited features and functions,” says Torres, EACOMM’s current managing director. “Since four of us took up engineering at the University of the Philippines and had knowledge in programming, we felt we could improve the product. We wanted to add a creative aspect to the technology. Yearbooks are very nostalgic, and we thought that adding audio-visuals would be something viewers would appreciate.”
In 1999, after their graduation, the five thus began their first venture as a semi-independent information technology arm of Universal Matrix Corp., a consultancy firm owned by Torres’ father, Ruben D. Torres. Torres recalls: “As part of Unimatrix, we were provided office space on Katipunan Avenue and given capital to acquire computers. Although we didn’t create a formal business plan, we learned a lot about conducting a business and about making presentations to clients.”
The five had to learn online whatever programming skills they needed, such as Shockwave and Macromedia Director. “Some days we’d work from 10:00 a.m. till midnight,” Torres says. “We began with government projects. These were for database services, multimedia development, and other projects that took about six months to develop. One project went for about P700,000 based on the industry going rate, and we earned roughly 50 percent in profits from it.”
EACOMM’s foray into the educational arena began when it was commissioned to create an interactive CD to complement the 2001 yearbook of the Ateneo High School in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Says de la Paz, the company’s director for marketing and training: “There were a few companies making the products then, but since our company was relatively young, we found it difficult to convince clients to purchase our product. So we surveyed how many students were interested in purchasing an interactive CD with their yearbook. Most of them were interested, of course.”
Torres credits EACOMM’s ability to win clients to its creative approach to projects and to the consistency of its communication with clients. Its first yearbook project, for example, had a 3D gaming theme that perfectly suited the graduating batch—a unique feature that led to several other yearbook projects.
It was at this time that EACOMM decided to separate from Unimatrix. In August 2001, it relocated to a 55-square meter office at the IBM Plaza Building in Eastwood, Quezon City, but kept its Katipunan office as a production facility. Investing almost P1 million of its saved profits in office space and PCs, the company then established a 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. work schedule, formed departments, and began actively approaching clients.
The company’s early years saw some managerial changes, with founders Ravillas and Sanvictores migrating to the United States and getting replaced by Francis Alincastre as director for Web development and by Joel Abelida, director for multimedia, respectively.
As an independent entity, EACOMM initially focused on markets inside academe, handling about 10 yearbook projects a year. Says Torres: “Since we were able to do the computer programming ourselves, the first employees we hired were creative people. Manpower is one of the main difficulties in this industry. Skilled employees are hard to find, and their salaries are always growing.”
In fact, 80 percent of EACOMM’s current expenses go to manpower, with the balance going to acquisition of PCs and software licenses. “We have about 20 full-time and part-time employees, split between creatives and programmers, and 20 to 30 individuals from whom we outsource certain jobs,” says Torres.
Today, aside from making job postings on their website and a few online advertising placements, EACOMM no longer actively looks for clients. The company now gets two to three unsolicited project requests weekly. The nature of its business also enables the company to render its services across the globe. Indeed, 40 percent of its current revenues is generated from foreign clients.
“We charge a standard of US$15 to $20 an hour,” says Torres. “A basic website is about $2,000 to $3,000, but prices really depend on the project. What’s nice about that is we don’t really view local companies as our competitors—in fact, we even outsource projects to them.”
EACOMM has since expanded its services to include web design and development, multimedia development, integrated hardware and software solutions, and training. The company now runs the EACOMM Studio of Digital Arts (ESODA).
Over the years, the company has established strategic partnerships with, among several IT companies, Indigo 21, a UK-based information technology and business process outsourcing (BPO) solutions provider; Zeus Networks, a local software development company; and Elisha Telecom Ltd., London-based voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) hardware and software provider.
EACOMM saw its biggest growth during the period from 2001 to 2006, experiencing a 30 percent annual increase in revenues. In 2005, the company moved to still another location—a larger 155-square meter office in nearby Eastwood’s CyberMall in Libis, Quezon City—to accommodate its growing business.
“A major challenge in the IT industry is to constantly innovate and keep up with trends,” says Torres. “We’re currently creating standard Web applications that can be used by several clients, as opposed to creating one website per client. This makes our operations more efficient and productive and allows us to optimize the use of our current resources.”