Founder and  Chairman Emeritus of the Philippine Business Council (PBC) in Abu Dhabi,  Jose Jovy Tuaňo is a true leader making an indelible mark in the community and the industry. He set up Asia Gulf Trading in early 2004 as a Limited Liability Company importing Philippine contract furniture for the hospitality industry in Kuwait, Bahrain and UAE.  As a CPA and licensed real estate practitioner, Jovy has assumed leadership of Megaworld International for the Middle East and Africa as territorial head based in UAE.  Today his business group, Asia Gulf Companies, is the brand owner of La Carne Premium Meat and La Comida Express Gourmet, a line of ready-to-eat fast fine food in a jar  that is now available in selected retail stores across the emirates.

How did you start your business?
In early 2000, there were very few Filipino-owned establishments offering high quality products and services that catered to the growing expatriate population in UAE. From a managerial sales position with a 5-star Arab airline, I sacrificed free travel benefits for myself and family and took the daring plunge to start a trading business out of my end of service benefit in partnership with an Emirati partner. I needed to practice what I preached as a small business leader and faced the challenges and glory of doing business in the UAE.

Why did you decide to go into this line of business in the UAE?
Our core business evolved around food and lifestyle (shelter) products, the two basic needs of society. Food was my childhood and family business back in the Philippines.  Before I arrived in UAE 18 years ago, I was already engaged in food service, retail and distribution as a small businessman.   I travelled overseas to Asia and beyond to learn more about different cultures and consumer behavior as important ingredients to a successful global food and lifestyle business that now includes real estate commercial brokerage and travel services. UAE is the best place to cultivate these ingredients.

What were the highs and lows of setting up your business?

High: I was able to find local and foreign business partners with high level of trust and integrity who understand and support small businessmen like me. I benefited from the continuous service improvement of the UAE government agencies from immigration, labor to licensing.

Low: Increasing cost of doing business

What was your best day at work?
Perfecting the best ready-to-eat food products that we can sell in the market that is healthy with longer shelf life i.e. LA COMIDA EXPRESS GOURMET. Then getting the first order from the largest supermarket chain in the middle east.

What was your worst day at work?
During the 2009 crisis when we had to let go of our staff and equipment as there were no viable projects.

How did you manage to fund or finance your business?
La Comida Express Gourmet and Catering was funded from personal resources while La Carne Premium Meat was funded by friendly investors who believe in our mission of serving value-added food products to the community. The commercial brokerage for Megaworld lifestyle homes was supported by our principal in the Philippines.

Who has been your greatest influence in setting up this venture?

His Excellency Hussian Al Nowais of Emirates Holdings who shared his “Spirit of Enterprise” to help me establish the Philippine Business Council Abu Dhabi and Asia Gulf Trading LLC in 2004.

And of course, my emirati business partners Ali Al Rais and Aziz Al Dhaheri who believed and unselfishly supported my mission.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs when setting up their businesses?
Have one or two great mentors whose business story you admire. Listen and learn from everyone from the smartest to the dumbest. Pursue an enterprise or a core business today based on your very purpose and talent in life that you need to propagate before your die. Do not be afraid to fail and fall in the mud as your foundation of success lies beneath the ground, like the roots of a beautiful tree or the foundation of a tall building.

Describe any amusing or strange experiences, or interesting moments (an incident that happened that you will never forget) that took place while establishing or running your business

Every time we acquire a new big customer or key account, I personally go and deliver our products to customers to make sure that I understand how our products can help their business, meet the key people and know the documentation involved in their business process. As an entrepreneur, I have to gain hands-on experience in dealing with my customers before I can delegate any of these tasks. It is extremely interesting to meet people of different cultures. I enjoy driving across the seven emirates from Abu Dhabi and Al Ain to Northern Fujairah, while I update myself with market opportunities. For me this is a life-time experience.

Describe any challenges you experienced and how you overcame them.
For an entrepreneur like myself, one of the many challenges is the availability of capital – at the start up and as operations propel. What I learned is that my own integrity as a person is the best capital. I discovered that when goals are noble and reasonable, one will always find the resources needed to achieve them. This is how I overcome this challenge – I always use goals and business values that promote goodness to my staff, customers and community/society.

Outline the reasons why your business succeeded and any particular factors that influenced your success.

We measure success using the ‘triple bottom line’ approach to ensure sustainability: Long-term profitability + Benefit to society + Impact to the Environment. We do not measure success by the size of our organization or elegance of our office. Our success lies deep inside our people and the satisfied experience of each of our customers everyday.

Outline any important lessons you learned along the way or ways in which you would have done things differently.

I believe in organic or natural growth of our enterprise. Most important lesson is to understand the business ecosystem surrounding your enterprise and identify ways to contribute to or be part of this ecosystem. So long as you are part of a viable business chain, you would have an assured growth.

Did you ever think you will be what you are today?
Yes, I discovered that I had a gift of enterprise at an early age and I continue to live and share it with others.

Outline your future plans for your business.
We plan to be part of the value chain of the growing food industry in the Gulf through closer collaboration and alliance with our customers and suppliers.

Outline any important lessons you learned along the way or ways in which you would have done things differently.
I believe in organic or natural growth of our enterprise. most important lession is to understand how the business ecosystem of your industry works and how to indentify the most suitable business model for your enterprise.

Describe the defining moment that made you feel certain that your business is going in the direction you want it to go.
We receive honest-to-goodness feedback from our customers, repeat orders and contracts in pipeline – these keep us going in a direction consistent to our enterprise vision.

Explain why you set up your business in the UAE

After 6 years working with a Gulf carrier and travelling to many countries, I saw UAE as the best place to establish a global connection with a direct business link to Asia amidst abundant business opportunities, conducive business climate and favorable social tolerance of the UAE government.

I was fortunate to have met Emirati friends and associates who opened their doors to help me without expecting too much in return.  After travelling to more than 50 countries for business and leisure, I found UAE as an oasis for entrepreneurs since it attracts multi-cultural expatriate consumers, international trade and foreign direct investment from many countries.  It offers excellent one-stop business support services through Department of Economy and the Chamber of Commerce, regardless of company size of operation.  It is fulfilling to see your business grow in a young country with good economic linkage to your home country.

What is the single most important decision you made that contributed to your business?
My continuous presence here in UAE with my family and immerse in the local culture and multi-cultural society has contributed to my business. We are here to serve a growing market for food and shelter.

Anything you want to add or tell us?
We are entering the advent of the FILIPINO AGE when the big players from the financial and consumer industries are taking advantage of the growing purchasing power of the Filipino community in the Middle East. From food, finance, electronics to automative, hospitality and real estate. It is our goal to spearhead the Filipino Age in UAE and the Gulf.


The Market in Mushrif Mall thru Level 1 NBAD side hallway

Landline : 024443664

Jose ‘Jovy’ Tuano
Founder & CEO | Asia Gulf Companies
 C.  +971 50 443 2656
by Cristina Magallon
Tweet @UAEDNAofficial
LinkedIn: Cristina Magallon
Company Page: UAE DNA



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