We had to feel our way forward when launching our business in the Philippines
Originally, I managed a software sales company, but I joined Quipper in 2014 when I learned that they were looking for people to manage operations in Asia. I had been looking for a good opportunity to work and also to raise my children overseas, and this seemed like a good way to catch two birds with one stone, so I moved to the Philippines with my family.
Although the market in Japan is shrinking due to the declining population, the number of young people in Southeast Asia is growing rapidly and the economies are continuing to expand, so I was always thinking that it’s a market worth challenging. But without any background knowledge regarding the business environment or the education market in the Philippines, the only thing I could do was to feel my way forward the best I could.
In 2014, I started out by putting my energy into getting the word out about our free Quipper School and trying to gather a lot of users. I tried many things, and as a result I learned that instead of trying to do something fancy, the most effective way to get results was to steadily plow ahead, spreading the word at the grassroots level.
But how could I reach the teachers in the field? By doing things like contacting them on Facebook and actually turning up at schools, asking them to let me give presentations. It may not seem very efficient, but it turned out to lead to the best results.
We started selling Quipper Video as a paid service in 2016, and that experience in the field and the networks I’d developed really helped when we set up sales activities directed at private and public schools.
In the Philippines, the portion of the national budget earmarked for education was not very big even into the early 2000s, but this really started to increase after 2010 and is now the largest single item in the national budget. Moreover, the K–12 educational system was adopted from 2016 and now public universities offer free tuition, so with changes like these, the amount of money and attention focused on the education market is skyrocketing, and we can expect further rapid expansion of the market.
Achieving differentiation through aftersales
The Philippines, unlike Japan or other countries in Southeast Asia, does not have a developed prep school market, so Quipper in the Philippines, unlike those other markets, does not focus on entrance examinations. Instead, we aim for our service to be used as part of the regular school curriculum. Both private and public schools are suffering from a shortage of teachers, and at some public schools, there aren’t even enough textbooks for all of the students, and we believe that the adoption of Quipper could help to solve these problems. So we are working to help people to understand these benefits.
Teachers are the key to getting our service into the schools, but the fact is that while some teachers are favorably inclined, others are not. It’s inevitable that the more senior teachers are often allergic to technology-based tools. It’s the same in any country. But we have seen many cases where teachers, especially the younger ones, are happy to see that they can use Quipper to teach more efficiently, handle homework assignments, reduce wasted time, and therefore have more time for worthwhile activities.
Our competitors are domestic publishers in the Philippines. In addition to paper publications, they also have CDs, DVDs, and digital educational materials, which is where we most directly compete with them. But in the Philippines, there’s a tendency to neglect aftersales support (not only in the education sector), whereas Quipper takes aftersales very seriously, so our team is aligned on achieving differentiation from our competitors by supporting customers as much as we can to make good use of our service.
Expanding to the rest of Southeast Asia
As we move forward, Quipper’s services won’t simply be providing tools and content, but we will be able to take on the role of being a force for educational reform. As more schools use our services, we will gather more data and success stories, and we’ll be to present these as feedback that will help school teachers to further improve their work and skills. And advancing as one with these teachers will no doubt become an added value for us.
A personal dream for me in this work is to expand our services to the whole Southeast Asia. There are already players in each of those countries, so we need to figure out how to find our opening. Just because a particular approach worked in the Philippines doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work in other places too.
Probably because we don’t focus on entrance exams in the Philippines, I’m always thinking that I’d like for Quipper and Study Sapuri to expand in the direction of lifelong learning. I hope our experience here in the Philippines can provide a good example of that.