Back in February 1968, Dr. Felina A. Bravo decided to open Bookhaven Inc. with a starting capital of P2,000. Little did she know that this business would propel her and her husband Edilberto to be the pioneers in the copier machine and office solutions industry that would eventually become a billion-peso business.
Bookhaven Inc., which started in a rented space in A. Mabini Street, was a book dealer of the Philippine Educational Company and retailer/supplier of office supplies. Dr. Bravo, who was then an office employee, did the purchasing, selling and collection activities. Her assistant was a janitor who helped her with the deliveries.
“I am a lawyer by training and as a lawyer, I assumed that a good business for one, is to start a bookstore because lawyers are expected to read and be familiar with books. And that’s the underlying reason why we chose to start Bookhaven,” Bravo related.
BY 1969, the starting capital grew to P30,000, with P20,000 coming from their family friend lawyer Enrique “Ike” Belo. On February 17, 1969, the Bravo couple incorporated Bookhaven together with Belo.
“Even before we incorporated, my wife and I decided that our modest business had developed some interesting business lines which we both wanted to expand. This was specifically related to our business of importing book paper which would be used as the main material for making copies on laser copiers,” Bravo said.
“Since we were already in the business of supplying copy paper to laser print manufacturers, we thought that the natural way was to expand by selling copiers instead of merely supplying copy paper,” he added.
Bravo’s big break into the copier business came in 1973 when he received a call from someone from Japan. This person informed Bravo that Mitsubishi Corporation would be launching a new copying machine that could print on any paper, including newsprint. The catch was that he would have to make a trip to Hannover, Germany in April of 1973 to check out the machine.
Life changing trip
HE did make the trip and while there, he met Mr. Yoneyama who was then a director of the company owned by Mitsubishi whose main product was a plain paper copier with the capability to make copies on any kind of paper, especially bond paper and newsprint.
“I was fascinated by the performance of the machine which was called U-Bix Mark 1. When I asked Mr. Yoneyama why the name U-Bix, he explained that U-Bix was derived from the word Ubi which means beautiful in Japanese. So, they decided to call their first copier U-Bix Mark 1 and U-Bix became the brand,” Bravo said.
When he inquired about how he could be an agent for the brand, Bravo was told that it would be up to the General Manager of Mitsubishi Corporation in Manila to decide the matter.
With the help of a friend from the University of the Philippines College of Law, Bravo was introduced to Shinroku Morohashi, General Manager of Mitsubishi Corporation. After a few meetings and setting up an office in a building owned by Belo, U-Bix Corporation was born on January 2, 1974.
“There are those who build businesses and then sell them. I like to build a business and then grow other business from the original business. When I started in 1969, I imported paper for copier machines. My biggest client then was Xerox. After three years, I decided that I should probably be bringing in my own copier and that is what happened,” Bravo related.
IN 1977, the company started exporting the U-Bix Mark 1 to Saudi Arabia and Germany. To live up to its reputation of being the leader in setting industry standards for quality service, U-Bix broke ground in 1979 for a new plant, warehouse and service facility in Muntinlupa. This helped establish a strong infrastructure for the manufacture, assembly, service and distribution of the company’s products throughout the Philippines.
By the late 1970s, U-Bix had become the market leader in its industry, accounting for four out of every 10 copiers sold at that time. This did not stop Bravo as he continued to look for other businesses to invest in. U-Bix opened “Photo Magic” in 1980, a mini photo laboratory which shortened photo development from three days down to six hours and then eventually to two hours.
In the 1990s, U-Bix Corporation had established a solid and growing presence in office equipment. The company then explored other businesses that could be synergized with its office machines business. Office furniture was the natural fit.
Since 1993, U-Bix has distributed and installed innovative office seating, desks and workstations by Japan’s Okamura Corporation to a growing and delighted clientele in the Philippines. U-Bix had expanded into a full-scale office system manufacturer and distributor.
IN 1999, U-Bix further expanded its portfolio of products with its agreement to distribute the products of the Riso Kagaku Corporation of Japan. The Riso Digital Duplicator, known as the Risograph, is a high-speed digital printing system that optimizes print jobs at faster speeds and lower cost.
“Our venture into Risograph was in keeping with our plan to expand the office copying business,” Bravo explained.
In 1997 and through Facilities Managers Inc., Bravo acquired the ServiceMaster master franchise in the Philippines. It offers pest control services, disinfections and household cleaning, facilities operations and maintenance, and manpower services.
“We have managed to grow to 6,000 service partners in the last 27 years. We take pride in saying that all major hospitals in the Philippines, including schools and colleges. Some of the hospitals under our care are Makati Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Perpetual Help Hospital,” he said.
Other clients include The University of Asia and the Pacific, Colegio de San Agustin and the United States Embassy and Texas Instruments.
TO honor his parents who are both teachers, Bravo established the Facilities Management Academy on February 17, 2000. The academy is a technical-vocational school accredited by TESDA and trains entry level workers on skills and work values required to be great service personnel.
By 2017, FMC was legally changed to U-Bix Institute of Technology to show its relationship with its parent company.
Even if he ventured into other businesses like coffee, hotel, donuts and even beer, Bravo continued to find ways to expand the copier business. U-Bix saw the need to keep up with the changing times and opened “The Color Hub” in 2003. The hub aims to highlight U-Bix’s thrust toward promoting color products through their multifunction printers.
In 2007, U-Bix acquired the Kodak Imaging Center operation of Kodak Philippines and was renamed U-Bix Imaging Center. The traditional analog scanning was replaced with LED scanning technology. It became a leading provider of end-to-end data conversion, digitization and document management services.
NOW in its 50th year, Bravo attributes the success of U-Bix Corporation to integrity and the relationships he has built over the years.
“Integrity is the world that separates the good leaders from the rest of the pack. Integrity is the choice between what is convenient and what is right. That’s the meaning of integrity to me. Integrity is nothing more but a choice between what is right and what is convenient,” he said.
Looking back at how the business has grown, Bravo said he would not have been able to get that first copier deal if he did not have the trust of his Japanese principal.
“Integrity is about ethical leadership. All companies, clients, persons, and families need to trust you. Integrity leads to trust. Trust leads to influence and influence leads to confidence. Those who work with you, see you as reliable for your actions. They trust you knowing that their needs are in your mind,” he said.
As to what more could be expected from U-Bix Corporation, Bravo said he believes, “the next 50 years will bring us closer to our dream of becoming a major player in the office copier business, office furniture business, and other businesses that we have.”