Two Asian retail leaders have been added to Forbes magazine’s annual list of 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia – in The Philippines and Vietnam.
They are Robina Gokongwei-Pe, the president and COO of Robinsons Retail Holdings, the second-largest multi-format retailer in The Philippines, and chairman/general director Cao Thi Ngoc Dung of Vietnam’s largest jewellery brand, PNJ, which she founded in 1998.
Robinsons started as a department store in Manila in 1980, expanding into the supermarket business five years later. It entered the DIY business in 1994, the convenience store and specialty store businesses in 2000, and the drug store business in 2012.
There are six business segments: supermarkets (Robinsons Supermarket and its two new subformats, Robinsons Easymart and Robinsons Selections); department stores (Robinsons Department Store); DIY stores (Handyman Do it Best, True Value, True Home by True Value, and the newly acquired big-box hardware subformat A.M. Builders’ Depot); convenience stores (Ministop); drugstores (South Star Drug and Manson Drug); and specialty stores (from consumer electronics and appliance retailer Robinsons Appliances and Savers Appliances to toys retailer Toys ’R’ Us, one-price-point retailer Daiso Japan, coffee chain Costa Coffee and international fashion brands such as Dorothy Perkins, Topman and Topshop, and international cosmetics brands such as Shiseido).
Robina Gokongwei-Pe is also a director of Cebu Air, JG Summit Holdings, Robinsons Bank Corporation and Robinsons Land Corporation. She is a trustee of the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, Immaculate Conception Academy Scholarship Fund and the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation, and is also a member of the University of the Philippines Centennial Commission.
After attending the University of the Philippines-Diliman, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in journalism, from New York University in 1984. Pe joined the Robinsons group in 1984 as a management trainee. She is the daughter of the chairman and CEO of the company, John L Gokongwei Jr.
Cao Thi Ngoc Dung founded PNJ as a store in 1998, and now has a 17 per cent stake of the company, which has more than 3000 employees in 200 stores. The group grossed $350 million in revenue and made a profit of $23 million in its latest trading year.
Based in Ho Chi Minh City, PNJ opened its own jewellery factory in October 2012. A VND120 billion (US$ 5.38 million) investment, the factory has the capacity to produce 4 million items a year. PNJ’s national expansion started in 1994 with the establishment of a branch in Hanoi.
This year’s Asia’s Power Businesswomen list represented 14 countries, with China and Hong Kong dominating (14 women), followed by India (8), Thailand (5) and Japan (4). Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam each had three, while South Korea and The Philippines each had two. Macau, New Zealand and Taiwan had one each. There were 27 newcomers, about a quarter of them from the tech sector.