THE Laus Group marks today a singularly significant milestone – the 36th anniversary of Carworld which has spawned an improbable conglomerate in an improbable niche – the countryside – over a period of time characterized by exceptional and unremitting challenges.
Began during tumultuous and unpredictable political and economic upheavals in the 70s, Carworld went through the fast and tricky shifting of dynamics of business and politics in 80s and stared at an unprecedented natural disaster in the face in the 90s.
And prevailed, even gave rise to a much bigger, diversified corporate group that is invariably looked up to, perhaps even envied, for its exceptional achievements. (Disclosure: In the Laus Group, success is a cautionary term).
It all started with a vision which, by a scenic definition, is seeing a rich valley beyond seven mountains which no one has climbed or dared to.
I was a balik-probinsyano of sort when the modern Carworld edifice emerged like an anachronistic landmark in a backwater environment in the not-yet-city of San Fernando in very early 90s, a short time before the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Its very existence defied traditional thinking and brought together cynics and critics too eager to see their views confirmed, one way or the other.
And why not? The company slogan was nearly dialectic: world-class service in a provincial setting, or something like that. It was too good to be true in a panorama of rice fields and dusty roads.
When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991 and lahar subsequently threatened to wipe out San Fernando, Carworld assumed a new role that eventually added to its unique lore as a business organization set apart from the rest, literally and figuratively.
In the days and months that followed through the frightening episodes of alternating lahar threats and attacks, Carworld became front and center in the fight for survival. It quickly transformed into a theater for strategic planning, unlikely political alliances and guarded partnership between technocrats and bureaucrats, on one hand, and pure capitalists and entrepreneurs, the old rich and the nouveau riche on the other.
Against all odds and absurdities, Carworld, embodying and symbolizing the improbable synergy, prevailed, again. And even paved the way for a new wave of business expansion---probably explosion is the better word – never seen before in the countryside.
In that span of time, Carworld had gone from a mere auto dealership to a community institution like no other. It had, on its own, help defined and, to great extent, determined the character of countryside business in the succeeding years: bringing class, excellence and integrity in services and products and creating a new value for the countryside as an alternative and viable niche for Metro Manila-based firms.
Gleaning from Carworld's rich narrative, it is clear that a meaningful and true milestone is rooted in a transcendent vision. And the distance between a vision and milestone is the legacy, an enduring one, if I may say so. The continuum is life itself, be it the corporate, or even the bigger community of business and people and other institutions that play an important role for progress and the shaping of a new future.
Carworld's anniversary, to be both fair and correct, must be celebrated and viewed in this context
Two questions play out in my mind as I write this: 1) Would business in Pampanga have been the way it has been if Carworld did not exist?, and 2) What would have happened to the City of San Fernando, and perhaps to the rest of Pampanga, if Carworld wasn't there at the time of the Mt. Pinatubo calamity?
Providence and historical contingency may provide some answers.