June 20, 2023 – Redge
Go Traktora’s Ralph Go on being born into his field, early growth experiences, and a future of supporting cereal entrepreneurs, everywhere.
From decadent cheesecakes to sophisticated soufflés, rainy-day ramen to quaint croissants — there is no shortage of choices for anyone craving carbohydrates. Yet for all their variety, most grain-based creations consist of the basics— rice, corn, or wheat nowadays all grown on the same ground, by farmers who have been doing an ancient thing for generations…with modern-day technology.
“You could say I was born into this field,” quips Go Traktora’s Ralph Go on his agricultural roots, “my parents started (our) business the same year I was born, in 1990.”
Go Traktora housing top global tractor brands such as John Deere, Sonalika & Kubota.
Originally branded as “Tarlac Robert’s Motor Trading,” the fledgling company dealt in small diesel engine parts before blossoming into the multi-brand tractor dealership it is now.
“Go Traktora was first appointed as a dealer of Kubota, exclusive distributor of Sonalika in 2013 and a distributor of John Deere tractors in 2019,” states the soft-spoken Go. “We have a huge responsibility as Sonalika is the best tractor brand exporter in India, Kubota is Asia’s top marque, and John Deere is the number one brand in the world. We do our best to present each brand to the right market, with no favorites.”
Developing a sensitivity to the needs of farmers, cultivating relationships with business partners, and planning for both good times and bad however, required Mr. Go to nurture his entrepreneurial skills— with lessons first planted in school.
Early Harrowing Experiences
In farming, “harrowing” is a part of land preparation. It commonly involves breaking the ground with a steel plough to loosen soil and remove weeds, making it easier for crops to take root.
For Ralph Go, coming to study at the University of Asia Pacific in Manila after living virtually his whole life in the province had a similar effect. “It was a lifestyle shock,” he recalls.
Thankfully, he became part of a group of friends from varied lifestyles. “The differences in our backgrounds was never a factor,” Ralph says. Instead, they helped him adjust to metropolis life, by giving him a new family in the city. “Their companies were among the top-20 in the Philippines,” Ralph shares, “but they were always so grounded and humble despite their status in life. They never made me feel like I didn’t belong. I’m now proud to consider them brothers.”
Sharing the college experience with his siblings also brought Ralph closer with his eldest sister and second-eldest sister. “My eldest sister now serves as a missionary, and my second eldest serves as vice president for finance. With my younger brother handling the IT department, I am very happy that we are working together as a family, towards a united vision for the company.” Ralph confides.
Graduating in 2012, Ralph first thought of going from farm to table. “I originally wanted to start a restaurant,” he says, “but realized it was too far from our (core business).” He then ventured into a tractor leasing, but quickly shut it down due to conflict of interest. Go’s first true break-out project was as a distributor of beach-cleaning equipment for H. Barber USA. “That was my baby,” Ralph remembers wistfully. He recounts the times he had to commute, holding meetings at the Makati branches of clients, who flew him out to their beach properties. “Now, all the Philippines’ top resorts use H. Barbers: Aman Pulo, Megaworld, Ayala Resorts, Alphaland…” Go beams.
In time however, Ralph’s farming background would need him back.
Ralph with his sister Rae and brother Ransel.
A Growing Family
Serving as a sales manager for 7 years, before ascending to Vice-President for Sales and Business Development for Go Traktora, Ralph looks back on simpler days. “I was very hands-on at the start,” he begins, “I used to meet farmers in the morning then have lunch with them in the afternoon. I handled corporate accounts in Clark (Pampanga), and met with our sales agents to remind them to balance our brands.”
For the most part, business has been steady under Ralph’s firm leadership. “Though I am surprised that information regarding tractors isn’t as common,” Go says, mentioning that some people still think ‘tractor’ is the same as ‘truck,’ “and this is considering that the Philippines is an agricultural country.”
Still, the past three decades have seen Go Traktora (and its mother company), stick to its business model— providing a service to “our hardworking farmers, by making their work faster, more efficient, and more comfortable.” Ralph proudly shares that the increasing mechanization of local farms have increased yields by allowing for more plantings per year, for example.
The Go Traktora multi-brand showroom spanning 4,000sqm is the biggest in Southeast Asia.
Even during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, “unemploying our people was never an option. We consider them family,” Go says, “and we can see crisis as a crisis or crisis as opportunity.”
Ralph choose the latter. Indeed, instead of downscaling, his leadership led to them laying down plans for a new head office in 2021. It opens this July.
Sprawling over 10 hectares in Tarlac and featuring a demo farm where visitors can test-drive Sonalika, Kubota, and John Deere tractors, Go envisions that “it will inspire fresh graduates to consider a future in farming, that it can be prosperous.”
Ralph Go with his sister Rae, brother Raensel, and Go Traktora team.
With his and his wife Hazel’s first-born, Kith, about to turn one-year old, Ralph can relate to the Philippines having one of the youngest and fastest-growing populations in the world. “He stands up, and babbles a lot!” Go says, “I’m looking forward to adventures and trips together. Hopefully he likes cars as much as his dad, but more so, I hope he finds his passion, and grows up remembering that his dad is with him.”
Ralph ruminates that the past few months seem to have given him an impetus to work harder for his young family (he hopes Kith has more siblings soon). “Hazel is on a path of motherhood, and my role is to provide as much as I can, so I am focused on grabbing as many opportunities as possible.”
Outwardly, such areas of growth involve securing favorable terms with banks on behalf of clients, seeking out new corporate accounts for continued business, and working with media partners to increase farming awareness. Inwardly, Ralph says he taps into his grit, love for family, and visionary mindset.
Ralph with his wife Hazel and son Kith.
“The hardest part of working in a family business is separating the personal with the professional, so I believe in a work-life balance,” he shares, “but when you find your ‘why’ - you find your reason to work harder.” As a caring family man whose destiny seems to have been planted a long time ago, Ralph Go comes to a crossroads in his journey. Hanging on his office wall are three paintings by Mark Abasolo of La Pasion Art— each portraying one of Go Traktora’s tractor brands with a BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes in the foreground.
From horsepower to crop power, Ralph taps his passion for lightning-fast sports cars into high performance tractors— revolutionizing agriculture with a speed that assures that wherever the Philippine agriculture industry chooses, they GO.
Ralph with his automotive paintings by Marc Abasolo.
Real stories. Real people.
We believe that life isn’t about a binary of ones and zeros - but about the sum of our hopes and dreams, our struggles and heartaches, our tragedies and triumphs.
The things that unite us are far stronger than the things that divide us.
And those stories are why we are alike.