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November 23, 2020
3 min read
“We now have a layer of instant infrastructure for new startups to use to their advantage. That’s something that will be interesting over the next few years."
Former President of Grab PH
and Former Managing Director of Zalora
Brian is the former Country Head of Grab Philippines. He started his career in management consulting with the Boston Consulting Group in 2010. Alongside this role, he dove into the world of startups when he served as Co-Founder and CFO of Go-Jek indonesia. In 2012, he co-founded Zalora Philippines, the country’s largest online fashion retailer. He left in mid-2013 to co-found Grab Philippines.
What are the challenges in growing a startup company in the country?
The initial challenge is about whether there is a market for the product or not. In the Philippines, I’ve observed that the demand curve flattens fairly quickly. Once you get to a few thousand users, you have to spend millions again to get to that next level of demand. Even now with GrabFood, you need earth-shattering events like a pandemic to drive up your numbers or you need revolutionary products and ideas for you to achieve that goal. It’s not about access to payments or logistics, it’s all there. It’s about the inertia of the customers to adapt to a product. In terms of operations, it’s all about process, control, and being able to prioritize.
What is your view on the current state of the Philippine startup industry?
I believe that startups need to build on the backs of industry giants and existing platforms. For example, Zalora was built on the back of large logistics players like LBC, until they started doing their own logistics. It was built on top of advertising platforms like Facebook and Google. Platforms exist for things like marketing and payments. The question is: how do you utilize them to your full advantage and do you have the money to utilize them?
How has Grab Ph been adapting to the Covid situation? What are the new opportunities or challenges brought about by the new normal?
We were lucky to have diversified into other verticals last year. Since then, we doubled down on GrabFood and started building up our delivery service, which has been keeping us afloat during the pandemic.
What’s next for Grab PH?
Mart is a vertical we launched during the lockdown. We’re focusing our efforts on products like Food, Mart and Express, while Transport is still on the low end of the recovery spectrum. What Grab has built is a platform for instant fulfilment. Imagine if this lockdown happened 7 years ago when instant delivery services, e-wallets and online banking weren’t big yet. Similar to how Amazon has built a layer of cloud infrastructure in the last 10 years for businesses to utilize, the Philippines is experiencing the same today. We now have a layer of instant infrastructure for new startups to use to their advantage. That’s something that will be interesting over the next few years.
What does the Philippines need to further improve its startup ecosystem?
I am in favour of welcoming new businesses with more regulatory support, given that the first layer of infrastructure has been established. We can take a more active approach by providing incentives, encouraging startups to set up headquarters here, and investing in human capital.
Grab is Southeast Asia’s largest mobile technology company that connects millions of consumers to millions of drivers, merchants, and businesses. The company offers a range of services, including transport, on-demand delivery, consumer and financial services on a single platform. Grab is taking on the largest problems that affect the region, including access inequality, outdated infrastructure, and income disparity. It is the region’s first “decacorn” (a startup with a valuation of over US$10 billion), with a valuation of $14 billion as of 2019.
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