If you are new to Manila, it takes a while to sink in that it is more than a tropical paradise. There is a lot of queueing involved. Nothing is straightforward. You have to develop your seventh sense - reading between the lines. Pen and paper is still cool and timetables can be distorted. Somebody somewhere in the web of hierarchy just could not make a major decision, for many reasons, and that starts all the delay . If you are a project manager of any sort and you want to make any lasting change in this country, you have to find out who that person is. A friendly warning: don't you dare confront this one! Especially in public. You have to be a friend, not perceived as a threat. You can subtly turn situations around as long as no one gets embarrassed - saving one's face takes precedence over anything. These can be frustrating but also good fun, if you have the patience for it. Filipinos who have seen a bigger world know that we could definitely be better as a country. If we only adapted things that work in developed countries, we can actually move forward. There is one company that crystallized this over the last couple of years and I have been a fan of their story. This is not a paid advert but if they end up catching this article and like it, maybe they can just GCash me.
A year ago, like most people, I started to question what I would really want to do with my life. Should I stick around? Should I find work overseas? Is it time to change careers? I just plodded along through life until I found answers. One company really inspired me - Mynt. This breath of fresh air is financial technology that brought the GCash app into fruition. In business jargon, a startup that reaches a $ 1B valuation is dubbed as a "unicorn". This year, Mynt acquired a "double unicorn" status after securing significant investments worldwide. Why I am sharing this is because it is proof that Filipino talent truly has a place in the global scene. Expats who chose to deepen their roots in the country see this in their team, household help, and in little things whilst traveling around the country. There is more than enough potential in the people, they just have to be given the right opportunity to bring their best performance to the stage. In saying that, I also meant everyone can also sing or dance here! Corporate Yearend parties are quite an experience.
I have been following this company's growth since 2020. In 2019, you could never make me use GCash. I had a different perception of it, which I can tell you on the next Sundowners, until I got converted. Necessity changed my life! Apparently, not just mine but most Filipinos and expats living here. With the world spinning so quickly, further accelerated by technology, ease of use is what people value most at this day and age. If a process is user-friendly and only takes seconds to get work done, it is bound to stick around. Take Grab as another example. I feel like my life is in danger when Grab doesn't work.
Once, we sent money to my parents' friend in the province through GCash. To our surprise, she informed us the moment that she managed to encash the money. I remember being beyond shocked as I thought GCash was supposed to be a substitute to cash! Sounds insane from someone living in BGC. However, if viewed from the right perspective, this company actually understood the Philippine market in full depth. Given the major resistance to change on a systemic level, some areas could just never be cashless. That is not wrong. They do lose a lot by modern world's standards but who knows what battles these areas are fighting for on a daily basis? Regardless, inclusion is the magic world. They have given everyone a chance to transact through their platform. I have been to Mindanao, the second biggest island in the Philippines, a couple of times and boy people there are loaded. To some extent, they remind me of Aussies - they dress simply, not very ostentatious, but they've got the moolah. They do love their thongs too! (the slippers kind, not the other) Banks rarely thrive in rural Philippines because a lot of families prefer to keep their piles of cash at home. Gradually however, this double unicorn island-hopped at the perfect time to convert these potential users and get them on board. Now they are close to servicing half of the country. How amazing is that?
Now that PH is truly opening up, we can gradually get back to savouring the wonders of this Pearl of the Orient Seas. I think it is great to keep such success stories in mind to further deepen our collective experience of the Philippines.