By Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo and Patricia B. Mirasol

BusinessWorld asked entrepreneurs and startup founders what lessons they have learned from the coronavirus pandemic so far.


“My personal dream is to make this business rooted in purpose. Because if [a business] is rooted primarily in the purpose of helping communities solve real-world problems, profit will come after.” — Dexter Baño Jr., CEO of aerospace company OrbitX

“Find meaningful reasons to continue to run your business. Your customers need you in some capacity. The first thing we found purpose in was in participating in the relief efforts themselves. We were… trying to keep guys on the road and we heard the call from various LGUs, from various government offices, that ‘Hey, we need help moving stuff from A to B…’ — this was somewhat energizing to the team, to see that the business could respond in a positive way, that we could continue to operate our company in a way that was meaningful and made an impact.” Martin Cu, Country Head of courier service Ninja Van PH


“For us, it was about how we can make little tweaks to our network to enable that specific product and also address a very, very sore urgent consumer need. I see these photos of queues in the grocery stores all across the country, people queueing up two, three hours at a time and putting themselves at risk by being in those lines. As a company, we can respond to that; again, one rider keeping 50 0r 60 families at home. It is a big deal for us and a win for business. It creates a product line that we believe we can sustain in the future.” — Martin Cu, Country Head of Ninja Van PH

“On the part of the tech and scientific communities, let’s make sure that… our products are also flexible and thermostat-like to this type of crisis. If you are able to adapt to this type of crisis, you will be able to create new products out of uncertainty. I’m challenging all founders to make sure their existing products and technologies will be of help in this current crisis. If we won’t help, this won’t end soon.” — Dexter Baño Jr., CEO of OrbitX

“For a young technology company like us, it has been a reminder for us to be more flexible, and for us to adapt our business model towards shared community and stakeholder goals. Now more than ever, companies should be more agile and should be more flexible in terms of opening new services or thinking of new solutions that can support our customers. And this is the core of all of our efforts. Making sure that when we launch Grab Mart, when we launch new services, we’re able to support the needs of our customers.” — Krhizzy Pasigan, Public Relations Manager, Grab Philippines


“My advice for startups is that they need to anticipate the future; they need to build products that they can cater [to] the future. In our case, when we invested in SeeYouDoc, even though we’re not gaining traction or not being accepted, we just believed that in the future, healthcare will be mostly online.” — Noel Del Castillo, Founder and CEO, of telehealth platform SeeYouDoc

“What we’re doing so far is making sure that by the time the government says that we’re okay to resume ride-hailing operations, we have enough safety measures in place. So we are finding means to do regular disinfecting in cars as early as now. We’re also finding ways to train drivers on how safety protocols could be done, and also devising new protocols for ride-hailing. So we’re thinking a step ahead.” — Krhizzy Pasigan, Public Relations Manager, Grab Philippines


“E-commerce will play a significant role in the economic recovery of this country. Every bike that we put on the road can keep 30 to 50 families—if not more—at home simply by addressing their needs for essential goods, so we feel very strongly about this point. I’ve seen how e-commerce has played a significant role in enabling an active quarantine. It can remove some of the strongest incentives for you to go outside. We have seen that food platforms and restaurants have been the most graceful to make this evolution—of brick-and-mortar stores evolving more into direct-to-consumer delivery platforms.” — Martin Cu, Country Head of Ninja Van PH

“If you will look into the process of onboarding merchants before, there are certain requirements needed, specifically business registrations, et cetera, and most of these requirements must be submitted personally or hard copy. But… to be able to onboard these new merchants, we made it easier for them to apply. So everything is now online, and now all of those hard copy materials can just be submitted online.” — Krhizzy Pasigan, Public Relations Manager, Grab Philippines


“Managing a team remotely is a huge challenge, definitely. But we just have to trust our employees and give them regular updates on our current numbers. We just have to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s constant communication and making sure that you are updated about the position of the company.” — Andre Mercado, CEO of online real estate platform Signet Properties

“Like most companies, we didn’t have a plan for a pandemic. This teaches us that there has to be measures in place for us to be able to take care of our employees when times like this happen. We’re thinking of creating not just business continuity plans, but also welfare plans for employees should things like this happen again. We have to start thinking about how we are able to take care of our people during a crisis because it’s our people who take care of us all the time. The business would not exist without its team.” — Patrick Doromal, Owner, Oh My Gulay Delivery

“If you look at the supply of the driver partners we’ve seen a bit of a decline, because we’ve given the delivery partners the discretion to stay online… because, again, of the fear of the virus. What we told them is that it’s their decision, we give you the liberty to decide whether you’ll be online or not. But if you choose to be online, we will be rolling out all of these safety measures and support for you guys.” — Krhizzy Pasigan, Public Relations Manager, Grab Philippines 


“I think for most businesses ito yung parang testing point natin. Like in our case, ang dapat namin i-improve is yung capital namin. Dapat nakapag-save pa kami. But our strength is in our communication. We have good communication with our team. Yun naman yung nagamit namin in terms of thriving currently.” — Emmanuel Llego, Owner of apparel company Emgo Philippines

“It’s actually great for us that there’s a lot of takeaways we can learn from. There are some features that we need to improve on and add to our website for us to be able to cater better to both sellers and buyers—not just during the crisis but even after it, moving forward.” — Andre Mercado, CEO of Signet Properties