E-commerce entrepreneurs should use technology to offload repetitive and unsexy tasks such as payment processing so that they can focus on their customers, according to the book The E-Hustle: What the Country’s Best Digital Leaders Can Teach You About Launching and Growing Your Online Business. 

The idea for GCash, an e-wallet with more than 38 million users, came from observing how Filipinos handled debt. “We saw people going, ‘I have no cash. How about I give you P50 worth of mobile phone credits right now and let’s call it quits?’ That’s how it [GCash] began,” said Mario Domingo, one of the e-wallet’s co-authors and founder of Neural Mechanics Inc., a boutique AI (artificial intelligence) machine learning shop that analyzes customers’ psychographic behavior. 

By practicing empathy — putting on a backpack, finding your customer, and learning what they are doing — an entrepreneur will be able to tease out relationships like, say, what objects frequently appear together in a shopper’s cart.  

“We learned that on Thursday afternoon — in certain municipalities and social classes — sales of Emperador Light, condoms, and ice goes through the roof,” said Mr. Domingo. “So, we bundled the items in front of the store, and they flew off the shelf.”  

“Learn how they’re browsing — and not from the cookies only,” he added. “How are they interacting with your product?”   

Composed of anecdotes like these, E-Hustle collates insights from 17 e-commerce leaders in the Philippines from different fields, including logistics, distribution, and payments.  

“There is no map to e-commerce, no guide that says ‘you are here’ and tells you how to go the distance. But there are principles, strategies, and tactics that cut across different contexts, and the leaders here share exactly those: You can apply what they learned often through trial-and-error to your own circumstances, fast tracking your personal growth, and in extension, that of your business,” said Kyle Nate, production editor of The E-Hustle, in a statement. 


In the early 2010s, door-to-door delivery — a service taken for granted today — was a crazy idea, said Francis Plaza, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of payment gateway PayMongo. Tech, he added, democratized the playing field, allowing good ideas to flourish. 

“Tech allows you to launch your idea in your bedroom. Every business is a tech company now,” he said. “Gone are the days when engineers monopolized tech. [Everyone] has something to bring to this digital shift.”  

This shift, Mr. Plaza added, requires a lot of players and layers to enable the ecosystem, including AI, security, logistics, and “unsexy” facets like payments. PayMongo itself grew 40 times last year as a result of the country’s shift to digital transactions due to the pandemic.  

“Payments are the least sexy thing in the value chain of internet transactions,” Mr. Plaza said. “We do this to enable more people to trust the digital world, and so you, [an entrepreneur], can do the better stuff.”  

For its part, Shopee Philippines helps small businesses shift to digital through seller support packages and the Shopee University Summit, which teaches business strategy to sellers.  

Small sellers can try live-selling — using video to sell their products — to boost sales, according to Shopee director Martin Yu.  

BigCurvesPH, which sells branded overruns and has a five-star rating, regularly livestreams its latest offerings on Shopee. 

For Kim Y. Lato, CEO of Kimstore, the Philippines’s first online gadget store, selecting the right business partners was instrumental.  

“Don’t be too caught up with pricing,” Ms. Lato said. “Ask, do they offer good customer service? Are their technology solutions still at par with future trends?”  

As with the other book contributors, she acknowledged the usefulness of tech while highlighting the importance of having a customer-centric culture.  

“I knew the names, birthdays, and purchases of my first 500 customers,” said Ms. Lato, who started selling online in 2006 at the now-defunct social networking site Multiply. “At the end of the day, tech is just tech. It’s what you provide to customers that matters.” — Patricia B. Mirasol 

Put together by Bookshelf PH, The E-Hustle: What the Country’s Best Digital Leaders Can Teach You About Launching and Growing Your Online Business is available at https://bit.ly/TheE-Hustle.