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Making e-commerce great for business

The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 has concluded its search for the country’s most undaunted and unstoppable entrepreneurs. Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines is a program of the SGV Foundation, Inc., with the participation of co-presenters the Asian Institute of Management, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. In the next few weeks, BusinessWorld will feature each finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022.

Steve Sy
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Great Deals E-commerce Corp.

WHEN THE PHILIPPINE e-commerce industry was in its infant stages, Steve Sy took the chance to learn everything about it and started his own e-distributor company, Great Deals E-commerce Corp. (Great Deals). Today, Great Deals is the leading e-distributor in the Philippines, catering to multinational brands.

With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from De La Salle University, Mr. Sy has always seen himself as a lifelong entrepreneur.

“I’ve never been employed, the only company I’ve been employed at is here at Great Deals,” he said.

He attributed his skills as a businessman to his formal education and experience, working his way up from a physical shop selling cellphone accessories. In the early days of e-commerce, he started as a single proprietor, doing wholesale for online merchants in 2012. In 2014, he joined Lazada as an online retailer with the main goal of selling slow-moving items.

During a Lazada “double-double sale,” he sold thousands of power banks in one day. “I was shocked and amazed. That was my light bulb moment,” he said. “I knew I had to do this full time and study everything about e-commerce.”

In January 2015, Mr. Sy approached the owner of a local virgin coconut oil brand and offered to be an e-franchisee, where he would sell all their products online. “This was the concept of Great Deals’ business, e-commerce enablement,” he said.

By 2016, Great Deals was able to onboard its first multinational company. In five months, the company’s online business surged 500%, making it the #1 home care brand on Lazada. Mr. Sy also made his own sneaker brand the #1 fashion brand on Lazada, beating bigger fashion companies.

Soon after Great Deals proved its value, 84 of the country’s top brands signed on for the company’s service. In 2019, he noted Great Deals was vying for the number one position of digital enabler in the country. During the pandemic, the company was the first startup in the industry to raise more than $10 million during a Series A investment and also the first Series B company in the Philippines that wasn’t funded by a corporate conglomerate.

Amid the growth of e-commerce in the country, Great Deals provides end-to-end opportunities, optimum brand awareness and excellent customer experience by connecting brands and retailers in the online marketplace. Its services include digital content production, digital marketing coordination, analytics, customer support, warehouse and fulfillment, inventory, and management of marketplace listings.

Great Deals uses a business-to-business-to-consumer model with the main business providing e-digital business management support for brands. It offers digital solutions as add-ons that clients can use to help boost online sales. “That’s why we’re an online distributor and online retailer rolled into one,” Mr. Sy said.

Great Deals is integrated with multiple social media and online retail apps, and payment gateways. Clients who join Great Deals can immediately benefit from this digital ecosystem.

While he does not have a tech background, Mr. Sy said what makes Great Deals successful is that it is a service-oriented company. The company will go out of its way to help a client beyond what is agreed.

He revealed his greatest challenge was fulfilling a very large order during a Lazada birthday sale when he underestimated and only prepared a third of the actual orders that came in for a personal care brand. He had to ask his client to help pack and process the immense volume of orders, even reaching out to other suppliers and hiring temporary packers, as order cancellations could cost him his biggest client. From then on, Mr. Sy learned to always prepare for anything. Great Deals improved its processes, including having bigger warehouses to be able to scale with the growth of the company. The company also upgraded tech systems and improved the supply chain. From 22 minutes, the order process now takes only 7 minutes.

Another factor that makes Great Deals successful, according to Mr. Sy, is its people. He believes in investing in excellent teams and in partnerships that lead to more business.

“Having a motivated team who shares the same vision makes it easier to achieve our goal of being a service-oriented company,” he said.

The Great Deals Executive Committee always strives to be diverse and encourages innovation. The company gives training for executives to expand their knowledge on the latest trends on e-commerce.

Mr. Sy’s vision is to accelerate the use of e-commerce in the country, which he claims represents only 3% of the available retail business. Through Great Deals, it makes it easier and more affordable for people to shop online. By adapting hyper localization, with warehouses put up in Cebu and Davao, the company cut down the costs and delivery time for customers nationwide.

Mr. Sy also plans to expand Great Deals in the Asia-Pacific region through a buy-and-build strategy.

“We want to be not just a regional player, but a regional leader of each country in ASEAN,” he said. “After that, we want to break the glass ceiling and become a globally competitive company. That is the next frontier.”

The media sponsors of the Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2022 are BusinessWorld and the ABS-CBN News Channel. Gold Sponsors are SteelAsia Manufacturing Corp., Uratex, and Navegar. Silver Sponsors are Intellicare, OneWorld Alliance Logistics Corp., and Regan Industrial Sales, Inc. Banquet Sponsors are Uratex and MerryMart Consumer Corp.

The winners of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines 2022 will be announced on Nov. 21 in an awards banquet at the Grand Hyatt Manila. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Philippines will represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2023. The Entrepreneur Of The Year program is produced globally by Ernst & Young (EY).