Q&A with DoubleDragon Chairman Edgar Sia II on Managing Innovation

DoubleDragon (DD) ended the year 2021 already exceeding their 2022 goal of having 1.2 million gross floor area (GFA) in completed recurring income portfolio. DD Chairman and CEO Edgar “Injap” Sia II shares updates about some of his ongoing projects, innovation, and the future of DD. 

Q1: You created a new category (BBQ in fast food) with Mang Inasal, and you have tapped into an underserved market with your CityMall chain of community malls in third class cities unsaturated by the big malls. How do you spot opportunities ahead of everyone? 

A1: The process for us to identify which specific sub sector or a specific business concept that we will set to embark on generally involves a lot of thinking, observation, and inputs from many people both internally and externally. The process generally takes some time until we get to a certain kind of clarity and conviction to do it. We need to really be fully convinced that there is an available gap there or that there is an ongoing underlying transformation that is brewing in that specific industry that would eventually manifest.

Q2: You dropped the word “Properties” in your company name. What does this entail for the future of DoubleDragon? 

A2: The transformation to DoubleDragon Corporation is a strategic step that our partner Tony Tan Caktiong and myself foresee as necessary preparation for the longterm as we are jointly committed in our serious desire to grow and strengthen DoubleDragon in the decades to come. We believe that there are massive business opportunities in the Philippines in the next 30 years down the road and we wanted to prepare DoubleDragon ahead. 

Q3: MerryMart was launched in 2019 as a 3-in-1 concept combining grocery, pharmacy, plus health and beauty. Your goal is to reach 1,200 stores nationwide by 2030; that’s like opening a new store every 2-3 days. How did Covid-19 and the acceleration of ecommerce and delivery change the MerryMart’s business model?

A3: There are several ongoing calibration and adjustments within the MerryMart ecosystem given the significant changes in the overall market but the focus of MerryMart will remain to be in the essential sector of Grocery, Pharmacy and Personal Care through our various retail formats, wholesale distribution centers and on the consumer technology space. We are currently ramping up the expansion of our distribution centers to eventually be present in all the 82 provinces in the Philippines as this chain of wholesale distribution centers will be vital to enable MM to execute the rapid expansion of its various retail formats across the country. 

Q4: MerryMart launched the ‘dark groceries’ in partnership with delivery companies which caters to online deliveries within the branch’s vicinity using MBOX lockers where customers can pick up their groceries 24/7. Can you tell us more about this concept and why this is important?

A4: MBOX Smart Lockers are a revolutionary system of self-service lockers similar to post office boxes that are accessible 24/7, where customers can collect and drop off packages at their convenience at minimal or no additional cost. As soon as a package arrives, the locker sends a pickup code via SMS/App notification to alert the receiver. The MBOX APP are now available in both iOS and Android and now accepts GCash, Maya and Instapay for COD purchases. This pandemic has seen a record rise in deliveries and has highlighted the need for a contactless efficient green delivery alternative. But beyond this, we believe that MBOX will improve Filipinos’ online purchase experience and give consumers, couriers and merchants a more convenient, efficient, and secure alternative of delivering and receiving packages. 

Q5: How did DoubleDragon and MerryMart navigate the prolonged two years of highly volatile economic crisis? 

A5: We have internally classified the Covid19 pandemic crisis akin to a world war and we have impressed among ourselves that we must do our all to navigate over and tide it out. We are grateful to the cooperation and support of all our stakeholders that enabled us to anchor on the challenging environment that fueled us to strengthen and significantly boost the balance sheets of DoubleDragon and MerryMart raising over 20 Billion pesos of fresh equity capital in the past two years during the pandemic crisis. We are equally grateful to all our customers, team members, partners, board and all our supportive stakeholders that enabled both DoubleDragon and MerryMart to expand its balance sheet and reached its highest level of liquidity during the Covid19 pandemic crisis. This progress we believe would enable DoubleDragon and MerryMart to be in a position to significantly benefit from the upcoming boom cycle years that should follow after this multiple crisis. This progress would also allow DoubleDragon and MerryMart to be in position to pour its resources to serve all its stakeholders well at the optimum level in many decades to come. 

Q6: With so many businesses, how do you allocate time and energy to each of your businesses?

A6: Business ventures in our view is like the human progression. During the inception or start-up stage of the business they are like newborn babies, then after few years they grow to become a child, then as adolescent, and then finally become an adult. We always endeavor not to have multiple infants at any given stage. Just like having children, it is essential to have the right support around you. I am grateful that I have hardworking and competent family members, partners and professional officers around me. From less than a dozen team members in DoubleDragon about 10 years ago the team has now grown to thousands who work together towards a common goal. DoubleDragon Corporation and MerryMart Consumer Corp are like my left and right hand.

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Josiah Go is the chairman and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. Edgar “Injap” Sia II was a winner of the Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards (YMMA) in 2010. The search for the 18th Mansmith YMMA is ongoing. Details can be viewed through www.youngmarketmasters.com

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