One of the rare industries that boomed during the pandemic, e-commerce generated growth worth 10 years in the span of 2020. And one Chinoy who benefited from this was Steve Sy, CEO and Founder of Great Deals E-Commerce Philippines.
In May 2021, he raised a record $30M in Series B Funding led by Logistics Firm Fast Group. And while Sy has reached the pinnacle, he is very open of his “desert experience” that shaped him and reminds him of how blessed he is now.
“Before Great Deals and before e-commerce, I was in debt for 12 years or so. During those time I think I was in debt for more than P32 Million,” admits Sy. So much so that he had to enter the insurance industry to help pay off those debts. He recounts the hardship of raising two children during this time and shares, “For 12 years you keep on paying your debt so there was a time na wala ka nang motivation to do business because you’ve maintain your debt its been years… It’s not just 1 to 2 years it’s you know on your 6th year, 7th year and you get frustrated, you get depressed. But then because of family you know my brothers are also in business. My brother told me “Ahya why not go back into business.” And that’s how Sy got back into entrepreneurship starting with the importation of cellphone accessories.
After that desert experience, Sy called e-commerce his “promised land.” Great Deals currently has a roster of the biggest multinational companies, from Nestle, Unilever, Abbott, L’Oreal, Samsung and P&G. They provide the end-to-end e-commerce solution for these clients. Sy explains, “It’s simple, we are incubator and then online retailer rolled into one. So if you look at our business it’s like we’re supplying goods in a different channel, which is e-commerce, kung offline ka you go to the different department stores or what we call modern trade. Sa akin naman our channel partners are Lazada, Shopee, Zalora, Grab, etc.”
He admits that his own father, who albeit is very proud of his accomplishments, still doesn’t fully understand his work but he best describes it in these terms, “if you buy Nestlé, Unilever, Abott, San Miguel in Lazada and Shopee technically you’re buying from us. So we handle the end to end from digital content from online shop to data analytics, business intelligence, warehousing, fulfillment and dispatch, we take care of the end to end solution.”
Like most Chinoys, Sy went through the ko tiam stage. He rebelled and remembers the experience, “We had a heated discussion with my parents kasi I was you know, La Salle. And then it was a Sunday morning they asked me to take care to go to Divisoria and open our store. And I told my parents which I regretted, ‘Alam mo pinaaral mo ko sa La Salle para magbantay lang ng tindahan.’”
But in hindsight, he credits his parents and the hardworking discipline they instilled for his success. He explains, “So up to now even though we’re in the pandemic I still have that habit of going to the office and working every day.”
And from being in debt, today Sy is valued at millions of dollars, and has led and built a new family business that he calls “a shared ecosystem.” As the eldest of five siblings, Sy laughs, “We have the same values. But we don’t fight. We always know. Kaya nga sabi ko we need to have a shared ecosystem so iba-iba ang mag target market namin so we don’t compete but we grow the ecosystem.”
Very much a Chinoy, Sy describes himself,“Truly I’m a Filipino by heart with Chinese roots.”
And he is informed by a very deep sense of patriotism and malasakit. Sy concludes, “We are frontliners. If people are not able to buy online and food and get their products online they need to go outside and be in health risk. So sabi ko we are frontliners we need to open. Last year we didn’t close. We are always open. Because sabi ko we are frontliners so our kababayan will be able to receive their goods. The essential goods that are needed in their day to day life. So I think yun yung bravery that you need to go because we need to go out, work, and help others. We need to be brave for others so that others will be able to live.”
And that is the secret to his success, “The outcome is your company grew because you have the heart for the Filipino. The heart of a Pinoy. The malasakit.”
Find out more tonight 8pm on “Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart 1CH1NOY.” Catch it only on CNN Philippines via Free TV Channel 9, Sky Cable Channel 14, Cignal Channel 10. It will also simultaneously air on CNN Philippines’ webpage www.cnnphilippines.com.