MANILA, Philippines — As the pandemic spread notoriously beginning March of 2020, Filipinos had to put their lives on indefinite statuses to quarantine at home. Businesses, on the other hand, had to backpedal in their plans for the year and regroup to survive.
All this has driven society to come up with workarounds to keep the economy going. The result was the rapid shift to digital finance and e-commerce, both particularly advantageous to a consumption-driven economy in the country.
As digital platforms took the forefront, the need for efficient transfer of goods came next, an aspect in which the local courier industry now plays an integral part.
One of the companies that came alive and disrupted the delivery market was MrSpeedy—now known as Borzo—led by Gene Ferrer who has just stepped down as country manager.
He has been with the global start-up since 2018 when it entered the Philippine market. Borzo has since raised $50 million in Series B and Series C funding rounds with the Philippines contributing heavily to its projected annual gross revenue run rate at $150 million.
Under his leadership, the company made sure to fill its niche, offering market solutions to a now even vaster online clientele from big businesses to MSMEs, and online marketplaces to social media sellers.
It was a colossal challenge and Ferrer made sure the company played to its strengths, of which its people, the MrSpeedy staff, is most integral.
“From the beginning of the pandemic up until now, we have been experiencing what all start-ups dream about: high speed of growth resulting in a bigger scale of the company. The challenge is maintaining a culture of hard work, dedication and grit among the workforce,” Ferrer said.
“We overcame this by deciding to trust our staff to uphold the said principles, and we challenged them to take on bigger responsibilities and to find opportunities to lead. Most of our staff are young, hungry and passionate millennials and they proved that curiosity is as much beneficial as experience,” he added.
Leading by virtue
Ferrer always wears his principles on his sleeves. This is how he operated since taking lead at MrSpeedy—with honesty and trust.
“When you are leading a start-up, honesty and trust are important. Many times there are unforeseen circumstances, like the current pandemic, and honesty allows you to have people on your corner to celebrate with you when you get more than you expect as well as to support you when things go sideways,” he said.
Ferrer recalls what it had been like when MrSpeedy first opened up shop, saying that their story was akin to David and Goliath‘s.
“The competition had a superior product, had excellent service quality, and was already in the market years prior,” he said.
Today, the landscape has become tighter and more competitive, but Ferrer finds good in it and even finds the whole situation exciting.
“The challenge is that from a company perspective—is there really a way to reinvent or to redefine delivery? All companies now boast almost the same standards in logistics’ service level metrics—how quick to find a courier, how fast they pick up, how long they deliver—even services these companies provide are the same. What sets companies apart now is the quality of their courier or riders – they are, after all, the foundation of these companies,” he shared.
Bringing solutions to the ground level
The challenge Ferrer consistently looked at is how efficiently MrSpeedy could address pain points from the perspective of the market. After all, his job was to ensure consistent, stable and significant growth. He consistently questioned and changed strategy and found that one had to dig and dissect the delivery market again and again.
This means zeroing in and “understanding the different demands of each market segment, rather than trying to win the entire market overnight,” so they can specialize their products and services accordingly—and it worked.
“We’ve come to develop our product to directly address real-life challenges our clients face. We took customer complaints very seriously and we realized that these held the answers we needed. We also made sure MrSpeedy returned the human aspect, empathy to the tech industry—and it proved successful. We saw significant growth in our market share from these individual categories that propelled the company to make a product that is a fit for all,” he added.
As part of this growth, the company today has over 100 hardworking individuals in its employ and as many as 10,000 couriers who depend on the platform for their livelihood daily. This is Ferrer’s concrete legacy at MrSpeedy.
“For me, these are really the only numbers that matter—the lives we’ve changed for the better. Everything after is a bonus,” Ferrer said in fondness.
Starting on a new path
As he closes this chapter in his life to make room for more pursuits, he reflects on the lessons he’s learned throughout his journey with MrSpeedy.
“What I learned in this chapter of my career is to be brave. As long as you have a vision and a goal, you are capable of moving things. Drive is contagious, and I’d like to think I’ve made everyone believe that we are more than the sum of our parts. that we can achieve more—and we did. As a leader, whether at the starting or the maturity stage, you need to be crazy—crazy enough to dream big and even crazier enough to make people dream big with you.”
Right now, Ferrer is setting out on his path to becoming a successful entrepreneur or an angel investor.
“The first probably being more realistic—I am opening a driving school and also looking to join another start-up that is looking to operate here in the country. I look forward to getting better at running businesses, scaling them, and hopefully having some of my own. As for the latter, well, this young man can dream," Ferrer concluded.
Follow Gene is his journey by subscribing to his Youtube Channel: Gene F Vlog at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAWHAhzLUgFayiJKu8B-T8A.