FMCG ‘expert’drawn to challenge of real estate
She is a woman of substance, wisdom and wit, brimming with so much passion and zest for life.
And her impressive, highly successful career spanning 35 years in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry and nearly two decades in the equally challenging real estate sector could well attest to that.
But Angela de Villa-Lacson isn’t bent on slowing down anytime soon.
The president and CEO of boutique developer ArthaLand Corp. is raring to do much more, especially after the company’s listing of P2-billion preferred shares on the Philippine Stock Exchange earlier this week.
“We have to deploy that money and we have the plans for it. Because we raised enough to meet the requirements in the next five years, the onus now is on us to make sure that the (project) pipeline continues to grow. It’s important that you should have a pipeline as this will propel your growth,” Lacson said in a recent interview with Inquirer Property.
“We are now in a very good position. I could say that we have completed chapter 1, which is about establishing the brand, and demonstrating that we are capable of doing it and that financially, we can survive. And now, the market has noticed us,” she added.
The preferred share offering was four times oversubscribed, a clear testament to the strong investor confidence on the company behind Arya Residences—the first and only top-end residential development in the Philippines to receive a certification from the globally recognized green building rating system.
With the solid backing of the Po family, ArthaLand is preparing to embark on a P30-billion expansion plan over the next five years.
The Po family owns the Century Pacific Food Inc., the country’s largest canned food company behind market leader brands such as Century Tuna, 555, and Argentina, among others. ArthaLand’s other major shareholder is international investment firm, AO Capital Group.
Asked what has kept her on her toes to continue pursuing new, ambitious projects the likes of Arya Residences, Lacson simply said: “passion.”
“It’s about passion, and knowing what you want to do but doing what is right. My passion and energy probably comes from the fact that I enjoy what I’m doing,” she explained.
“You have to love what you’re doing, because if you’re just doing it because it’s your job and it’s paying you well, you will not have the same passion,” the lady exec added.
This same passion has been the driving force behind Lacson, even early on in her career, when she was still actively heading strategic divisions in corporate giants namely Unilever and San Miguel Corp.
Lacson had then launched Unilever brands like CloseUp, Cream Silk and Rexona, all of which have remained household names. In San Miguel, Lacson similarly handled marketing and brand management.
Lacson recalled that she was already with San Miguel at that time when she was invited to be part of Ayala Land Inc., where she was tasked to head the residential segment.
Lacson admitted that in her first year with the real estate industry, she felt unsure about her move. She however fell in love with the industry later on, noting the different challenges and rewards that came with it.
“I never thought that I would have so much passion for real estate. When I came in, I was invited for my strategic marketing thinking. I felt then that maybe it was time to do something that is different and challenging,” she said.
“FMCG is very exciting. You have many activities, you do so many things, and you see the results immediately. What is important in the consumer goods sector is repeat purchase. This is key because if you create that loyalty, that person will be loyal to you forever,” Lacson said.
“In real estate, however, when you launch something, it takes four years to see the results of your work. It’s agonizingly long,” she further added.
Starting from scratch
The opportunity to head ArthaLand came at a time when Lacson was already retiring.
“Certain people, certain circumstances led me to accept something unknown. The challenge was to start the organization and build it. So we were starting from scratch,” she said.
“In 2008, we started hiring people, and began the planning. At that time, the plan was for some other property to be developed where an office would rise. But I said then that it was not going to work—not from a business sense,” Lacson said.
While Lacson had nine years of real estate experience and expertise under her sleeve, starting a company like ArthaLand was no walk in the park.
“I came in a company that was then non-existent and you had to spell everthing out. When we put up ArthaLand, we decided that the thrust is to go green because I felt that this was going to be the direction. For me, that would differentiate us from the rest,” she said.
“Creating the brand was paramount. If you don’t create the brand, you’re just like everybody else, and if you don’t have differentiation, how do you convince anybody who doesn’t know you to purchase from you? People would think that there’s no reason to risk their lifetime savings in ArthaLand who was then an unknown,” Lacson explained.
There were challenges, of course, as back then, being truly green was a fairly difficult feat to achieve.
“You have to study all the requirements of what makes a building green. You have to understand what it’s all about, and know where to source materials. In the beginning, it wasn’t easy because you can’t find the materials needed in nearby countries and sourcing had to be done within a certain radius,” she explained.
“And even during construction, you have to be mindful about how you dispose materials and wastes,” she added.
Today, ArthaLand is reaping the significant benefits of its hard work with the completion of its flagship residential project Arya Residences.
This was the first and only condominium development to be awarded by the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program with a Gold certification.
It is also on track to achieve multiple stars from the Philippine Green Building Council’s Building Berde rating system.
ArthaLand has embarked on office projects through ArthaLand Century Pacific Tower at the Bonifacio Global City, and Cebu Exchange, its first foray in the Visayas.
Looking back, Lacson shared how this shift changed the way she saw real estate.
“I realized what a noble product a home is because you affect not just one customer but the whole family, and not just for one instance, but for the next 10 years,” she said.
“I also realized how important it was for the product to be right. It may not be the most luxurious or the best, but it should feel right and be done well because it will affect lives for many years,” Lacson added.
Lacson noted that she was happy how their first project, Arya Residences, had turned out, especially since it “demonstrated to the market that we could do it, despite all odds, and that we can do something better, or equal at least to the best of what’s in the market.”
Also heartwarming, she added, were the compliments they received from buyers and investors, all commending them for a stunning piece of architecture that pioneered greening in the property sector.
Leading the way
For now, Lacson is hoping that she will continue to imbibe in her team the same compelling passion that she has for ArthaLand projects, especially since the company is in the midst of an expansion.
The key was for the employees to enjoy and love what they are doing, and the passion will naturally come.
She added that she continues to take inspiration from all her previous bosses—both the good and not so good.
“You will learn from both. Even from the not so good ones, you will learn what not to do. If you’re always with great bosses, you will only imbibe all the great things but you will not know what are the difficult ones that you must avoid,” Lacson said.
“If you had only one mentor, your view of the world will be very narrow—it’s his view or her view. It will not be your own. But if you have whole exposure, then you can choose and select, imbibe good things, learn the lessons from the bad things,” she concluded.
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