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BIZ BUZZ: Booming during a crisis

/ 04:04 AM September 13, 2021

It’s a business worth billions of dollars in other countries and, if young billionaire Edgar “Injap” Sia II’s projections are correct, it will soon be big business in the Philippines, too.

We’re talking about his latest venture, MBOX Smart Lockers Corp., which is a subsidiary of MM Consumer Technologies Corp., in turn a unit of publicly listed MerryMart Consumer Corp.

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For many, launching a new endeavor during a raging pandemic would be crazy. But not in the case of MBOX, which is meant to address the concerns brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.

Biz Buzz learned that Injap’s latest baby will start rolling out so-called smart lockers this month with the goal of not just minimizing but eliminating the risk of person-to-person contact when delivering and picking up packages and parcels.

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As everyone knows by now, close proximity during a pandemic is a high-risk activity, and the entrepreneurial businessman is hoping to solve that problem.

To this end, Sia recently incorporated MM Consumer Technologies as a new subsidiary focusing on high growth potential consumer related technology ventures like MBOX smart lockers.

The idea is to have deliveries consolidated in a single site, for which the box holder will receive a notification of a delivery on his mobile phone. Basically a high tech post office box, the goal is to have 5,000 MBOX smart lockers in the network by 2030.As for MerryMart itself, the company is focused only on the sunrise essential grocery, personal care and pharmacy category of retail.

During the pandemic, it conducted its initial public offering and accelerated its branch expansion via various store formats toward its goal of 1,200 branches by 2030.

Biz Buzz also learned that MerryMart just signed its first merger and acquisition (M&A) deal with the largest pharmacy chain in Quezon province also during the pandemic, and Sia is keeping his eyes open for M&A opportunities in both the grocery and pharmacy space that will accelerate its growth and allow it to capitalize on the continued consolidation, from traditional to modern retail, in the Philippines.

His goal is nothing less than for MerryMart to reach P120 billion in revenues by 2030. Truly, nothing succeeds like having agility during a crisis.

—Daxim L. Lucas

Meteoric rise

Few people have seen their fortunes and public profiles rise as swiftly and dramatically as the founders of Converge ICT Solutions, Dennis Anthony Uy of Pampanga and wife Maria Grace Uy.

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The newly minted fiber internet billionaires broke into the latest top 10 richest Filipinos list, according to Forbes Magazine, with an estimated net worth of $2.8 billion—even larger than that of some of the country’s famous tycoons.

This was mainly through the still-rising valuations of Converge, one of the country’s largest home internet providers, that appears to be among the few companies defying the stock market downturn less than a year after its initial public offering. What’s next, a television show? There is one: Uy himself will get a taste of celebrityhood after being named among the “investor-judges” in the reality business show The Final Pitch.

The meteoric rise might seem abrupt, but the Uys have been building up Converge for some time and while few others were looking in this direction. The ongoing pandemic only served to highlight the importance of dedicated internet lines to stay connected to each other. Despite all this change, Uy told Biz Buzz not much else is different in his life apart from business and a few other interesting projects he would unveil at the right time. “I still eat the same kind of food,” he quipped after the latest Forbes list was released.

Uy said Converge’s market valuation—now at over P240 billion—still surprises him since he insists he never invested in the stock market in his entire life. Why? He said there was simply no time because he was so busy with Converge.

In any case, Uy said he was pleased those who invested early on and understood the business were reaping the rewards today. As for his secret sauce and business philosophy, that’s a bit harder to explain. “It’s all about the technology,” Uy said.

—Miguel R. Camus INQ

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