Entrepreneur of the Year offers advice on how to start a business

By Kathleen A. Martin, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Dec 13 2012 12:43 PM | Updated as of Dec 13 2012 08:51 PM

Jaime I. Ayala
'Find and start a business you're passionate about'

MANILA, Philippines - When starting a business, one needs to find a problem he'll be "passionate" about finding a solution to, Jaime I. Ayala, president and chief executive officer of Hybrid Social Solutions, Inc. and this year's Entrepreneur Of The Year (Philippines), said Thursday.

"Focus on a problem you're passionate about because businesses exist to provide services and products that meet the needs of a customer group," Ayala told ANC's Karen Davila on Headstart.

For his firm, which aims to provide solar-powered products to families living in areas without electricity, Ayala noted what makes it a social business is the fact that its target customers are the poor.

"We're learning about the needs of the poor and we're trying to figure out what do they need, what they can afford and how do we make these available to them," he explained.

In October, Ayala won Ernst & Young's Enterpreneur of The Year Philippines 2012 award, making him the first social entrepreneur to represent the country in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year in Monte Carlo, Monaco in June 2013.

He admitted he was surprised at the recognition, having only banked on winning the Social Entrepreneur award during the gala.

"I was literally speechless when they announced my name... It was such a great recognition of what I was doing," Ayala said.

Ayala was formerly president of Ayala Land, Inc., the property arm of conglomerate Ayala Corp. Moreover, he was previously the president of global management consulting group McKinsey & Company's Manila office.

His decision to start Hybrid Social Solutions was a result of years figuring out how he can better help Filipinos, Ayala shared.

"Ever since we were young, it was put in our hearts that while we go abroad, it would be just to learn and coming home is really to serve and help our country, help our people achieve their full potential," Ayala said.

"The Filipinos are so amazing but somehow, we're not able to fulfill our potential. How can they when they don't have access to the very basic things they need in order to develop? That was always in my heart and it was just a question of how to do that," he continued.

Ayala further said his mentors taught him to come up with "game-changing ideas" to aid people suffering despite already having technology that will clearly solve their problems.

"We have the technology but the problem is it's not spreading. So Hybrid Social Solutions is helping people in the rural areas get access to this," Ayala said.

"What we do is go to the very rural areas--on top of mountains or on islands with no electricity--and work with electric cooperatives, microfinance institutions, or an NGO (non-government organization) to distribute our products."

He noted majority of Filipinos without access to electricity are living in Mindanao.

Quoting figures from National Electrification Administration, Ayala said more than a million Filipinos in Maguindanao are without electricity, and another 703,230 more in South Cotabato.

More than 650,000 Filipinos in Lanao del Sur and some 615,000 in Sulu also do not have access to electricity, he added.