Sansan's Jay Pegarido Talks About the Future of Tech in PH
Manila/ Venture/ Profiles

Elevator Pitch: Sansan's Jay Pegarido on the Future of Tech in the PH

Sansans Jay Pegarido on the Future of Tech in the Philippines Photo by Jay Pegarido

In recent years, the Philippines has witnessed a remarkable transformation, becoming fertile ground for innovation and technological advancement. With a dynamic startup ecosystem, strategic government policies, and a young, digitally adept workforce, the Philippines is positioning itself as a key tech hub in Asia.

However, this rapid growth does not come without challenges. While the tech industry in the Philippines has numerous untapped potentials, it still faces many challenges, such as infrastructure limitations, regulatory challenges, and the lack of enhanced education and training programs for tech practitioners, among others.

Ushering in a new era of tech in the Philippines with its intelligent business solutions, one of Japan’s leading software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, Sansan, Inc., has set up a new hub in Cebu City in late 2023, Sansan Global Development Center Inc. (SGDC). Since then, the company has been delivering these solutions to their global clients, while developing the skills of local talents in the Philippines.

In an exclusive interview, The Beat Asia talked to Jay Pegarido, Director and Country Manager at SGDC, to find out what the future holds for the Philippines’ tech space and how the company is helping elevate this burgeoning industry.

Hi Jay! Can you give us a brief background on Sansan Global Development Center, Inc.? What does the business entail?

Sansan Global Development Center, Inc. was established in Cebu, Philippines in 2023 to strengthen Sansan, Inc.’s global product development.

Sansan is a leading Japanese SaaS company, specializing in cloud-based solutions aimed at digital transformation (DX) of analog processes such as managing business contacts, invoicing, and managing contracts. SGDC focuses primarily on developing and enhancing Sansan’s products and mainly on the Bill One invoice management solution, tailoring it for markets outside of Japan.

Sansan Global Development Center Grand Opening in Cebu City
Photo from Facebook/Sansan Global Development Center, Inc.

By leveraging local talent and collaborating closely with our counterparts in Japan, we ensure our solutions meet the diverse needs of global clients. We’re also increasingly putting the development and ownership processes in the hands of the expanding Filipino development team.

As Sansan PH's Director and Country Manager, what are your major responsibilities in the company?

As the Director and Country Manager of SGDC, my primary responsibilities include overseeing the operations and strategic direction of our Cebu office at a time in which we’re undergoing rapid expansion. This entails managing product development, ensuring the quality and efficiency of our solutions, and fostering a collaborative work environment.

I also focus on expanding our team by hiring top local talent and providing them with the necessary training and support to contribute effectively to our global projects. This goes beyond recruiting people with skills and extends to finding personalities who will proactively assert themselves and take on the company’s mission and values as their own.

Metro Manila has been a vibrant hub for business and tech development. Why did Sansan choose to establish its PH global development center in Cebu instead?

Cebu was chosen because of its strong educational infrastructure and large pool of talented IT graduates, with the city offering a conducive environment for business operations while being less congested than Metro Manila. Additionally, Cebu has a vibrant tech ecosystem, making it an ideal location for our development center.

Sansan Global Development Center Student Engagement Program
Photo from Facebook/Sansan Global Development Center, Inc.

This strategic decision allows us to tap into the local talent pool while benefiting from a more relaxed yet professional environment conducive to innovation and productivity. Here in Cebu, we’re really able to build a family-like atmosphere as we build our technological capacities.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen Cebu rapidly becoming a top choice for startup and tech companies entering the Philippines from abroad. It provides a cost-effective lifestyle, less traffic, and a more leisurely pace compared to the hectic atmosphere of Manila.

Despite its relaxed ambiance, Cebu offers a wide range of opportunities in the tech industry, making it a perfect destination for expanding businesses and professionals alike.

Since Sansan's arrival in the Philippines, what significant milestones has the company made in the tech industry?

Since establishing SGDC in Cebu, we have considerably expanded our team and taken on creative challenges, product development, and ownership. And we’re really just starting to pick up speed. We reached our target of hiring 50 software developers, and we’re aiming to scale up to 100 and beyond.

Sansan Global Development Center Cebu Business Trip to Japan
Photo from Facebook/Sansan Global Development Center, Inc.

Our team has been pivotal in developing and customizing Bill One for Sansan’s overseas markets, as well as its mainstay Japanese product, ensuring high standards of product quality and innovation. This growth not only reflects our commitment to contributing to the Philippines' tech industry and fostering local talent, [but] it [also] demonstrates our ability to create a welcoming and challenging environment for all our members.

What technological needs of the Philippines does Sansan aim to address?

Sansan aims to address the need for fast, accurate, and secure digitization of business documents, which is crucial for many companies in the Philippines still reliant on paper-based processes. And, beyond that, we’re pursuing ways to activate the digitized data for greater business outcomes. For now, though, we are only a developer hub and are not selling our solutions in the Philippine market, as in Japan, Singapore, and elsewhere.

Bill One helps businesses transition to paperless accounting workflows, enhancing productivity and accuracy in invoice management. This analog-to-digital character is present in all of Sansan’s solutions, which rely on proprietary technology that reshapes how people work.

Sansan’s advanced contact management solutions, which are the product of well over a decade of development, aim to expand sales opportunities and operational efficiency across various sectors and borders.

Japan, Sansan's home country, is known for its high level of technological advances. With your experience working in both countries, what are the major differences that you can pinpoint between Japan's tech space and that of the Philippines?

Japan's tech space is characterized by advanced technological infrastructure and a strong emphasis on precision, innovation, and continual refinement.

In contrast, the Philippines, while rapidly developing, often faces challenges related to infrastructure and the transition from traditional to digital processes. In my time in Japan, it was also very clear to me that Japan grapples with that same transition; it’s just in a position to deal with it more rapidly owing to the more developed economy.

Sansan Innovation Project (SIP) 2019 in Tokyo, Japan
Photo by Facebook/Sansan Global Development Center, Inc.

Comparative to Japan, the Philippines boasts a younger workforce, which brings a dynamic and adaptable [energy] that may be more eager to embrace new technologies.

The key difference lies in the stage of technological adoption and the maturity of the tech ecosystem, with Japan being more advanced but the Philippines showing significant growth potential and enthusiasm for tech innovation.

Spearheading hundreds of developers, what potential are you seeing in the Philippines' pool of tech talents? How is the company working to develop these talents?

The Philippines has a vast and promising pool of tech talents with strong foundational skills in various programming languages and a keen interest in emerging technologies.

At Sansan, we are committed to nurturing this talent through continuous training, mentorship, and exposure to real-world projects. We provide a supportive environment where developers can take ownership of their ideas and contribute to global product development, ensuring they grow both professionally and personally. We also provide a home, of sorts, thanks to Sansan’s progressive attitude toward innovation and personnel development.

We heard that you're working on a new initiative to contribute to the environment, called "Scan for Trees." Can you tell us more about it?

The "Scan for Trees" initiative is part of Sansan’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts aimed at promoting environmental sustainability, whereby trees are planted in direct proportion to the amount of paper documents, such as business cards or invoices, that are digitized using our solutions.

This initiative not only helps in reducing paper usage but also contributes to reforestation efforts, supporting ecological balance and environmental conservation. We plan to expand this initiative to the Philippines, further embedding our commitment to environmental stewardship in our business operations.

Sansan, Inc.'s Scan for Trees Initiative Project Poster
Photo from Facebook/Sansan Global Development Center, Inc.

How do you see the future of tech in the Philippines?

The future of tech in the Philippines is highly promising, driven by a young, skilled workforce and increasing investments in tech education and infrastructure. The country is becoming a significant player in the global tech landscape, with growing opportunities in areas such as AI, cloud computing, and digital transformation.

As the industry evolves, we expect the Philippines to continue attracting international tech firms and fostering a vibrant, innovative tech ecosystem. At Sansan, we’ve put ourselves in a strong position to be a very attractive, competitive, and rewarding workplace that capitalizes on this movement.

Any more groundbreaking projects or initiatives we should watch out for from Sansan?

Sansan is continually innovating to meet the evolving needs of our clients. Besides enhancing our existing solutions, like Bill One and our contact management systems, we are exploring new areas, such as deeper generative AI integration, to provide more robust and intelligent business solutions.

We are also focused on expanding our environmental initiatives and looking for ways to leverage technology to make a positive social impact.

Stay tuned for more exciting developments from Sansan as we continue to drive innovation in the tech industry.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To know more about Sansan Global Development Center, Inc., visit its website, Facebook, or LinkedIn pages.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Elevator Pitch profiles here.

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