Elevator Pitch: Kristine Claire Ongcangco of Parlon
Manila/ Venture/ Startups

Elevator Pitch: Parlon’s Kristine Ongcangco on Their Singapore Expansion

Parlon Founders Cornejo and Ongcangco Photo by Courtesy of Parlon

Discovering the best wellness and beauty deals has never been easier. Parlon, a Philippine-grown brand helmed by CEO Kristine Claire Ongcangco and CTO Miko Cornejo, has onboarded over 500 local brands unto its online platform. These involve everything from spas to salons, waxing studios, and aesthetic centers. This has, however, yet to stop them or slow them down.

After finding success in the Philippine landscape, the impressive duo has set their sights on international shores: Singapore. Navigating these new waters has taught Ongcangco and Cornejo plenty of new lessons.

How did you and Miko start Parlon?

Miko and I met in college when we were partners in the student council. Fresh out of college, we established an IT design and development firm called Concept Machine. For over 10 years, we've been building websites, systems, mobile apps, and tech solutions for top Philippine companies and startups. I juggled Concept Machine with law school, and when I passed the bar, I asked Miko if we could build our own startup to solve a problem.

I love everything about beauty, and I saw a gap in the salon and wellness service industry. Miko suggested that we onboard merchants first before investing our own funds and using our resources at Concept Machine. When I was able to successfully onboard merchants, we decided to start building Parlon. And now, we are here, with the widest salon and wellness network in the Philippines, and starting to expand in Southeast Asia.

Why do you think there is a need for a service like Parlon in the Philippines and Singapore?

Almost everything has been digitalized already. You can book hotels, rides, and restaurants online. We can also conveniently shop for skincare and makeup products online. Sadly, pre-Parlon, the salon and wellness industry, which uplifts our spirits and makes us feel better about ourselves, was left out in terms of digitalization. Booking appointments was a manual process, and many salon and wellness centers had a hard time accepting cashless payments. On the consumer side, Parlon is here to make beauty and wellness accessible for everyone.

How do you break into a new country like Singapore where the beauty standards/practices may not necessarily be the same as that in the Philippines?

The first step was to immerse myself in the new market. Whenever I visit other countries, I try to find time to book a salon session to experience the services and journey firsthand. I also start conversations to gain insights into consumer behavior.

Differences in standards and practices among Southeast Asian countries are not glaring. In terms of behavior and desires, there are more similarities than differences. For example, many love scoring deals and promos. The key is to build well-thought-out products and offerings that make economic/business sense in the markets we will be targeting.

Is looking for investors different in Singapore than it is in the Philippines? If yes, how? If not, why not?

We engage with regional investors, extending beyond the Philippines. Today, founders enjoy the benefits and opportunities of being part of a borderless startup ecosystem, as investors and venture capital firms globally have become increasingly approachable and accessible. As founders, it is important for us to keep our focus on building a great product, proving a powerful and scalable business, establishing and nurturing meaningful connections, and allowing our work to demonstrate our greatest potential.

What exciting business opportunities do you see in Singapore? What does the beauty and/or tech industry look like there?

Singapore may have more access and exposure to tech and payment solutions. Nevertheless, a strong platform focused on beauty and wellness is still lacking. This is where Parlon comes in. Restaurants in Singapore are filled with QR ordering table toppers, and super apps for food, transportation, and essentials are prevalent. Generic deals and cashback platforms are also common. However, beauty and wellness service merchants had to settle for generic digital tools that are not necessarily built for them.

I understand Singapore’s tech industry is incredibly advanced! How are you tailoring your expansion to fit the unique needs of the country?

First-world countries like Singapore are usually advanced in terms of technology. However, it has always been a different story with the salon and wellness service industry. This industry was often treated as just a secondary or additional vertical of marketplaces, solutions, and platforms.

On Day 1 of building Parlon, I already had a vision and goal of making Parlon global. We will be building a platform that is scalable, at least in Southeast Asia. We understand that merchants, regardless of their geographical location, have different ways of operating (e.g., some will require prepayment, and some are deals-centric). With this in mind, we built our system to be flexible to different scenarios. It is a continuous process as we adapt our platform with new learnings and emerging technologies. Merchants may have different ways of operating. But consumer needs are universal – most, if not all, need and want a place to discover, book, and buy salon and wellness services. 

Can you tell us anything more about Parlon’s upcoming projects or SG expansion?

We’ve started onboarding merchants in Singapore. We have almost 100 branches listed on www.parlon.sg. Via the website, you can now see the service menu, operational hours, and other details of the merchants. Hopefully, this year we can start rolling out features like booking and buying services that we have in the Philippines to Singapore.

Know more about Parlon by visiting their Philippine or Singapore website. You can also visit their Instagram page. Parlon app is also available for both Android and iOS and can be downloaded via Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

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

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