A chartered financial analyst, Dan Layug worked for six years in the Mergers and Acquisitions Advisory division of ING Bank NV and the Equity Capital Markets division of Maybank ATR. He holds a professional diploma in Building & Property Management from College of Saint Benilde, graduated from Georgetown University with undergraduate degrees in Finance and Chinese Studies, and received his Master of Business Administration degree from INSEAD.
Declining a global corporation’s offer to work in France, Layug instead cofounded PeoplePods Philippines with his wife Anacelle. He traces his drive to create his own path to the way he was raised “with a strong sense of social justice” by his mother, Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc. president Rina Lopez-Bautista.
Business with impact
“I’ve always wanted to have a business and I’ve always wanted to make an impact. PeoplePods marries these two goals for me. If I can scale this social enterprise in industrial areas all over the Philippines where workers need our solution, then I would have lived a life of purpose. I forget who said it, but I believe that ‘a leader does not do what is easy, he does what is worth it.’ This (PeoplePods) for me is worth it—the sacrifice, the responsibilities,” Layug says.
As head of a start-up social venture, Layug has had to multitask, going to the site of their first community daily to supervise construction, purchase materials and haggle for better prices, check the quality of work and look after the laborers who were building. He has also had to market the PeoplePods solution to factories in the vicinity whose workers will benefit immensely from safer, cleaner, affordable accommodations with more amenities.
The hands-on experience on-site has helped him grow as a leader and people manager, recognize his strengths and weaknesses and improve his effectiveness to meet the requirements of the business. “I learned that you need to communicate to different people in different ways to be understood.”
Pitching the PeoplePods solution exposed him to a huge population of factory workers whom he and wife Anacelle surveyed for inputs on what they are looking for in workers’ accommodations. The field research led to actual design adjustments in their community.
“Any information gathered must lead to actionable tasks. An enterprise like ours must have agility, being able to quickly act, as well as adaptability, being able to change as needed,” he says.
Aside from social justice and nationalism, or serving Filipino factory workers first, employee welfare and wellness is the top Lopez Value that guides Layug and his team. “That (health and wellness) is part of what we’re trying to accomplish. Employees are definitely our customers and our solution benefits them greatly. If employees are happy and healthy, it leads to business excellence, they can perform better and be more productive.”
His current challenge is scaling up his team. “It’s hard to find good people,” perhaps because a start-up social enterprise isn’t really on the top of the list of companies that usual job hunters would like to join. PeoplePods recruits will have to share the founders’ dream, vision of environmental sustainability and social impact, and passion for the work that they do.
“Our long-term goal is to provide thousands of workers a better life. But we are just on the first step, we are at a very early stage. We know that the need is there, and we have the ability to serve the need,” says Layug, who most recently spoke about Business at the Base of the (Asian) Pyramid at the Asian Business Conference 2019 of Harvard Business School in Boston.
Layug shares how a social entrepreneur thinks with “LopezLink” readers: “If you see a social problem, you can craft a market solution for it. This is what we saw in the need for better living spaces for factory workers, and our solution, which is PeoplePods, is scalable and sustainable. When we meet with the manufacturing companies, we tell them to put people at the very center of their business, not on the sides like an assembly line. But every business should put people at the center. Better yet, build a community around them.”
Young Alumni Achievement Award
In April 2019, he was awarded the highest honor a recent MBA graduate can receive by INSEAD and the Global Alumni Association. Out of about 5,000 recent MBA graduates (over the last five years) from 176 countries, Layug was chosen to receive the inaugural Young Alumni Achievement Award for promoting INSEAD values (the school motto is “Business as a Force for Good”) in his professional life.
The awarding ceremony will be in Geneva next month (June 2019). “This is a huge win for the Philippines and for all of us striving to make a sustainable difference!”