Andrew Tan, one of the most inspiring ‘rags-to-riches’ billionaires in Southeast Asia, was born to lead.
He might not have realized it early on in his life, but this simple boy living in the cramped tenements of Hong Kong, found his way to the Philippines and built an empire from the ground up.
Tan is a son of poor immigrant from Fujian Province. He was born in China, but his family migrated to Hong Kong when he was four years old. In Hong Kong, he and his family used to share a tenement apartment with four other families with only one bathroom and one concrete table for all the families’ cooking stove.
Due to the high demand of living, at the age of 16 he came to the Philippines to join his father who was then working in a transistor radio factory.
Together, they rented a cramped 20-square meter apartment in Sta. Cruz, Manila. And from his home all the way to C.M. Recto, the young Andrew preferred to walk than ride a jeepney in order to save money when he was studying accountancy at the University of the East.
He also often ate ‘banana cue’ (fried bananas) during lunch. This is one of young Andrew’s difficult periods but it didn’t defeat his dreams.
Through his determination, he eventually graduated as Magna Cum Laude.
Brick by Brick
Tan’s dream was just to own a small grocery store, but he achieved so much more.
Now one of the richest in the Philippines, he engaged in real estate developing condominiums (Megaworld), the world’s biggest brandy producer (Emperador Distillers, Inc.) and the nationwide Philippine franchise of fast food chain, McDonald’s.
Tan built his conglomerate brick by brick. He is now rated 10th on the Philippines 50 Richest Men by Forbes Magazine’s 2018 rankings.
His Megaworld Corporation, voted as Best-Managed Philippine Company by Finance Asia (1999, 2001, 2004 and 2007—Ranked 1st), is one of Tan’s greatest feats in the business industry.
He has been the company CEO and president, having McKinley Hill as one of its primary projects.
Knowing that any business firm could face failures and setbacks, Tan recalled his mindset during the time he opened his Megaworld business.
“Business was tough when I started my first company. When you don’t have much capital, it is paramount that you exercise your nose a lot, much like a dog that never ceases to sniff out for food. You cannot afford to fail and lose vital resources. That is how you develop an instinct for success,” Tan said.
Seeing the silver lining
The Asian financial crisis in 1997 also tested Megaworld and Tan himself. The crisis threatened the real estate industry as banks were very averse in lending. But Tan was able to overcome this and became a stronger and more innovative businessman.
Back in 1990, Megaworld launched the Eastwood City, the Philippines’ first integrated township project with the live-work-play mantra. The Eastwood City Cyber Park has been named as the No. 1 IT Park, and Tan now considers it as the “epitome of a successful development.”
It was clear that Tan built his career in the business industry through “hard work and brand building.”
Aside from Megaworld, he has also engaged in the Emperador Brand, having ‘success’ as the theme of its TV ads, where advertisers wear formal representations of businessmen.
Also, at present, his publicly listed holding company Alliance Global Group, is one of the Philippines’ largest clusters with interest in gaming (Resorts World Manila), food and beverage industry (Emperador Distillers, Inc.), real estate development (Megaworld, Empire East Land Holdings, Inc., Golden Arches Development Corp., Travelers International Hotel Group, Inc., and Suntrust Properties, Inc.) quick service restaurants (McDonald’s) and hospitality (Richmond, Marriott and Sheraton Hotels).
As one of Southeast Asia’s most successful business tycoons, Tan himself and his companies reaped numerous awards.
In the 2008 ASEAN Business Awards held at Bangkok, Thailand, he received for AGI the No. 1 Most Admired ASEAN Enterprise Award.
The “Strongest Adherence to Corporate Governance” was also given to Megaworld during the 2011 Southeast Asia’s Institutional Corporate Awards.
Tan also received the Order of Lakandula, Rank of Bayani, one of the highest awards awarded to any individual by the Republic of the Philippines.
Tan, who continues to loom large in the field of real estate and development, proves the power of hard work and determination in achieving one’s dreams, especially those who were born to lead.