Jaime Ayala wins entrepreneur of the year award

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE. Ayala drums up support among local leaders for Hybrid Social Solutions' solar lanterns. Photo by Katherine Visconti.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE. Ayala drums up support among local leaders for Hybrid Social Solutions' solar lanterns. Photo by Katherine Visconti.

MANILA, Philippines - One of the most prestigious business awards of the year went to social entrepreneur Jaime or "Jim" Ayala, who believes his company shouldn't be driven by profit.

"We are profitable. Because if we're not profitable we can't continue our work. But we look at profit as gas in the tank that allows us to go further and faster but it's not our mission," Ayala, the founder and CEO of Hybrid Social Solutions Inc, told Rappler.

He received the Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Philippines 2012 at a grand award banquet at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel on Friday, October 19.

Ayala's company is a social enterprise that focuses on fueling development in rural communities by providing access to basic goods and services, often in the form of innovative products, like a solar-powered lantern.

His company delivered solar lamps to remote communities under the Hike for Light, Sail for Light and Bike for Light campaign.

Watch the video below to take a look at the innovative program.

Initial shock

Ayala confessed that winning the award was completely unexpected.

"This is one of the first times I was completely speechless," said the talkative and easy-going businessman.

"We're very much a social enterprise so I was really shocked that we got the overall prize because clearly there were other companies who were more established and larger. We're a startup so it shows the judges… are putting a lot of emphasis on the power of the idea and the potential of what it can do."

Hybrid Social Solutions is a 3-year old company that Ayala expects to start turning profits early next year.

"Many times our yardstick for an entrepreneur is who is making the most money," said Ayala who, as former president of Ayala Land, made a pretty profit for the Zobel de Ayalas. The real estate company grew its earnings 80% and its revenue 130% under his 5-year leadership, according to a report by Business World

However Ayala explained that his company will be able to capture a lucrative market and help impoverished people at the same time.

"25% of the country has no access to electricity or water. Most of the traditional solutions are to connect them to the grid but it will take a very long time to connect the communities in remote islands and mountains," said Ayala.

That's where Hybrid Social Solutions comes in.

"Our competition is kerosene and candles, which are smokey and dim," said Ayala. He added that cost-wise, the solar lanterns also have an edge on kerosene which is "quite expensive" and even batteries.

He added that kilowatt per kilowatt energy in a battery is 4,000 times more expensive than what Meralco produces. "So I can compete with that," he said.

This is the second year that a Filipino in the energy sector has been named Entrepreneur of the Year. Erramon Aboitiz, the president and CEO of the large Aboitiz Power Corp, claimed the title last year.

Ayala will be the first social entrepreneur to represent the country in the World Entrepreneur of the Year awards in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

"It is lonely and dangerous what we are doing and there are many times you question yourself," said Ayala. But he added that the unexpected recognition "gives us the encouragement to continue on this path. There are people out there who are rooting for us."

Other awardees included:

Master Entrepreneur - Jose Victor P. Paterno, President and CEO of Philippine Seven Corp (PSC), the company behind the 7-eleven chain

Emerging Entrepreneur - Tommanny Tan, President and CEO of Filipino Entrepreneurs & Resources Network (FERN), Inc, a company that distributes high-quality health products

Small Business Entrepreneur - Jonathan O. Suy, General Manager of Jomaray Pulp Packaging Industries, which produces eco-friendly products from scrap paper and cardboard 

Woman Entrepreneur - Venus C. Genson, President and CEO of Art ‘N’ Nature Manufacturing Corp, a handicraft business that provides employment to indigenous craftsmen

Young Entrepreneur - Marvin Agustin, President of SumoSam Foods, Inc, a growing chain of Japanese-American restaurants