Philippine tycoons

Trees and crises: Mang Inasal founder Injap Sia’s fresh business lessons

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Trees and crises: Mang Inasal founder Injap Sia’s fresh business lessons
Edgar 'Injap' Sia II, now CEO of MerryMart and DoubleDragon, says any business, like a tree, needs a good foundation, and that crises present an opportunity to learn and become resilient

MANILA, Philippines – At the rate Edgar “Injap” Sia II is growing his business ventures after selling 70% of Mang Inasal to Jollibee in 2010 for P3 billion, it won’t be long before he’ll be able to come up with a sequel to his book Life Principles, published in 2017. 

In that book published by Summit Media, Sia, a college dropout, shared some of the lessons he learned that made him the Philippines’ youngest billionaire in 2011 at only 34 years old. 

LESSONS. A screenshot of a digital copy of Injap Sia’s ‘Life Principles’ bought by Rappler, published by Summit Media in 2017.

These include the need to overcome the fear of failure in starting an enterprise; studying and understanding the business and the whole industry of which it is part; the importance of discipline and work-life balance; staying focused on one’s goal; being fair, especially to partners, employees, and customers; as well as giving back to society. 

Sia, now 47, recently shared more nuggets of wisdom as he continues to nurture his supermarket business, MerryMart Group, which he set up in 2009, and real property firm DoubleDragon, established in 2012.

The MerryMart Group’s main brands are MerryMart Grocery, Carlos SuperDrug, and MBox. 

Using his MerryMart Consumer Corporation as an example, Sia stressed the importance of laying a strong foundation that will ensure business growth.

Sia used nature to explain this lesson, as MerryMart’s revenues grew 18% to P6.3 billion in 2023 from P5.3 billion in 2022. Net income, however, fell from P574 million in 2022 to P408 million in 2023. 

“We are glad that MerryMart has delivered revenue growth from its current business lines continuously gaining market share and investing in the foundation of any business is like laying down sturdy roots for a mighty tree,” Sia, the company’s chairman and CEO, said in a disclosure on Monday, May 6.

MerryMart said the lower profit was due to higher expenses in 2023 “given the temporary scale-up stage of the whole business.”

What are the elements of a strong foundation? Sia listed four: solid infrastructure, efficient processes, skilled workforce, and innovative strategies.

“By allocating resources towards the foundation of MerryMart, we are fortifying its core elements which include continuously upgrading our technology infrastructure to optimize supply chain logistics,” he said. 

Just as a tree needs a strong foundation to support its growth, a business needs solid infrastructure, efficient processes, skilled workforce, and innovative strategies to thrive in the long run.


Having a strong foundation will allow the group to weather challenges and set the stage for growth and expansion, MerryMart said. 

MerryMart’s vision is to have 1,200 branches nationwide, generating P120 billion in systemwide sales revenue. 

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MerryMart will open in July its “largest stand-alone full-sized market” in Ayala Land’s Cresendo Estate in Tarlac. It will carry its full line of grocery, pharmacy, personal care, and other basic products. 

Opportunities in crises

With respect to his real estate firm DoubleDragon Corporation, a partnership with Jollibee founder Tony Tan Caktiong, Sia recently looked back on how the company has grown from having only P2 billion in assets when it started in 2012 to what it has now with P180 billion in assets. 

In a disclosure last April 15, Sia said half of the years since DoubleDragon was listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) in 2014 were characterized by crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, but his company weathered them. 

He said crises present an opportunity to learn and become stronger. 

“The DD [DoubleDragon] team has continuously poured the necessary hard work, careful planning, and grit to passionately execute its set goals. About half of the 10 years since DD listed were years filled with a series of major economic crisis, one global economic crisis after another starting from the pandemic crisis, followed by the couple of war crisis, followed by the global inflation issues, but I always remind our core team that those major crises are opportunities to learn and demonstrate resilience, which is essential experience for any business that aims to thrive over the long term given any extreme terrain or at any extreme economic weather conditions,” Sia said. 

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One of the major opportunities DoubleDragon saw was its Hotel 101, the first Filipino hotel chain to go global. It is currently undertaking three Hotel 101 projects abroad: one each in the US, Japan, and Spain. DoubleDragon’s subsidiary, Hotel 101 Global PTE, will be the first Philippine company to list via the Special Purpose Acquisition Companies in the US Nasdaq Stock Exchange later in 2024.

DoubleDragon said its balance sheet will “further strengthen” once the listing on Nasdaq is completed.

Earlier in February, Sia said: “As history has taught us, major economic recessions have actually served as a launchpad for many inspiring entrepreneurs around the world to leap forward. These temporary periods of dislocation and chaos have created rare windows of opportunity for their businesses to strengthen their market grip and have enabled them to successfully scale up which could have been impossible to break through during good times.”

In a message to stockholders and investors in July 2016, two years after DoubleDragon listed on the PSE, Sia said, “We dream big, we plan carefully, and we execute with intense passion.” 

DoubleDragon’s net income grew 23% from P12.9 billion in 2022 to P15 billion in 2023. Revenues increased from P14 billion in 2022 to P24 billion in 2023 or by 75%. 

The biggest brands of DoubleDragon are its CityMall community malls in the provinces and Hotel 101. Hotel 101-Fort, a business-leisure hotel in Bonifacio Global City with 609 rooms, opened in August 2023. DoubleDragon also expects to complete seven more buildings in 2024. –

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.