MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Luigi Nuñez, Founder of Beer Below Zero, is on a quest to harness the way you use your smartphone and change the way you live. This agenda doesn’t come as a surprise as his first entrepreneurial endeavor single-handedly changed the way the world drinks beer, cold as ice.
Innovators do not always possess the technical specialization nor the gray matter that would merit being called a genius. On the contrary, it’s more about ideas that reinvent certain things that were thought to be set, about looking at things from a different perspective. As technology continues to advance, being creative is getting more challenging to the point that the New York Times reported that innovators are now left making derivative improvements or less life-altering technologies.
Nuñez, up until two years ago, was just like any consumer with a smartphone, using more social than e-commerce apps on a daily basis. When he got stuck on the road during a major traffic jam after going for a routine haircut, it was only then that he started taking a closer look at the potential of apps.
“It was a simple and regular grooming trip and thought nothing of it until that turned out to be a loss of some three and a half hours for a six-kilometer round trip. That got me thinking about how the market takes so well to e-commerce sites – because they eliminate the travel aspect” he shared.
Having had extensive experience in advertising sales, Nuñez only knew too well the advantages of being a first-to-market brand and wouldn’t dream of being another trying hard late entrant in e-commerce. He was well aware, however, that there were other things that connectivity and convenience could lend itself very well, especially under threat of traffic.
The common occurrence of traffic, one that costs the Philippine economy some PhP 3.5B daily, gave birth to Luggin Digital Ventures, Nuñez’ app development company in 2017. The first project, now available for both Android and iOS, is SIF, a location-based services aggregator and provider that offers more than just one kind of service, a super app.
Super apps, a distinction applied to products that are designed as a one-stop platform carrying various complementing function provides more revenue opportunities versus traditional one-purpose apps. International investors have already showcased speculation which took SIF’s value to US$1.5M, primarily because of how rapid it has grown and the potential to launch and expand in other markets. Such promise gives SIF the lead in possibly becoming the country’s first tech unicorn.
He said that the inspiration comes from taking a look at the regular errands that would typically take the consumer out of the home and into traffic and creating a platform that put both institutional and independent services providers for various needs in touch with SIF users. What started out as a grooming and beauty segment grew to include other categories such massage, labworks, nutrition counselling, physical therapy, tutors and yoga. With the coming launch of other home-based yet important services such as SIF Home, SIF Pets, SIF Motors and SIF Food, this really pushes SIF as the country’s first local super app.
Right on target
Nuñez shares the appeal of SIF among his primary target audience of 18 to 44-year olds, “We knew the connected will be comfortable with using SIF, given that they are already predisposed to ride-hailing and food apps. Data showcases that the Philippine median age for the market is 25, right in the middle of our expected user base and that gives SIF such a wide market base.”
The numbers both local and global make perfect sense for Luggin Digital Ventures’ first foray into this aggressive industry. Studies cite that of some 60% of the Philippine population are connected to the internet as both data from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Bank (WB) confirm. Of this, sampling groups have revealed that some 90% have either searched online for a service or product to purchase with 60% of them actually completing a booking or service. Laid against a population currently close to 110M, the numbers for app development and utilization are staggering.
“The premise of SIF is simple, we mine for our customers what is today’s most valuable commodity, time. In a bullish economy such as our now, opportunities are abundant, investments are everywhere. Time, however, is something that we have a finite supply of, regardless of status. I believe this is the biggest differentiator for the next decade,” Nuñez revealed.
The firm has also set its sights on key markets in the region, Vietnam and Myanmar in particular, given the huge potential of SIF and the ease of opening in traffic-stricken cities due to consumer demand.
Future iteration of the SIF app will be designed to cast both live and on-demand content that will allow users to virtually attend exercise and other training sessions, still keeping them free from traffic via SIF Live, SIF Doc, SIF Law and a retail platform for complementing product lines. As of this time, physicians and legal counsels have indicated their desire to have a virtual venue that can take their practices digital and allow them to widen their client base. The inclusion of this feature will bring professionals closer to their clients while providing a larger number of users access to prohibitive medical and legal services. This alone promises a business opportunity for not only SIF but for the service providers who can cover more without dealing with the road.
As it turns out, Nuñez is merely getting started in this journey as he shares that there are three new products for release this year, a gift matching app that acts like a registry for kids with a strong retail component, a job-matching one that utilizes analytics based on both sides’ needs and requirements as well as a funding platform that connects entrepreneurs with the investors.
Innovators have a different way of looking at things and the wealth of opportunities that technology and a tech-savvy generation of on-demand consumers bring are ingredients for what will very well be a great pivot for Nuñez, from super cold hops to super apps.