Internet ventures under the Rocket Internet group have recently organized and hosted what was dubbed the first secret dining society in Metro Manila. The event sought to display the capability of online businesses in fetching a taxi cab, finding a good location and ordering great food.
“We have the perfect ingredients to host the first secret dining society in the Philippines,” says Jacqueline van den Ende, the Dutch managing director of Lamudi Philippines.
“We have a big mix of people here. We figure that with the Rocket Internet ventures such as Lamudi for online real estate, we have the location. We have Easy Taxi, which could car pool people towards the venue and FoodPanda, which can supply the food,” says van den Ende.
Lamudi is an online real estate website, while FoodPanda is an online food ordering platform. Easy Taxi is a mobile application for booking taxi cabs.
“Our dream is that it will become a recurring series of events. Together, we will explore the most surprising places, the most exciting places in the Philippines. So expect more from secret dining society, which is an opportunity to find and meet new people,” she says.
Van den Ende, a former investment banker along with Italian Mauro Cocchieri, chief executive of FoodPanda Philippines and Colombian Daniel Torres, country manager of Easy Taxi have teamed up to host the first secret dining society at the Sky Lounge of Beacon Makati’s 47-story Roces Tower at the corner of Don Chino Roces and Arnaiz Avenue.
“We basically realize that we are all part of Rocket Internet group. Rocket Internet group is a German company and it is the world’s largest incubator of online startups,” says van den Ende.
Lamudi chose the location for the event. Easy Taxi provided the door-to-door transportation while FoodPanda tapped Relik Tapas Bar to serve the food. Organizers say the event marks the start of an enthralling series of dinners that will showcase both the Philippines’ gastronomic delights and breathtaking destinations.
The three companies held a competition over Facebook to allow people to win a seat in the secret dining society. Private vehicles from Easy Taxi’s experimental Easy Plus+ service were used to transport guests from a designated pick up point to the venue.
“We wanted everyone to have a great night, and take away the burden of traveling to and from the location for the guests. We organized pickup locations in well-known places, and coordinated closely with our drivers and the guests in ensuring everyone got a ride to the venue,” says Torres.
Relik served items such as mini mushroom tarts and pesto cream cheese, grilled tanigue white bean and chorizo stew and roasted vegetable quinoa.
Foodpanda also teamed up with Patron and Wine Depot to serve drinks. “The whole event went very smoothly. Everyone loved the venue, and enjoyed the meal that Relik Tapas Bar provided. It was a great opportunity to show off the various types of cuisines we have in the country,” says Cocchieri.
“What is a secret dining society? It is basically a dinner, where people are invited and the location is secret. It is a surprise. You meet new people, in a new location. The basic thing is that there are surprise elements to the event,” says van den Ende.
“Locations include top of the building, by the park, anywhere basically,” she says.
Rocket Internet AG is the group behind some of the most successful online ventures in emerging markets. In the Philippines, it launched successful websites such as Zalora, Lazada, Lamudi, Easy Taxi, FoodPanda, Carmudi, PricePanda, Tripda and ClickBus.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company acquired a 10-percent stake in Rocket Internet for 333 million euros last year, but the stake has been diluted to about 8 percent as market valuation of Rocket Internet surged. PLDT and Rocket Internet AG also formed a new joint venture called Philippines Internet Group to create and develop online businesses in the Philippines.
Van den Ende, an active surfer, says the Philippines has good properties and locations that will support the continuous growth of the real estate sector. “We have over 100,000 properties on our website [lamudi.com.ph],” she says. “Last year, we had an island leased out through Lamudi, which was valued at P80 billion. Fuga Island in Cagayan was leased out to an American investor,” she says.
“We have private islands. We also have social housing. Most properties are in the range of 1 to 5 million, or basically mid-range. We also have high-value properties at Forbes [Park] worth P300 million. We have 10 private islands for sale,” says van den Ende.
She says Lamudi has listings for more than 100,000 properties in the Philippines. “Basically, you can browse or search through filters. We have only licensed brokers and that is very important in real estate, because it increases the trust factor,” she says.
Lamudi has 1,000 licensed brokers, who pay for subscription. “Over one year, we grew from zero to 800,000 visitors per month. In November, there were 400,000 visitors. So we doubled in the first quarter of the year. We have 100,000 postings and 1,000 brokers, all in one year.
We have grown very, very fast. The market itself will expand. We have 100 million Filipinos. There must be more than 100,000 properties,” she says.
“The number of people looking for properties online is going to grow. It is really just the start or in the early stage of development. It is going to grow fast in the next three years,” says van den Ende.
Meanwhile, Torres, the Colombian country manager of Easy Taxi, says the mobile taxi booking application has made fetching and riding a taxi cab safer and more convenient in the Philippines.
Easy Taxi is also in the experimental stage for Easy Plus+ service, which involves deploying brand-new private vehicles to pick up passengers. “It is a service we are trying out. We haven’t even formally launched anything,” he says.
“What we see is the need for this type of service in Manila. People are looking for safety, people are looking to mobilize quickly, and not under the sun or under the rain for a long time. Our demand is very high,” says Torres.
“What we are trying to do is add cars to serve more demand and to accommodate as many passengers as possible. We are trying to improve the service overall,” he says.
Rocket Internet plans to expand its operations in the country to take advantage of the growing population of smartphone users.
“In the Philippines, Internet penetration grew from 7 percent in 2008 to 40 percent right now. That growth was super big, same with mobile. The Philippines has the fastest growing mobile Internet penetration rate in the world,” says van den Ende.
“Something big will happen in the next six weeks. The Philippines is a priority country for Rocket Internet because it has so much potential,” she says.