BManny Aligada is on a new high as he focuses on making Kia the brand to beat in the car industry.

The current president of Kia Motors Philippines came from the telecom industry, which seems like an unlikely move at first.

“The move from telecom to cars was a good one at the time,” Aligada explains. “I thought that 14 years was a pretty long time to be in one industry and it was a good time for me to move to a new industry. I was young enough to spend a few more years of my career in another industry that was interesting and where I could make a difference.”

Aligada had been with the Ayala group of companies working with Globe Telecom since 1998. He spent his first 10 years in customer engagement and then the next four were spent in corporate and small and medium enterprise.

“That required providing direct service to a particular customer segment that was very dependent on call services: data, mobile, landline and others,” he shares. “Unlike the big enterprise customers who are multinationals, the corporate and SMEs are very particular about expenses, they usually rely on one provider. It was like a 25-hour job where I might not have known what solutions were at the time. But, it was my job to provide that and make customers understand their plans.”

FROM TELECOM TO CARS

In 2012, willing to make what he felt was the last move of his career at 53, Aligada shared that his concern was that the auto industry was not a major business of Ayala’s.

“I wanted to find out that we had clear directions here,” he said. The answer I got was yes — Ayala intended to be a main player for the brands they carried at the time — Honda and Isuzu.”

Knowing there was a bigger picture‚ he said yes to the move.

“I moved to the auto business in 2012 to handle the dealership groups Honda and Isuzu of Ayala. Although we had the minority share in Honda cars Philippines and Isuzu Philippines, my involvement was with the dealer— the distribution point.”

At the time Aligada was in the auto industry, Ayala was on the lookout for a third brand — that was interesting to him because professionally there was growth and he was interested in that.

“Technically I had seven years to go at the time. I was 53,” he said. “This year I will be 60. As I think back it was a sweet spot, I had enough time learn the industry, contribute and carry on and still grow — there was that drive.”

Although in 2012 Ayala was just starting to get involved in emerging businesses — auto was seen as one of the emerging industries at the time. So it was good to be there.

Aligada recalls that in 1994 Globe was number four; when he left the company he had seen it grow and there was a professional satisfaction that could not be equaled.

THE POWER TO SURPRISE

The year is 2019 and the first quarter is almost over. Although Aligada is quick to point out that Kia under him had a “late start since Ayala acquired the brand in December 2018” — still he says that so far they have sold 2,000 units. He takes pride in that.

“I saw Kia when it was starting and growing in the ’80s — Kia Pride, the people’s car it was called then,” he shared. “But being in the industry for the last six years I also knew that Kia was not a main player. When Ayala agreed to acquire Kia we did our research and found that Kia is a global brand, it had very good reviews on products and services, which are very close to me. I said if it can only be developed in this country then it will be viable.”

Aligada stressed that although Kia has had its up and downs in the Philippines, he knows that the brand was never damaged, never involved in any problems, both locally and internationally –– It just disappeared.

“But its best year was in 2015,” he said. “It hit 10,000 unit sales. It was still under the previous distributor. There was that awareness and potential for growth in 2015.”

As we finish our lunch, Aligada shares what he plans for the brand.

“Kia Motors was looking for a new partner. It was presented to us and we felt that it is a brand that we can work with,” he reiterated. “Never damaged. Global. Excellent product lines and, of course, Ayala continues with its intention of becoming a major player — this time though distributorships.”

Aligada said that five years ago, the entry of Volkswagen started Ayala’s foray into the auto industry. They also got the distributorship of KTM (bikes) two years ago, and now Kia, of which Ayala was named distributor last year.

A CAR FOR EVERY FILIPINO

Now everything is in place for Kia to go to the forefront of the auto industry again.

“When we discussed it, coming from a dealer (that I was) to a distributor, I thought about compatibility,” he said. “Because the strength of a brand would be its marketing (positioning) and its distribution network.”

He believes that if Kia is able to do well on these two aspects — among so many other things — then there is every reason to succeed.

He told me that the dealer is directly in contact with the customer. The distributor sees the market from a very scientific view and from the eyes of the dealer.

“When I was asked to head Kia Motors Philippines I said sure,” he notes with conviction. “It is an interesting brand; the fact that it is Korean did not bother me because the core of the business was very strong.

The philosophies of Kia motors aligned with ours – perfect.”