George Royeca talks about the Angkas journey at the Asian Leadership Conference
Angkas CEO George Royeca proudly represented the Philippines as a speaker at South Korea’s Asian Leadership Conference (ALC), an annual event that brings together global leaders and movers and shakers from all over the world.
Royeca stood shoulder-to-shoulder with prominent world leaders such as two-time Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and former US First Lady Michelle Obama.
Royeca was invited to be part of the stellar line-up of speakers because of his outstanding stewardship of Angkas, a game-changing motorcycle taxi-hailing service that helped address the hellish traffic in Metro Manila, provided decent livelihood to thousands of people, and restored a measure of dignity to motorcycle riders.
“Innovation is a fantastic tool, it is just a better way of doing things. Entrepreneurship is so important: because entrepreneurs always look for new and better ways of doing things. You have to innovate to solve a problem—you don’t just innovate to make a profit, ”Royeca said.
Obama emphasized that positive transformation meant thinking beyond self-interest, “The human race trying to figure out how to live on this planet, and keep it in one piece so that it’s here for our children and their children.”
Zelensky pointed out that creating a better future also meant protecting others, giving COVID-19 vaccination as an example: “If you do not help other people, you must be prepared for new strains of the virus to emerge—and that will make your own protection ineffective.”
Another highlight that echoed Royeca’s views is the talk by Mahathir who emphasized the crucial role of unity in fighting a crisis like an epidemic: “We must think in terms of the world. When we are attacked by the same enemy, it is the world that must fight against this enemy.”
Angkas has been an example of stakeholders coming together to find a solution that will work for everyone.
“Angkas taught me the word ‘co-creation,’ “ Royeca shared. “You cannot be a lone innovator because that means you are just doing what you want to do. But when you start looking at it from a lens of co-creating the environment, protocols, and safeguards, then you have shared responsibility. And with shared responsibility, everyone has a piece of the action, everybody is an owner, and everybody makes that world a better place. This is what we actually did.”
When Angkas started in 2016, Metro Manila had assumed “Jakarta’s title of the worst traffic-congested city in the world.”
Angkas soon found itself creating new ways of thinking about transport. Motorcycle taxis then existed strictly on an informal basis, and with good reason. “The government didn’t like motorcycles despite widespread use, because 50% of deaths from vehicle accidents were from them,” Royeca recalled. “At the time, the informal motorcycle taxis were doing a cat-and-mouse chase with traffic enforcers.”
Angkas’ establishment was not just a cut-and-dry case of an entrepreneur addressing a need. In response to the safety issue, it professionalized the once-despised motorcycle taxis and developed trained, polite, and competent drivers. Still, it had to prove itself; in its early years, it was ordered to cease operations three times.
Royeca gave the context to the harsh spotlight that shone on them: the lack of safety associated with motorcycle taxis had not been brought “to the national stage because the motorcycle taxi riders were individuals. There really was not a big company doing it. Then when one company started consolidating that, it became a big problem.”
Creating an industry
Royeca explained how Angkas won the battle. First, it brought skill, standards, and competence to the industry through the training and careful vetting of riders. In motivating riders with fair compensation, it provided them with livelihood and a livable income.
He said, “About 30% of our workforce were previously unemployed. But because we put in the right standards and trained people, after millions of rides, our accident rate is .003%.”
Next, Angkas did the “very unprecedented” action of convincing Congress to give it a provisional authority to prove their model on the street: “We could get information from real-world data, and create a law that is really adapted to the market and what that market really requires.”
Ultimately, because of these strategies, “The fact that motorcycle taxi is safe became undeniable, even to regulators.”
Once the public was convinced of Angkas’ safety, the government became willing to provide a measure of regulation and real legitimacy to the motorcycle taxi sector. Angkas now stands as an example of “winnovation” in action: its “simple” solution to a very complex problem which has brought sweeping benefits for everyone.