A Ride in the Pedicab: Thoughts on Startups and Juan

I arrived at Rockwell. Got dropped off at Estrella Street. Was going to walk to the Power Plant, but this elderly gentleman asked me if I wanted a ride on his bicycle car. I was happy to hop into the contraption, as it saved me from the walk. It was an interesting experience to ride in the bicycle car, while this pleasant fellow peddled along the street.

While he was treading along, a car nearly hit us at an intersection. The man’s bicycle couldn’t keep up with the flow of traffic, but he didn’t fret. He brushed the incident off his shoulders like a true boss. After the 5 min bike ride, I get out of his cart and asked him,

“Kuya, anong tawag ulit sa bike mo?”

He replied with a smile, “Pedicab!”

I said, “Ah tama! Pedicab.”

I forgot about the pedicab. I couldn’t recognize the vehicle when I was riding in it, even though I saw so many pedicabs when I was last here. During the ride on Estrella, I was so preoccupied with thoughts that the term, pedicab, completely slipped my mind.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how the pedicab driver was being left behind with his use of old technology. While I definitely benefited from the pedicab, I feared that it would be phased out and the jolly man, who was so eager to give me a ride, would eventually be out of a job as development in the country continued.

Where would the man end up? What would he be doing, if he weren’t a pedicab driver? Would anyone even give him a chance to work?

That short ride in the pedicab really got me thinking…the experience resonated with something I was reading.

Startup and Change the World

Earlier in the day, I was reading a passage from Startup and Change the World: Guide for Young Social Entrepreneurs by S. Dev Appanah and Sunit Shrestha.

In the section about Social Technopreneurship, Appanah highlights Professor Michael Porter’s words on innovation:

“Professor Michael Porter from the Harvard Business School argues that, ‘Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity,’ innovation and technology can help the poor as much as the rich” (Appanah, 7).

Innovation will continue to change the world, and technology is driving that change.

I’m not a techie. I’m probably the polar opposite of a techie, but I do see the vast potential that technology can have on the poor and the development of this country.

While it’s only been a month since I’ve been exposed to tech startups in the Philippines, I can proclaim that the innovation of the Pinoy is outstanding. Pinoys can do so much with scarce resources, and many times, even better than those who have more resources available to them. The talent here is incredible. Countries like the US and Australia can attest to this statement, as big international firms are outsourcing the services of top Philippine talent.

Similarly, there is immense talent and innovation coming from the masses. Their creativity and resourcefulness in daily activities that may seem mundane is a demonstration of innovation at its finest. (You can check out this article I did for juice.ph last year, if you want to get an understanding of where I’m coming from.)

To all you game-changers, I’d like to make this plea: let’s NOT leave Juan behind in the process of innovation. We are a country of more than 90 million. Our greatest resource is our people. Together, we will build our nation.

As Professor Michael Porter points out, “Innovation and technology can help the poor as much as the rich.”

In order to move forward with every Juan, let’s be conscious of where that niche can be filled in a bright and developing Philippines.

Where do you fit?

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