Dennis Anthony H. Uy of Pampanga, different from the DAU of Davao, walks into the veranda of The Club Filipino one recent Saturday morning with a mask on his face, a white cap and dark aviator shades. As it is a weekend, he is dressed casually in shorts and collarless shirt. I almost didn’t recognize him.
Low-key, too — no visible escorts, bodyguards or posse unlike, say, the other DAU.
But this is not to say Pampanga’s Dennis Uy, who is actually DHU and not DAU, isn’t gunning for gold or gunning for greatness.
DHU, in fact, is facing problems these days because his business, IPO-bound Converge ICT, is getting bigger. And bigger.
What is Converge?
Converge describes itself as the only major pure-play fixed broadband operator in the Philippines. Its aim to offer fast, reliable, and affordable internet service through its proprietary end-to-end network.
The company, which at one point offered a huge relief to Filipinos hungry for reliable and fast Internet, has ironically now found itself at the center of customer complaints — from celebrities like Liza Soberano to bored nannies in Acacia Estates in Taguig. Parents of kids doing homeschooling are also unhappy, from Makati to Quezon City and many other areas in between.
DHU is well aware of the problem that he had to issue an apology.
“I really had to say sorry,” he tells me over black coffee and warm arroz caldo.
The problem, he said, stemmed from the fact that the system was overwhelmed because demand surged during the lockdown and, at the same time, his people could not immediately address the concerns and attend to the calls because they, too, were quarantined in their homes for a time.
“It’s a ‘good’ problem,” I say. He smiles, but turns serious and maintains, “It’s a problem that cannot be ignored.”
He has already hired more people to address the calls, opened new business centers, and added 300 lines.
Now, customers’ drop calls have gone down to 15 percent from 85 percent a few weeks ago. Drop calls happen when customers are too exasperated to wait for service agents to respond to their needs.
The goal is to bring it to a single digit. Or better yet, zero.
He also hired a new customer experience manager to address the situation and eventually bring it back to better days.
Uy believes the issue that Converge is facing now is just part of growing pains and would soon be a thing of the past.
Will it affect Converge’s planned Oct. 26 IPO? He does not think so.
This early, investors are already well on their way to gobbling up the offer. Converge plans to sell up to 1.3 billion common shares, with an over-allotment option of 195 million at an offer price of P24 a piece to raise up to P36 billion.
The company, backed by US private equity firm Warburg Pincus, will spend P8.22 billion in IPO proceeds for expansion.
Uy said his aim is to have all the three major islands of the country – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao – connected under Converge’s system by early 2021.
Converge’s bold and big plans are guided by a board of directors that includes esteemed individuals such as former transportation and communications secretary Jose “Ping” De Jesus (chairman) and former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando Tetangco Jr. (director).
Despite the problems Converge is currently facing, Uy is not one to be easily discouraged.
As a businessman, he has had failed ventures and has learned to stand up and move on.
He once put up a mango juice business, but the business failed. “It was not my line, so I didn’t know how to make it work. I had to accept the fact that it failed and I had to move on,” Uy said. He was also in the Betamax tapes business until this faded into oblivion.
He is guided by his philosophy in life of focusing on one’s strength and giving one’s best. In his case, an engineer who loves technology, he has found his passion in the broadband/ICT business.
The 54-year old businessman is also no stranger to the Confucian value of hard work, having been born during difficult times in Fujian, China.
He has not forgotten his Chinese roots, speaking in fluent Fookien with his friend Harry Angping who was also present during our breakfast meeting.
From Fujian to Pampanga
Indeed, like most of the country’s tycoons now, Uy hailed from Fujian, at one point a seemingly dystopian land, but which ironically has given birth to individuals who would later become the most powerful billionaires in Asia.
At the age of 11, Uy migrated to the Philippines together with his family – traveling for days by land from China to Hong Kong, and then flying to Manila – to escape the hardships brought about by the Cultural Revolution.
They then settled in Pampanga because an uncle lived there.
Uy knows what a difficult life means. He grew up sleeping on tattered cartons in his uncle’s small neighborhood grocery after a hard day’s work helping in the store.
But like many Chinese-Filipinos, he persevered and worked his way to success.
After almost three hours, at exactly 1 p.m., Uy excuses himself. He has to rush to another meeting, he says.
Our chat ends, but DHU’s story is far from over. In fact, his journey to being the country’s next tech tycoon is just about to begin.