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Home » Podcast » Chris Urbano – Commercial Aspects of Philippines’ Economic Future

Chris Urbano – Commercial Aspects of Philippines’ Economic Future

Ep 134 Chris Urbano
Ep 134 Chris Urbano

This is the 3rd and final installment of a 3 part interview of Chris Urbano, Managing Director of the Winery Philippines. Join Derek as he taps into Chris’s vast experience in terms of the commercial aspects of Southeast Asian and the Philippines’ economic future.


  • Chris is the Chief Managing Director of Winery Philippines. He is based in the Philippines for 4 years.
  • Chris thinks that the opportunity for the Philippines is limited to really become a successful economic player and more from a political stand.
  • He shares his insight about the growing economy of the Philippines that turns out to Political insight

Key Points

  • Winery Philippines is a curated wine marketplace online bringing great wine around the world and putting in hands of Filipino consumers at the best possible price as the best quality and best convenience.
  • Domestic economy to be drivers of Philippine growth comes down to one thing which is the ability of Filipinos to speak English very well.



Expand transcript

Hi and welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator podcast.  My name is Derek Gallimore and this is episode number 134 so today, we get Chris Urbano back of Winery Philippines.  This is a super interesting conversation we have spoken to him before in episode 128 and 131 where we look at his history and his past and he’s grown up pretty much in South East Asia just by being Australian origin huge amount to learn from Chris.  Today we deep dive a little bit into what I thought was the future of the Philippines from a kind of commercial economic point of view but it turns more into a political observation and a fascinating conversation so I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of these I certainly did my self if you want to get in touch with Chris and know any more then go to our show notes at outsourceaccelerator.com/134 enjoy.

Derek: Hi and welcome back everybody today we are joined by Chris Urbano again of Winery Philippines, Hi Chris how are you?

Chris: Hi Derek, great how are you?

Derek: Fantastic thank you and we have spoken to Chris or about his journey in South East Asia both sort lifestyle commercially and also his journey with Winery Philippines so I encourage you to listen to those I just wanted to tap Chris’s vast experience in terms of like the commercial aspects of South East Asian and the Philippines to really see where he thinks it’s going from here and both the opportunities and the downside I suppose.  Thanks for joining us Chris do you want to maybe just quickly introduce yourself and how you came to be here?

Chris: Yeah sure so I’m Chris Urbano, I’m the Chief Managing Director of Winery Philippines which is a curated wine marketplace online bringing great wine around the world and putting in hands of Filipino consumers at the best possible price as best quality and best convenience and how do I get here I been based in the Philippines for the last 4 years.  I love the idea of being to e-commerce at the time that’s really booming in Southeast Asia and at a time where I guess we are seeing very strong growth in interest high-quality food and beverage across the region and doing the Philippines so we sort off a sitting at next smart macro opportunity being an Australian with a deep experience that been working in South-east Asia I’m somebody can go after that opportunity quite effectively and obviously I love a lot of products so I find myself the next food business and passion.

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Derek: Fantastic, and you have had you educated in Indonesia you’ve had stints in Australia, your family is back in Australia but you’re choosing to spend time in the Philippines you see a good opportunity here but you know do you think that it’s always been the case in the Southeast Asia is developing but never really makes it do you think that the Philippines is still developing but might not make it in another 20-30 years or do you think that there is a turning point here because of the rise of the technology and the sort off I suppose reduction of geographic border in the Philippines really could modernize now and become an economic player in the world?

Chris: There’s a lot in that question isn’t it? And there sort of purpose like commercial mindset and then there’s mind I mean I might start with you know do i think the Philippines will go on to be a success over the next 18 or 20 year time frame.  I think my answer to that would be I think the opportunity for the Philippines is limited to really become a successful economic player and more from a political stand this is still a country that you know democratic trapping is fundamentally a landed futile Oligarchy that you actually do categorize it politically that would be what Philippines is they do hold elections you know you know every few years but they’re largely chairs between elite and you know the challenge that puts on economy is that you’ve got this basically hundred families or so who control much of the economy they’re largely in the economy who through there are control of land and comending of heights of economy exact you know high prices on pretty much everything and there’s extremely limited opportunity for people from outside of those elites circles to actually put up buyable competitive businesses against them so that’s for most economy and yet you have seen this very fast phase of economic growth to the Philippines and what’s happening is you know despite you know is to control over.  I guess domestic economy to be drivers of Philippine growth is comes down to one things which is the ability of Filipinos to speak english very well which is meant that is now you know up to 10 million Filipinos abroad many of them who are temporary overseas workers and remitting funds back to the Philippines which is driving a consumption here and the second big labor of crosses the BPO sector when onshore Filipinos are effectively being employed are outside the Philippines but without leaving a country and that is contributing to the Philippine tax based and purchasing power and growing in the past years so it’s almost at the moment I would describe the Philippines is experiencing some level of economics by virtue of the fact that it connects to its labor and has explored of it so successfully but outside of that part of the economy when you look at the sort off fundamental massive economy of the Philippines it’s you know the fairly even by Southeast Asian’s standard and I hope very little hope this point reform Philippine economy in a short term because it does infect require full reform of the Philippines political structures after that term to take place.

Derek: Yeah and on that sort of the kind of futile families and the kind of land holdings and things I don’t if you’ve read: ‘how asia works’ which is a book by Joe Studwell but apparently it’s a favorite book of Bill Gates and it really describes and highlights about 9 countries in Southeast Asia and compares and contrast them and unfortunately that book hold the Philippines is the kind of case example of how things unfortunate haven’t panned out and how the country is controlled by as you say a hundred key families and you know they have really of the land holdings all of the lands from there obviously any through economic development or through meritocracy which is I don’t have you read that book that’s fascinating book.

Chris: No I’ve not read the book I’ll look it up (inaudible) meritocracy is absolutely spot on I mean this is market where the elite would rather high shrink before the give up their large shares of it and I suppose just sort of being still winners in a rapidly expanding there they’re choosing to basically control them and that’s been the case throughout history in most society in Europe a lot of this was dealt I mean french revolution comes to mind what the Philippine political structure looks like I said actually it looks like free revolutionary France more than anything and you know the main reason is not being a serious revolution here I think is they have had this sort of pressure about where they can release all of the middle-class to base it on work abroad and that’s meant that you’ve not seen I guess the formation of a strong middle class, lower class movement to really reset the state of Philippines those people of who could be the start of an opposition of basically all just the route migration which is being fairly readily available to them.

Derek: Do you think with the French revolution I mean times are very different now i think the information control has really a lot of powering now with the advent of technology and internet you can’t this tiny information and knowledge transparent things like that so as a result, you’re getting more kind of middle-class uprisings because they don’t sort of tolerate the top tech wealth but also you know I’m sort of proponent of this but I’m really believed the breaking down of boarders and the breaking down on the relevance of geography through technology and through information sharing and transfer which of course the internet does and outsourcing does it really levels the plane field and as a result do you think in sort of 20 years of maybe burgeoning or growing professional opportunities for people here sitting in the Philippines but servicing western companies it could actually tip the pyramid upside down or potentially head that ?

Chris: It’s great question I mean I think you know I think the short answer would be yes it’s possible but you know you need very large fairly fast growth the onshore middle class and I think the biggest challenge to the Philippines you know if you look at I think you’re referencing perhaps the Arabs spring and some of the even political you starting to see in China despite their best efforts to control information.  In the Philippines, yes internet information viably available but I think that the power of that information it needs to be in the hands of people who are educated and in a position to actually exercise political will and what’s happening with the Philippines labor migration out is that middle class is more or less hollowed out so anybody who’s that the people who leave if you’re an elite you don’t want to leave the Philippines cause your life here is fantastic you know you have a great life, if you’re in the Philippines professional class you are currently under paid and in the system that is fundamentally unfair and that you can never actually improve its B and not the C of the Philippines you have an education but a lack of opportunity and reward who are  and what you left in the Philippines then it’s basically the elite and then the masses who you know work 14 hours a day have no capacity or me guess household resources to be politically active in many cases even lack the education to see that they are by supporting their patrons and Oligarchs. They’re actually both their long term parts interest so I think that’s really the challenge you’ve got here and the question is the one sector of the economy on shore that is growing I think really is BPO and servicing external which is the elite know they can’t stick their hands in that honey pot so that they’re happy to let that grow and actually support Philippines growth but then they (inaudible) but the question is that 1 sector enough to I guess politically active middle class we’ll see I mean you know it is growing quickly will it save the Philippines so in 10 or 20 years maybe not I think 2 things need to happen 1 is industry need to continue growing developing and  people with the money independent of the patron? and to people to be active and I think we do at some point need to see the return of Filipinos who are offshore and I don’t know what the catalyst is for them to return but I have some optimism noting that many Filipinos now have been abroad for 20 or 30 years the big migration really started in the 80’s I think this growing signs that a lot of Filipinos have sort of spent their careers working in North America or the UK or Australia but their saying the Philippines is a retirement destination and I’m hopeful that start to return with high expectations of democracy public service and strong dependence for me are the elite even the time spend on it to depend on the source of growth.

Derek:  I mean just kind of looking at numbers trying to add everything up as you talk but the OFW like the overseas workers they contribute about 10% of the country’s GDP, outsourcing contributes equally about 10% GDP the national productivity is really raising at the moment isn’t you know it’s kind of year on year growth with about 6 or 7% which is kind of bleeding the region which I would assume the majority of that is coming from these 2 sectors.  As you say it would be interesting to them maybe track it over the next 20 years and see if these sort of sectors do continue to grow the country continues to grown and that then lifts up the middle class and it’s funny about the sort of uprisings and the Filipinos I think potentially room they’re quite agreeable and very potentially passive people aren’t they so they’re probably not that inclined to have uprising so much but also I do find you know very much to the credit there highly patriotic highly you know nationalistic and really do love them care for the Philippines it’s not like a lot of these migrant workers are happy to leave them and then sort of grateful to see the back of the Philippines there is a huge amount of loyalty to their country and to their culture and to their I suppose betterment of their people you know.

Chris:  Yes well I mean it’s certainly if you say anything in social media praising the Philippines you’ve got a million shares (inaudible) high engaged who fundamentally care but I think it comes back to you know individual choice then you know ultimately political change and political activism is incredibly hard to walk you typically in the early days you run the risk of being exercise of being in the Philippines being beaten taken into custody you know being stripped of all opportunity and basically you can get killed so when that’s no joke if you look at the Marshall last few years.  If you are an opposition of the government you’re running a serious risk of being locked up or by the state so i sort I think that it’s possibly less agreeable and more of that people make that choice of migrating to the US and just basically living in the suburbs in San Diego and having a good job and being able to have a peaceful life and family versus do I want to get involved in a political revolution of Philippines it’s an easy choice and one I think it’s been enabled by globalization 21st century where it’s you look back 300 years ago if you are discontent political no class in Europe it wasn’t that easy to just leave the country you have to do something about it where it’s here you’ve got a choice and I think most of them are making you know I have to admit I think they’re making the smart choice

Derek: Yeah it’s fascinating isn’t it and as we discussed in the last episode I think it was you seem sort of free a migration but also you’re seeing free autonomy in terms of where you can your income now and there’s potential of people can actually slip of the grid in the Philippines so could maybe buy a little bit of land in the province somewhere and they could a hundred thousand US a year by coding for someone sitting in Silicon Valley you know it’s kind of a fascinating it’ll be an interesting kind of trip over the next 10 20 years technology kind of increasing the removes borders and increases kind of migrational flexibility, it’s gonna be interesting to watch.

Chris: Yeah I’m a patient observer I would describe myself like I very much hope that some of these trends start to crack this Oligarchy I suppose 3 to 5 years now I describe it as a limited optimism.

Derek: I really appreciate that I didn’t expect to launch fully to kind of a political observation but that’s incredible insight and Chris you do do you are a management consultant you do some consultancy where you’re launching or have you know successfully launched Winery Philippines if anyone want’s to get in touch with you at all how can they do that?

Chris: The best way to reach me at [email protected] you know I can help you think about doing business in the Philippines with consultancy and I can also sell you a great bottle of wine.

Derek: Thank you so much for your time Chris

That was Chris Urbano of Winery Philippines if you want to get in touch with Chris  and of course, do so go to our show notes at outsourceaccelerator.com/134 for all of the details and of course if you want to ask us anything then just drop us an email to [email protected] see you next time.

Listen to more podcast episodes here:

  1. Eileen Juan – The Value of Understanding the ‘Why’ of the Business
  2. Angela McDonald – Cultural Differences in Work and Lifestyle in the Philippines
  3. Brett Russo – Inception of Outsource Workers

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About Derek Gallimore

Derek Gallimore has been in business for 20 years, outsourcing for over eight years, and has been living in Manila (the heart of global outsourcing) since 2014. Derek is the founder and CEO of Outsource Accelerator, and is regarded as a leading expert on all things outsourcing.

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