How To Achieve Both Profit And Purpose In Your Career, According To Social Entrepreneur Daniel Layug

By Samantha Topp

Daniel Layug, the co-founder of Philippine social enterprise PeoplePods, tells Gen.T how he realised he could achieve both profit and purpose with his business

Tatler Asia

Daniel Layug was building a career in investment banking and midway through a master’s degree from leading business school Insead when he started wrestling with a familiar question: should he prioritise profit or purpose?

Then an idea born from a competition he entered during his studies made Layug realise he could create a career path that allowed him to do both. “Going back to school allowed me to take risks in a low-risk setting, in the sense that I could follow a random flyer and try random competitions,” Layug says. So he did. That year, he and some classmates decided to pitch a startup concept and business model to the Insead Venture Capital competition, which is billed as Insead’s flagship entrepreneurship experience for students.

Their startup idea was to provide safe, sustainable and sanitary housing for female industrial workers in Southeast Asia, working directly with the businesses that employed them. The B2B model, named PeoplePods, also aimed to meet sustainability goals, with each building designed to offset nearly 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions through both its building practices and preventing the need for workers to make long commutes home after work.

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Tatler Asia
Above  Daniel Layug

“We had this very basic idea of employee housing. In the Philippines, Thailand and Southeast Asia, a lot of the offshore and outsourced manufacturing that happens there are electronics and semiconductors,” he explains. “But we actually found that the majority of the workforce in those multinational manufacturing facilities are women, so that’s why we decided to focus on B2B housing targeting women.”

Despite their idea having a strong mix of economic, social and environmental benefits, the competition was hot, Layug admits. The first-place prize of 40,000 euros attracted some bold ideas. “But we made it through the Insead round internally and… [then] we actually won the competition,” he says. “We were surprised we actually won!”

PeoplePods also earned them first place at the Kellogg Real Estate Venture Competition, with a US$100,000 prize sum. “We won the Insead competition and the Kellogg competition, so we thought, ‘Okay, let's do it!’” Layug laughs.

PeoplePods officially launched in 2018. It has since expanded throughout the Philippines, housing around 600 female industrial workers.

For Layug, PeoplePods provides him with an opportunity to make housing more purposeful. Each room has wifi access, all have access to a laundry and kitchen and have a ‘sari-sari’ store built on site to provide workers with essential foods and other necessities. Layug also works to provide educational opportunities for workers by giving them free access to multimedia education, addressing things like financial literacy, health and wellness and peace-building.

Layug credits his passion for purpose-driven entrepreneurship to his mother and the example she set for him over the years. “My Mum actually founded a non-profit media education company called Knowledge Channel, around 25-30 years ago, and I was employee number one for that one—not by choice,” he laughs. The non-profit provides cable or satellite dishes to 4,000 schools in the Philippines and reaches around 4 million students from kindergarten to high school graduation, at no cost to public schools.

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“My Mum was kind enough to donate Knowledge Channel to PeoplePods too,” Layug adds. “A lot of our residents at [PeoplePods] are high school graduates and others didn’t finish high school, so there’s still a lot that they need in terms of education. And I’d read studies in the past that showed that the better educated the mother is, the higher the odds that their children will be able to finish high school and potentially even go to college in the Philippines.”

Layug admits that he’s not too sure on the next steps for PeoplePods but is hopeful that sustainable, social investing and entrepreneurship will continue to be a growing trend, despite the pandemic.

“2020 saw so many investors around the world, and big asset managers like BlackRock, allocating so much of their capital and integrating their existing portfolios with environmental, social, governance and sustainability metrics,” he says. “It’s great. It really shows that the world is changing... It’s not just customers demanding more sustainability from their suppliers, it’s also investors realising that doing good is good for business.”

See more honourees from the Social Entrepreneurship category of the Gen.T List 2020

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