The story of Dr. Andrew Tan is that of the ongoing pursuit of excellence. His humble beginnings shaped the direction his life would take, and instilled in him the values of discipline, perseverance and hard work that would help propel him to the top.
Born in Fujian in China, Dr. Tan and his mother migrated to Hong Kong when he was only four years old. When he was 16, they came to the Philippines to join his father, who was then working in a transistor radio factory. The family lived in a small apartment in Sta. Cruz, Manila.
Dr. Tan took up a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the University of the East (UE). Already fueled by the ambition to start his own business even at a young age, he considered his accounting subjects as his favorite. “The study of accounting is one of the best ways to prepare one for an entrepreneurial career,” he said.
During his first two years as a student, he supported himself by selling watches and tutoring grade school students in math on a part-time basis. He then landed a job as an import assistant in a Filipino Chinese-owned company. It was a job he held until he graduated magna cum laude in 1974.
Prudence was a quality impressed early in Dr. Tan’s life. He rarely commuted to school, choosing instead to walk every day from his Sta. Cruz home to the UE campus in C.M. Recto. His lunch often consisted of fried bananas that he bought from vendors for 30 centavos.
In 1977, Dr. Tan became a partner in a small home appliance business. After two years as a salesman, he decided to try his luck in the distillery business. He acquired a liquor factory in 1979—it was a major step forward as a budding entrepreneur. Success didn’t come easy then, but he never gave up in spite of the obstacles he faced. He saw his early failures as blessings and even lessons that would teach him to try harder the second and even third time around.
Making his first million at 27 years old marked a turning point in Dr. Tan’s business career. “It was then that I began to embrace a business philosophy that was the heart of simplicity itself: just keep working and investing whatever profit you make in a new business. That way, you generate more jobs and help the country’s economy grow.”
In 1986, following the Philippines’ People Power Revolution, Dr. Tan saw land prices skyrocketing steadily. He thought that real estate could be the next big thing in his business career. Dr. Tan formed Megaworld in 1989 and dared to challenge older, more established brands in the industry. He started building stand-alone condominium projects for a high-end market in choice locations.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly until the Asian financial crisis struck in 1997. No one in Dr. Tan’s generation had experienced this before. It was a period that forced him and his team to examine Megaworld’s strengths and look for ways to put those to work.
The rise of office projects catering to the booming business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, as well as the growing demand for homes close to these BPO offices made it abundantly clear—this was yet another opportunity ripe for the taking. Dr. Tan took it.
His strong vision as chief executive officer and chairman of Megaworld led to the launch of Eastwood City in Quezon City, a pioneering township, in 1996. Eastwood City was a landmark achievement as it introduced the Philippines to a large-scale, master-planned setting integrating residences, offices, retail and commercial hubs and schools.
“There seemed like a logical synergy among office, commercial and residential developments,” he said. The township concept—live, work, play, learn—was born. Eastwood City became the proof of that concept,” he said.
As the first cyber park in the Philippines, Eastwood City has been recognized as the birthplace of the BPO industry in the country. Eastwood City has since metamorphosed into an award-winning township, and is now home to more than 35,000 condominium residents, over 80,000 BPO and office workers, and more than 500 commercial and retail establishments.
Eastwood City was only the beginning of the realization of Dr. Tan’s vision to offer Filipinos the best value for their real estate investment.
Today, Megaworld is the leading developer of townships and integrated lifestyle communities—which now number 22 properties in all—spanning over 4,000 hectares all over the country.
The company has an unprecedented track record of completing over 400 residential buildings, office towers, lifestyle malls, commercial centers and world-class hotels with a total area of over 6 million square meters since 1994. The company is currently developing over 200 towers, with a total area of 5.8 million square meters.
The Megaworld Group currently has a 5,000-strong workforce and a market capitalization of around PhP135 billion or approximately US$3 billion.
Committed not only to doing well but also to doing good, Dr. Tan founded Megaworld Foundation in 1997 as the non-profit corporate-giving arm of the Megaworld Group.
“I firmly believe that education is the key to lead people out of poverty,” he said. “Giving a person of humble birth the opportunity to be educated means giving him the chance to change his life for the better. That is why giving college scholarship grants to poor but deserving young people are a number one priority for Megaworld Foundation.”
For Dr. Tan, what lies beyond the horizon remains to be seen. He is still very much excited about what is out there, and what can still be done. “I have been very fortunate to be part of an industry where transforming land also means changing lives, creating jobs and building the nation. I would like Megaworld to continue being a transformational company,” he said.
Dr. Tan continues to follow a mantra of hard work, the same way he did when he started his business career four decades ago.
According to him: “Through the years, as my group of companies expanded, I stuck to my success formula of hard work and luck to stay ahead of the pack. That, basically, is the story of my life’s journey. It has been a constant process of moving forward no matter what. I hope that people will always discover a new opportunity to grow, advance further or become excellent—and have the courage to go out and take it.”
Megaworld, then called Megaworld Properties and Holdings Inc., is founded