Inanc Balci knows all about selling. As cofounder and CEO of Lazada Philippines, Inanc has led his team of over 2,800 employees in their quest to get more and more Filipinos to shop online since 2012. And he’s been successful, coming up with innovative solutions to hurdles that are unique to the country. Not a lot of people use credit cards? Give cash on delivery as a payment option. People are afraid of taking shopping risks? Offer a returns policy through LBC. “We started with no sales and in a very short amount of time, we made Lazada the largest e-commerce company in the Philippines at the same time reaching quite impressive sales numbers.”
But can he sell fishballs?
That’s what we asked Inanc to do in Super’s first CEO Challenge, a dare he gamely accepted despite his lack of knowledge in Filipino street food. Inanc, who graduated with a double degree in Industrial Engineering and Economics from Purdue University and started his career in mergers and acquisitions at an investment bank in London, said, “I didn’t even know what fishballs were, I had to check Google and look at the pictures.”
Biggest online sale
Inanc is gearing up for Online Revolution Day, Lazada’s biggest online sale of the year which will happen on Nov. 11. “The first sale day is Nov. 11 and then every week we will focus on different categories—electronics, fashion, home… There will be a final five-day sale from Dec. 7-12. But we urge everyone to do their shopping on 11-11 because those are the best deals. It’s a whole month of events. We have so many things lined up. We partnered with the largest brands in the Philippines, we are giving away a car. It’s going to be super exciting for our customers and their Christmas shopping.”
Despite his busy schedule, he spent an afternoon with Super, selling fishballs outside the Inquirer office.
One secret to this CEO’s success? “Set up a very good team. You are as good as your team especially in companies in the service sector like Lazada. We are not a factory where machines produce stuff. The number one requirement is to get good people.”
But that afternoon in Pasong Tamo, he had no team. After receiving a crash course in street food peddling from actual fishball vendors (“P10 for 12 pieces? Why not 10 for 10?” he asked them), he was on his own.
“Fishballs! Fishballs!” Inanc started calling out.
A crowd gathered in front of his fishball cart. He served his first stick of fishballs but he forgot one crucial thing—the sauce.
He learned quickly though, soon offering what he called “combination”: a mix of either sweet or spicy sauce and vinegar.
“P10 for one stick plus two scoops of sauce,” he started telling customers.
“I want it crispy,” one girl told Inanc.
When he realized a lot of people like their fishballs crispy, he started asking customers, “Rare or well done?”
“The most difficult part was when a lot of customers come and you have to cook with one hand and get the money with the other hand and remember who ordered what, but it took 15 seconds to figure out and then continue from there,” he later told Super.
Upon finding out Inanc’s Lazada connection, one customer gushed about the website’s quick service. “I order at 11:30 p.m. and at 8 a.m., I have it.”
“This is faster,” Inanc said, motioning to the sticks of fishballs and piles of kwekkwek in front of him. “You order, I give it to you.”
Whenever the crowd grew thin, he would start calling out, “Fishballs! Fishballs! Kwekkwek!”
“You owe me P10,” he told a customer.
“Guys, tomorrow we have more products,” he announced, making everyone laugh.
‘I thought about different strategies … let’s see how it goes’
He charmed people in other ways too.
“Ang gwapo ni kuya,” whispered one girl as Inanc handed her a cup of kwekkwek.
It started raining in the middle of the challenge but that didn’t stop Inanc from continuing his task—he even ran through the downpour to deliver fishballs to two customers.
“It was amazing, I enjoyed it a lot, except burning my hand a couple of times.”
He relished the chance to interact with customers. “The part that I enjoyed the most was being face to face with customers. In our business, you don’t get to see your customers. ”
Online or offline, Inanc’s entrepreneurial spirit burns bright.
We asked him what’s harder—e-commerce or selling fishballs?
“Selling fishballs is much harder,” he said.
Want to see your CEO do a Super challenge? Nominate him or her by e-mailing [email protected]