While the customer may not always be right, their needs are still an integral part of any business. Iñigo Golingay, President and CEO of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) company South Pacific Incorporated (SPI), knows how crucial it is to maintain positive partnerships with customers. For him, it means more than one lunchtime meeting.

“It’s really important to have a close relationship with customers,” says Iñigo. “When I talk to a customer, I really spend time with them. I don’t finish with them after having spent one hour in a meeting. I’m not happy with those kinds of discussions.”

Iñigo takes pride in the rapport he is able to build with his customers and considers the continuing relationship a key measure of success. “I view myself as successful when a customer has a family gathering and I am invited,” Iñigo says.

“I want to build a strong relationship with customers. I want them to be comfortable and know that when they come to me, they don’t need to negotiate, and that what I am giving them is fair.”

Iñigo Golingay shifts the strategy at Liquigaz

An engineer by profession, Iñigo began his career at Caltex Philippines Incorporated, working in the inventory and marketing division for LPG. His marketing experience at Caltex developed his ability to handle wholesale businesses, which in turn helped him succeed in his later position at Liquigaz. When Liquigaz entered the Philippine market, Iñigo says, it had a lot of issues, but this changed when it shifted its strategy to focus on wholesale markets.

Iñigo Golingay President & CEO of South Pacific Incorporated

“During that time, I think I was one of the people who could manage wholesale,” Iñigo says. “When I transferred to Liquigaz, it only had a 7% market share, and then, from 2003 until the end of 2015 when I left the company, it grew to 31%.

“At Liquigaz, the name of the game was wholesale, and large distributors controlled the market. It was more of a buyer’s market during that time because if the distributors were not happy, they could switch suppliers.

“What was happening was that these big distributors were just selling to sub-distributors. But during my time, I started approaching the sub-distributors. Before, about 10% of our customers controlled around 80% to 90% of the volume. Later, around 60% of the volume came from small markets, so we were able to have a lot of smaller customers with smaller volumes. We now rely less on the big distributors.”

Bringing autogas to the Philippines

During his tenure, Iñigo pioneered the use of LPG (also known as autogas) in the Philippines as it was rarely used before. “I developed the autogas business here in the Philippines,” Iñigo says.

The Philippine industry didn’t understand autogas; most cars used either gasoline or diesel.

Fast facts:
South Korea is the world’s largest consumer of autogas.

“The Philippine industry didn’t understand autogas; most cars used either gasoline or diesel. In 2006, Chinese distributors really pushed for autogas, and Liquigaz supported them in terms of logistics and product availability. After a partnership with Chinese companies, we were then able to grow the entire autogas business in the Philippines.”

Building South Pacific Incorporated from scratch

Iñigo’s success followed him into SPI, a partnership between Phoenix Petroleum and Republic Gas Corporation. “Both companies approached me and said that there would be a change of leadership in Liquigaz, so I should consider building a new company for them. That’s when I decided to resign and I built the entire company from scratch,” Iñigo says. SPI began to grow under Iñigo’s stewardship.

“We started small, but we’re growing fast,” he says. “Right now, our market share is 12%, but we see our company growing to more than 25% in the next two years.” And at the centre of the company’s operating model is its customer focus.

“Since we are wholesale, it’s more about relationship selling. We see customers as king,” Iñigo says. “Marketing takes a driver’s seat. It is the main focal point that tries to address the requirements of the customer.”

Over the next few years, Iñigo plans to expand the company’s reach right across the more than 7,000 islands that form the Philippine archipelago. “We have the largest LPG storage capacity in the Philippines at the moment. Our expansion plan is to go into the smaller islands. These islands require a smaller volume, but are higher in terms of margin, so we will be expanding aggressively into these areas.”