April 12, 2023 – Alike Editorial
Chris Guzman’s pandemic start-up delivers on speed, safety, and service…with a heart.
Chris Guzman had a lot to think about on his way home. There was him being caught in the wave of Silicon Valley’s downsizing. There was the fact of his flight being one of the last before lockdowns due to Covid. And there was the reality of starting over at 35.
Metaphorically washed ashore in Manila’s quarantine, where every house was an island, Chris relied on courier services for sending and receiving goods. Slowly building rapport with several of these frontliners, he figured he could tap them directly. Some appreciated his offer, and thus began his simple “pasabay” and “pabili” errands.
Later on, seeing viral videos of parcels being mishandled at warehouses eroded Guzman’s trust in existing delivery services. He thus started recommending two of his most reliable riders to close associates.
“I messaged friends and family, telling them that if they needed to have items sent out, I knew these two great guys,” he shares. “But on the side, I was already doing A-B testing, already testing the market to see if there was potential.”
In just two weeks, he saw movement.
“My contacts started regularly reaching out to hire these two riders for single packages,” he recalls, “but one day, I got a message from a friend telling me he needed 4,000 parcels delivered around Metro Manila and that they had been stuck with him for three months already.”
This was Chris’ Archimedes moment, which saw him figure out a very real demand for displacement in the delivery services industry.
With feedback from customers of well-known courier services, to the riders themselves, Chris launched Pahatid PH: a passion project-turned-startup that he hoped would put humanity back into delivery services.
Rallying Behind “Front Riders”
Today, Pahatid PH operates its fleet of riders with a simple premise: “guaranteed, next-day delivery, within Metro Manila, at a fixed rate, with riders you can trust.”
For Guzman, kicking off a business in a time where people were down and out was tricky, but fulfilling. “It was crystal clear for me, as generic as it sounds, to help more people: by getting more people employed, (and) helping them get stable work,” he says, recounting the uncertainty felt in 2020.
At Pahatid PH, riders are called “front riders” to this day. “Riders were people working at the frontlines,” he explains, “outside, exposed to the elements at the peak of a pandemic— who unfortunately weren’t given enough credit and, even worse, weren’t paid enough.”
Towards this, Pahatid PH naturally gives its riders a higher pay cut, and the gamble of passion over profit ultimately paid off.
But Pahatid PH’s care extends beyond the monetary. Another key trait is on-going dialogue. Every week, Guzman makes it a point to connect with his riders. “We make sure we keep talking to our growing pool of riders,” he adds, sharing that they all meet, sometimes over breakfast. “In my mind, the best way to talk organically is over food. Very Filipino. Over food, the conversation just flows. We get familiar enough to even be able to talk about how our riders can manage their personal finances.”
As a family, and being its “father,” the dynamic works. “So far, this works, because we have higher retention of riders,” Chris says proudly, “Eight out of 10 of our riders are the same riders that have been with us since day one.” Two out of 10 that leave the team, he goes on to say, do so for personal reasons (one has even migrated to Canada). “That’s how I keep the trustworthiness and the reliability among riders: by making sure they’re treated not just fairly but well,” he adds. “This is just to say that when you take care of your people, your people take care of you.”
The Logistics of Growth
Today, Chris’ pandemic start-up growth is fueled by the ever-increasing number of people who turn to them to deliver. “We’ve had to expand,” he states, “we recently had to partner with a warehouse to cover our warehousing and fulfillment to accommodate that expansion.”
He chalks up a lot of this growth to reliable customer service, the human element, but another is perhaps the stability of his pricing.
“One thing that sets us apart is that we offer a fixed-rate fee,” he says. “We don’t subscribe to algorithm-based pricing and that’s how Grab, Lalamove, and all others work. Whether you have a Pasig-to-Pasig or a Pasig-to-Alabang delivery, it’s the same price.”
Not that this was an easy sell at the start.
“People would ask, ‘Who are you guys? How do you differ from the courier services [we know]?’ In the early stages, even I didn’t have an answer. [Laughs] I would tell them we are like Grab or Lalamove, yes, except that we don’t have an app; that’s actually my one-liner. I would always highlight one thing, though, with regards to how we differ— customer service.”
2023 marks the third year of Pahatid PH, a feat for any pandemic startup. And with a team ready to brave the elements, embrace new developments, and a customer base loyal to its model, Chris Guzman and Pahatid PH seem to, like every parcel entrusted it, go the distance.
Real stories. Real people.
We believe that life isn’t about a binary of ones and zeros - but about the sum of our hopes and dreams, our struggles and heartaches, our tragedies and triumphs.
The things that unite us are far stronger than the things that divide us.
And those stories are why we are alike.