He Used to Sell Balut on the Streets. Now He's a Multi-Awarded AirAsia Regional Executive

A true success story.

When he was young, Raymund Cauilan Berja never imagined that he would hold a significant executive position in a regional company. After all, he used to sell balut on the streets of Cagayan during his formative years.  

But now, Ray, as he is fondly called by colleagues and industry stakeholders, has become the first Filipino regional chief financial officer (CFO) and regional head for tax, compliance and procurement at Airasia Super App. 

“I grew up in a market (palengke),” Berja tells Esquire Philippines. “When I was young, I used to help my mom man a small store in the markets of Piat, Cagayan. I used to sell balut through a kariton during fiesta. We were not well-off to begin with, but we tried to make both ends meet.”  


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His early exposure to labor encouraged Berja to strive harder to excel in life. During his teenage years, he decided that he wanted to be a soldier; he aspired to serve the country through the military. After high school, he was enlisted as a cadet in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), but later on decided to pursue management at the Philippine School of Business Administration as a working student.

Photo by AirAsia Super App.

“I became frustrated, however, when I was pursuing my military education,” he says. “I thought to myself that I can serve the country even though I'm not a soldier. So I went to Manila—without money, asking my friends for temporary shelter—and pursued my business studies as a working student. I was washing cars, running errands, and making coffee for my bosses.” 

A mission

After his undergraduate education, Berja had an epiphany: he wanted to make a mark. He wanted to leave a legacy.  

“Around 23 years ago, I wrote in front of my bedroom door that I wanted to be the most sought-after CFO in Asia Pacific,” he says. “And with all my struggles and failures in life, God in his goodness and grace guided me and led me to this juncture.”

After finishing his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from both the Ateneo de Manila University Graduate School of Business and Regis University in the United States, Berja is now pursuing a PhD in Business Leadership Studies in Ateneo, although he is currently on leave of absence status. He also has a Diploma in Financial Technology from Saïd Business School-University of Oxford and has secured certifications from here and abroad, including being a Certified Management Accountant and a Certified Financial Consultant with the Institute of Certified Management Accountant of Australia and the Institute of Certified Financial Consultants of Canada.

Now Berja oversees the management of the Airasia Super App’s finances in all of the territories it operates in, namely the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as tech support operations in India and expansions in Vietnam, Singapore, and South Korea.  

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With his appointment, Berja aims to bring in work ethic, values, expertise and a collaborative mindset in influencing the ASEAN super app’s five-year business plan and strategy in terms of growth and expansion. 

“My goal is to provide a strong foundation for the Airasia Super App to sustain growth momentum and positive EBITDA, as well as to implement stronger finance governance and compliance, a disciplined fiscal management through the efficient and effective allocation of resources across line of businesses while balancing new product launches and expansion to new markets,” he says.

Currently, Airasia Super App has a healthy base of 50 million users that use the platform to book flights, hotel stays, experiences, land and sea transfers, rides, food deliveries, and online retail, among other services. It claims to be the fastest growing travel app in Southeast Asia.

“We at Airasia are not strangers to facing giants,” the CFO says. “Two decades ago, we started disrupting the ASEAN aviation market with our low fares and value-for-money service. Today, our goal is to disrupt the tech disruptors and truly bring more value into the lives of the millions of people in the region through our suite of everyday services.”

Photo by AirAsia Super App.

More to come

Berja will also continue with his role as the managing director and country head of Airasia Super App Philippines, which has reached nearly one million monthly active users to date. The local unit of the Airasia Super App is on a momentum of business growth quarter-on-quarter, netting a gross book value of 86 percent, with net revenues rising by 98 percent and transaction count increasing by 174 percent. 

Prior to joining AirAsia Philippines as its CFO in 2019, Berja has been at the helm of finance units from different industries for 15 years. These include large domestic corporations and other multinational companies such as entertainment giant ABS-CBN Corporation, one of the country’s largest food companies Jollibee Foods Corporation, leading telco provider PLDT Global Corporation and the country’s leading fintech company Globe Fintech Innovations Inc. (Mynt).  

Berja says his unique multi-sectoral experience gives him a wide perspective, which is crucial for any strategic business disruptor.

“Where I am now is a glimpse of that aspiration,” he shares. “I know there’s still a lot to come.”

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