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Injap Sia: 10 Little Known Facts About the Self-Made Billionaire

Here’s everything you need to know about the 40-something man many budding entrepreneurs look up to.
ILLUSTRATOR Warren Espejo
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Edgar “Injap” Sia II’s name has become synonymous with success. The modern day tycoon became the country’s youngest billionaire in 2011 at only 34 years old. Nine years later at 43, it’s a title he still holds, ranking as the 21st richest Filipino on Forbes’ Philippines rich list.

As of September, his wealth is estimated to be around $700 million (P33.7 billion), but it’s unlikely Sia notices. He’s stated in the past that the richer he gets, the more conservatively he spends. For men like Injap, money is just a byproduct, not the goal, and the real endgame is to build businesses—and a legacy—that will outlast his lifetime.

Today, Injap is Chairman and CEO of Injap Investments Inc., Merrymart Consumer Corp., DoubleDragon Properties Corp. and Hotel of Asia Inc. Within just two decades, he went from college dropout to self-made billionaire, skyrocketing to the top of the business industry.

Despite his famous success story, Injap Sia is a tycoon that prefers to cruise under the radar. Here’s everything you need to know about the founder of Mang Inasal, who's now someone many budding entrepreneurs look up to.

Photo by Injap Sia.
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1| He’s a College Dropout

Born in Iloilo and raised in Roxas City, Injap attended the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City with dreams of being an architect. But he dropped out of college when he was only 19. He went on to start a number of small businesses, dabbling in a laundry shop, photo-developing business, and even a small local hotel.

It wasn’t until seven years later in 2003 that he hit the jackpot: a chicken barbecue fast-food joint. By then, he was 26 and had a few years of experience with small businesses. But he had no idea just how big this food brand would grow.

It just goes to show that while formal education is important, it does not define or limit your potential for success.

2| Mang Inasal Was Almost Named ‘Mng Inasal’

Due to his Filipino-Chinese father’s beliefs in feng shui, Injap was almost about to call his fast-food shop “Mng Inasal,” because this was one letter closer to eight letters, an auspicious number of letters that success stories like Jollibee and Chowking also possess.

Injap was able to persuade his father to let him stick with the 10-letter “Mang Inasal” as Banco de Oro, the country’s biggest bank, also has 10 letters.

3| He’s a Melting Pot of Cultures

“Injap” is actually a nickname friends and family fondly call him, derived from his parents’ heritage. His mother, Pacita, is half-Japanese or “jap,” and his father, Edgar Sia Sr., is half Chinese or “intsik.” In a joking but fond manner, the nickname “Injap” was born to honor his parents’ lineage.

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Aside from his multicultural background, Injap is also a proud probinsyano from Visayas who was born in Iloilo and raised in Roxas. Many of his businesses are still active in his hometowns, and the businessman makes a point to focus his businesses equally between the provinces and the metro.

Photo by Dairy Darilag.

4| He’s a Proud Probinsyano

Despite being a proud Ilonggo since birth, Injap has admitted that he struggled with confidence when Mang Inasal began to grow and he entered the business scene in Metro Manila.

“I think I had the confidence to compete locally [in the province]; but it was different thing to compete with [businesses in] the larger, more sophisticated, the more organized and crowded cities like Metro Manila,” said Injap. “Most probinsyanos like me don’t have the confidence for that—parang given na that you have less experience, you have less capability.”

He’d only visited Manila less than five times while he was expanding Mang Inasal, so when it was time to sell it to Jollibee and start his own real estate company, it felt like “going to the Olympics after coming home from a town sports league.”

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But it wasn’t long before he realized being a probinsyano is an advantage, not a hindrance.

“I discovered that when you are able to quickly learn the complex business ways in the big city and then mix those learnings with what you have naturally learned in the streets in the province, it will result in better decision and direction. I think if I had a different and more comfortable background, the decisions I have made over the past ten years would have been different,” said Injap.

5| His Mentor is Tony Tan Caktiong

Back when Mang Inasal was still under his ownership, Injap found a mentor in one of the country’s most successful self-made businessmen—Jollibee founder Tony Tan Caktiong. Their business relationship began in 2010 when Mang Inasal’s rapid growth and consumer success caught the eye of Jollibee Group. By then, what started as a small restaurant in Iloilo grew to a 100-chain restaurant with branches throughout the country.

Naturally, Jollibee wanted to cash in on the pioneering barbecue fast-food joint, and thus bought a 70 percent stake in Mang Inasal in 2010 for a whopping P3 billion. Eventually, Jollibee wanted the whole pie and bought the remaining 20 percent for P2 billion in 2016, effectively transferring ownership of Mang Inasal from Injap to Tan Caktiong. If it was anyone else, they might have viewed the person trying to buy them out as a challenger or as competition. Instead, Injap found a mentor and business partner.

After selling Mang Inasal, Injap and Tan Caktiong teamed up to form DoubleDragon Properties Corporation, a real estate development corporation that went public in 2014. In Injap’s book, Life Principles, Tony Tan Caktiong writes in the foreward:

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“When you step back and put it all together, you realize that Injap is quite an amazing person, and you say to yourself, how lucky I am to have met him, to be doing business with him, and most important, to be his friend.”

Photo by Summit Books.

6| His Grocery Venture Is a Nod At His Roots

In the same way the former aspiring architect is now building instead of designing through DoubleDragon, Injap also went back his roots when he set up MerryMart, a grocery chain that is reminiscent of his grandfather who started his own grocery store in the ‘50s, and his parents who’ve been running their own grocery store since the ‘80s.

This time, Injap took his own grocery venture public with an initial public offering launched in the middle of a global pandemic. And despite all odds, it turned out to be another success.

The auspicious turn of events proves that everything comes full circle at some point.

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7| He’s an Aggressive Businessman, But Not Reckless

“There’s a very thin line between being aggressive and being purely reckless; I’m aggressive, but not reckless,” said Injap. “I consider myself a risk-taker. But I think there’s also a defensive side to taking risks, which is very important.”

Aggressive business mentality is what has brought him to this point, but had he been reckless, he would have been derailed from his path long ago. Despite being relatively young compared to other tycoons in the industry, Injap knows the ins and outs of setting up a business:

“I go full throttle most times, but I don’t go beyond the limits. Though every situation is different, and so your limits vary, too. It’s like driving: The speed limit is different whether you’re driving on a small road or a highway, or whether you’re going straight in clear weather, or turning during rain. You have to adjust your limits to the factors around that specific circumstance.”

Photo by MerryMart / DoubleDragon.
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8| To Him, Success is a ‘Series of Correct Decisions’

There’s no such thing a luck for Injap. Or at least, if there is, it’s because men make their own luck.

“I think success is a series of correct decisions. Every decision that’s made today was made because you thought it was right today; and, as a leader and a business founder, that’s your job—to keep making decisions all day.

“For ten decisions you make, maybe seven will be perceived as immediately correct. While others may not perceive the other three decisions as right, however, if you’re blessed, it will turn out correct in the long run. And that blessing comes about as a combination of instinct and guidance.”

9| Money Doesn’t Make Him Comfortable—It Challenges Him

Having cash in the bank might make some people spendthrifts and frivolous, but for Injap, it only made him more conservative and challenged.

“Up to a certain level, money makes your life more comfortable. Only up to a certain level. After that, you don’t feel a significant difference anymore especially if you have set your personal contentment level low. But I still continue to work, no longer for myself but for a greater purpose,” said Injap Sia.

“My first million made me more conservative. Earning that first million was so difficult, that when I finally had it, I knew I had to take care of it because I have poured in so much sacrifice and hard work for it.

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“Making my first billion put my character to test. In 2010—I was 33 at the time—Jollibee bought Mang Inasal for P3 billion for a 70 percent stake. Having that sum of money in front of you, at 33, can make or break you. It’s an acid test of your personality, your character, your sense of self. I thank the values that our parents have instilled in us, their children, that made me able to stay whole and grounded.”

10| The First Luxury Item He Bought For Himself Was a Rolex. Then He Bought More For His Entire Family

Just because he’s admittedly grounded doesn’t mean the billionaire didn’t take joys in the small things after making his first million (or was it billion?).

“The first luxury I bought myself was a Rolex. It was considered as a sign of achievement then. I bought my first and only Rolex in 2004; a few months later, I bought one for my father, my mother, my wife, my brother, my sister. I still keep mine, although I seldom wear a watch now.”

Family continues to be his north star, and he credits them for keeping him “whole.” Injap is the eldest of three siblings that make up the triumvirate leading his growing empire. There is Ferdinand Sia, the lawyer, and Rizza Marie Joy, the accountant. Injap is married to Shella Sia, and the couple have two sons and a daughter.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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