By: Rachelle C. Paunlagui
Upson International Corp. (Upson) appointed Arlene Louisa T. Sy to be our Chief Executive Officer effective April 13, 2022. She replaced Lawrence O. Lee, who served in the role for nine years before becoming Chairman of the Board.
Following her appointment, Arlene assumed responsibility for recommending, implementing and continually developing our strategic direction, overseeing operational activities, communicating with the Board of Directors and stakeholders as well as fostering a collaborative company culture, among others.
We asked Arlene about her role and what she sees ahead for Upson.
You’ve had a long career at Upson—27 years. When you think back on it, how has that prepared you for this role?
I learned the business from the ground up. I was hired in 1995 as part of branch operations. I was responsible for the day-to-day activities including logistics, store management, and marketing. Years later, I became the general manager for the first large format IT store established by the group. More recently, my roles were in product and category management, marketing and procurement planning, and project management.
My passion for technology also brings better understanding and appreciation of the role. In school, I was interested in hardware and electronics that’s why I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science with specialization in computer hardware from De La Salle University. At work, due to my constant engagement with suppliers, I’ve become more attuned and sensitive to consumer psyche towards tech products.
In short, experience together with continuous learning on the job has given me insight into areas that Upson can improve and expand opportunities. I believe that's important and will help drive our success.
What does Upson stand for that makes you feel proud?
Upson is a great company with a culture that I’m proud to be a part of. Our goal has always been to promote digitalization, but that would only happen if people had access to IT products. I think that shared purpose is why we exist and why we strive to be a better company.
Our culture is also something I personally value. It's open and dynamic. We listen to our team members. We brainstorm. We collaborate. Through the years, I’ve found that working well together as a team is particularly important in our line of business. For example, when there are disruptions or crises like COVID-19, our action plan is to find immediate solutions to best cope with the situation. In the past two years, we had shifting schedules, stock shortages, freight issues, and limited store capacities—at a time when technology has become essential. Each of these events required unity, integrity, and commitment—and our team showed these values every day.
What’s ahead for Upson?
Upson is in a strong position, but there's more potential for growth. We are the largest IT retailer because we are accessible. This gives us a clear ambition for the business—to remain accessible, reach more customers, and not only concentrate in a few metropolitan areas. It means expanding to untapped markets such as secondary and tertiary cities in the country. So today, we have almost 200 stores nationwide and our target is to open 250 more stores in the next three to five years.
We also have plans that are directly linked to our store expansion strategy. First, we’re adding more regional warehouses outside of Metro Manila to be our distribution hubs. This will support new stores and prevent out-of-stock situations. Second, we want to give customers a better experience when buying IT products like creating new store formats and bringing new products and concepts to the Philippines—similar to those featured in tech events abroad which we regularly attend. All this is very exciting.
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