A Filipino technology entrepreneur, who has deployed CCTV surveillance cameras in the Makati central business district, provided IT solutions to electric cooperatives around the country and established a state-of-the-art security training agency, is set to change the country’s solar energy sector.
“We will bring solar roof tiles and PV glass curtain walls to the Philippines,” says Ariel dela Cruz, the 57-year-old founder, president and chief executive of FPI Group, which provides innovative, and state-of-the art technologies in the fields of safety, security, automation, application, software development and disruptive services.
An electronics engineer by profession and techie at heart, dela Cruz is expanding his businesses from security solutions and computer software to solar products that aim to change how houses and buildings will be designed in the future.
Dela Cruz, who graduated with a degree in Electronics Engineering from De La Salle University in 1983, considers himself to be a techie. “After graduating from DLSU, I worked in an engineering consulting firm. I used to design micro-controller circuits. I was also a programmer. Up to now, I am still a techie. Any new technology is easy for me to understand,” he says in an interview in Makati City.
FPI Group has 400 employees, including 300 security personnel at subsidiary Best Option Investigation & Security Services Inc. and the rest in other affiliates such as Facilities Protection Inc., FPI Maxerve, BSI Berinne Systems Inc., Xen Energy Systems Inc. and XenPay.
The group provides security and IT solutions to multinationals, large companies, factories, government agencies, transport terminals, infrastructure projects, hotels and BPOs. Its enterprise-grade products include CCTVs, fire alarm systems, intrusion and alarm systems, automation and control systems, hand-held and walk-through metal detection systems, explosives and narcotics trace detection systems and cargo X-ray inspection systems.
It has recently established a training center to upgrade the skills of the security personnel of Best Option and other agencies and just closed a contract to supply the most advanced checkpoint screening machines. “The one we are supplying is Checkpoint CT or Computed Tomography. What you will see on the screen is 3D image. I am also bringing in a new piece of equipment—a body scanner, X-ray machine and facial recognition system all in one,” he says.
On why he is venturing into solar roof tiles, dela Cruz says: “Solar solutions are vertical to my business. With security systems, we are talking to developers. Now, I can also talk to them about solar roof tiles and curtain wall. It is an easy jump, because it is not different,” he says.
“Our solar roof tiles are not retrofit, unlike the existing solar rooftops. If you build a new house, you are going to put a roof anyway. So you might as well put up one that is already solar. We are talking to LandBank Leasing. They are willing to finance it,” he says.
“Another good thing is that they do not require maintenance. They are durable and look clean. They are made of tempered glass. Each tile measures 0.5 meters by 0.7 meters,” says Dela Cruz.
“We will ship samples of solar roof tiles [from China] soon. We are eyeing developers and architects. Price of roof tiles will have a difference of only 30 percent to 40 percent from pergola. It pays for itself. No building material pays for itself, except solar tiles. Solar roofs used to be retrofit in the form of panels. Now it is a building material—a roof glass which is beautiful to look at. It can start generating power in the early morning. Even with cloud cover, it can produce power. You can put up your entire roof as solar [facility],” he says.
He says the photovoltaic curtain wall can also be used in buildings to generate power. “Curtain wall is about 50 percent transparent and it is not costly,” says dela Cruz, who plans to form a solar solutions company soon.
Dela Cruz says he wants to build and design a new house using solar roof tiles and curtain walls for his family. These materials, he says, will provide his household with free electricity from the sun.
“If the economy does well, we also do well. Real estate expansion is a key segment for us, especially now for solar,” he says.
In October 2016, FPI Group took over Best Option, a small security agency. “We bought out the major partners and rehabilitated it. Now, we have a security agency. We need to get good people. That is why I put up a training agency, so we can train our own people. I have all the latest and greatest equipment sitting in my office. We brought them there and now use those equipment to train these guys, and elevate them to a greater skill level,” he says.
“With our training center, we can train those guards how to operate the equipment. They need better training. That’s what we set out to do. We put in about P5 million worth of demo equipment in the training center in Cainta. I’m sure other agencies will come in, because we are lifting the standards in the industry. It is called Best Option Advanced Security Training Center Inc.,” he says.
Dela Cruz established a technology company in 1989 with a partner and another company called Fire Kinetics back in 1996 with another partner. In 2000, he bought out his partners and established FPI. The group now owns 70-percent to 90-percent stakes in its seven subsidiaries. “Most of the key managers also have shares in the companies,” he says.
One of the group’s subsidiaries—BSI Berinne Systems Inc.—is into internet of things. “IoT is one of the solutions of Berin. Example is parking sensor. We provide the battery that can last two years,” he says.
Dela Cruz also manages a team of programmers who develop software solutions for the power industry. Xen Energy and XenPay provide payment solutions to electric cooperatives.
“There are 120 electric coops that serve 12 million houses in the country. Right now, we have five customers, and another five [in the pipeline]. We are targeting to serve four million houses in the next two years,” he says.
“With XenPay, we will address payment in the sari-sari stores. You can pay bills at sari-sari stores using Android phone with app. Our wallet partner is LandBank. Everything is in the cloud,” he says.
Dela Cruz says that in the field of security, FPI Group would like to maintain its focus on enterprise high-end solutions. “We don’t do low-end. My personal belief is you get what you pay for. The problem with competitors is they do not get the quality products. We don’t do that. We always go for state-of-the-art stuff,” he says.
Clients include Philip Morris, SGV, Toshiba, Globe, Smart, government agencies, multinationals, industrials and other groups that require some form of security or safety solutions.
“If you go to our office [Chino Roces Ave., Makati City], we practice what we preach. The whole office is monitored by CCTV with access control,” he says.
Dela Cruz says the business is good “because of the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program.”
On how his business flourished, Dela Cruz says he does not compromise in terms of quality of services. “I think number one is to add value. If you are not adding value, people will not be happy with what it is you are selling. Anything you sell, there has to be value added. I even spent money from my pocket to replace something that I think is not at par to our standards. If you do your job right, you add value and you will never go wrong,” says dela Cruz, who served as president of Rotary Club of Parañaque East in 2003 to 2004.
Dela Cruz, who lives in Better Living Subdivision in Parañaque City, says he wants to retire in a few years, with his son taking over. His 29-year-old son currently runs the group’s operations while a daughter is graduating to be a doctor. Another daughter is still in grade school.
Dela Cruz plans to convert the FPI Group into a holding company next year to oversee the operations of its subsidiaries, with Maxerve carrying the responsibility of selling the security and safety solutions of FPI. “I want to structure it properly because the group is growing. It is all managed by professionals. I cannot manage it all by myself as I would not have time to play golf,” he says.
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