Geographies in Depth

The Philippines’ first unicorn is taking pop-up housing to a new level

The Philippine national flag is drenched in rainwater before it is raised during celebrations for the 150th birth anniversary of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal at the Rizal Park in Manila June 19, 2011. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo (PHILIPPINES - Tags: ANNIVERSARY SOCIETY) - GM1E76J0VRO01

The flat-pack housing founder took inspiration from Uber and AirBnB. Image: REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

Emma Charlton
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum on ASEAN

Imagine if you could select your home from a catalogue and have it delivered, in the same way you’d choose a sofa from Ikea.

A start-up in the Philippines is planning to make that a worldwide reality, after a finance round last year valued the company at more than $1 billion. Revolution Precrafted is the brainchild of real-estate developer Robbie Antonio, who says he conceived the idea of a pre-fabricated home business by taking inspiration from disruptive, asset-light technology companies like Uber and Airbnb.

Image: Revolution Precrafted

His vision resulted in the first unicorn for the Philippines. In Asia, unicorns have tended to emerge out of China and India, with Beijing creating 29 unicorns since 2012 and Shanghai spawning 11, according to data compiled by CB Insights. According to International Monetary Fund statistics the Philippines is the 13th largest economy in Asia and the 3rd largest in the ASEAN after Indonesia and Thailand.

As well as marking a milestone for the Philippines with its rapid growth, these homes that snap together almost as easily as Lego bricks may offer an innovative approach to the challenge of housing Asia’s booming population. Antonio told CNBC he wants to be shipping to 85 countries by 2020 and aims to grow revenues “north of several billion dollars”.

Image: Revolution Precrafted

The homes, which offer energy efficiency and faster construction time compared to non-prefabricated homes, are cheaper per square meter, and are increasing in popularity, according to the company.

Image: Revolution Precrafted

The idea certainly seems appealing to sector specialists, with Zaha Hadid, David Salle, Tom Dixon and Marcel Wanders all signing up to conceive the prefab structures, while Singapore’s K2, founded by venture capitalist Ozi Amanat, is reported to have invested.

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And with the company signing a $3.2 billion deal to manufacture apartments and hotel villas in Dubai, it seems like Ikea for housing may become a reality just as quickly as the Philippines grew its first unicorn.

The World Economic Forum on ASEAN is taking place in Ha Noi, Viet Nam from 11-13 September 2018.

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Related topics:
Geographies in DepthNature and BiodiversityUrban Transformation
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