Angeline Tham: Speeding up women’s journey toward their dreams

Photographs courtesy of FB/Angeline Tham and Angkas

The most powerful force is a woman determined to break the glass ceiling. Women are generally underrepresented in the digital technology sector, despite strong evidence that women leaders produce higher success.

Angkas founder Angeline Tham’s career path speaks of her drive to become a changemaker, from a generally male-dominated finance industry to a tech-based transportation industry. Tham is helping women to explore the convergence of technology and transportation to uplift the lives of their families and others — one female biker at a time.

Born in Singapore, Tham saw a much different commuter experience in the Philippines, which she briefly described as “debilitating.”

“When I found out that it takes an average of two to three hours to commute one way to work, it blew my mind that Filipinos were coming into work with a smile,” Tham says.

Tham landed in the Philippines after working in banking and e-commerce. Struck by the heavy traffic in the country, she created the app-based transport service Angkas, “It told me two things: Filipinos are very resilient, and they do not realize how much everyday decisions are tied to traffic. Where you choose to work or send your kid to school, to whom you date or make friends with, all these decisions are tied to traffic,” Tham states.

Tham saw the problem Angkas aims to solve much sooner than Filipino commuters. However, she was relieved they eventually saw the bigger picture beyond simply getting to point A to point B.

Angkas has grown to over 30,000 bikers servicing 22 cities through over seven million app downloads.

“There was a thriving habal-habal industry servicing people desperate to get around faster. I wanted to professionalize them to make it safer and more reliable to help commuters get from one place to another,” Tham explains.

Angkas couple Angeline Tham and George Royeca receive an award at the Mega Equality Ball.

As a competent female business leader, Tham says Angkas female bikers and staff are always encouraged to speak their minds and lead other team members so that the company can make intelligent decisions.

“We have an equal number of women in leadership positions in Angkas. We hire based on experience and skills, not based on gender. Diversity is also encouraged in teams as men and women bring different perspectives,” she notes.

Through Angkas, Tham says female bikers have been able to support their families and ease their journey toward their dreams, earning “double or triple the minimum wage.”

“I have seen my bikers put themselves through school or build a house for their family. The ability to provide for their children will allow them to dream for more and become the country’s future doctors, lawyers and leaders,” she adds

Fueled by these impacts Angkas has brought to partner bikers, Tham ensures she allots time to share leadership and entrepreneurship insights with women.

“Women support women. I’m involved in mentorship programs to give practical advice. I give talks at these events to inspire and demystify our work.”

In 2019, the Senate-approved a bill to legalize Angkas, amending the law prohibiting two-wheeled vehicles from being used for public transport. Angkas then was also saddled by fears among parents and other commuters that motorcycle taxis are dangerous.

However, Tham argued the vehicle was acceptable, but the unskilled and undisciplined drivers were not.

Photograph courtesy of FB/Angeline Tham
Angkas CEO Angeline Tham.

“I started out wanting to take care of commuters, giving them a better quality of life and the freedom to make choices for themselves, despite traffic.”

To ensure passengers are safe in riding Angkas, Tham says the company requires bikers to pass rigorous training with written and practical exams. “We fail 70 percent of all our applicants.”

The training, of course, includes how male bikers can make female passengers comfortable.

“Filipinos are by nature very friendly. Sometimes that banter can be misconstrued. We also conduct mystery passengers to ensure our bikers keep to the high standards that we maintain, so much so that we have a safety rating of 99.997 percent,” Tham explains.

In the almost impossible case of getting injured somehow, Tham says Angkas has a 24/7 hotline to receive complaints.

However, Tham says, so far Angkas has had a great ride.

“We have received many requests to bring Angkas to their cities to help professionalize motorcycle taxi services there and to provide a reliable alternative mode of transportation. I will satisfy those anticipating us in their cities. Stay tuned!”

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