BW Launchpad Archives - BusinessWorld Online BusinessWorld: The most trusted source of Philippine business news and analysis Sun, 19 Nov 2023 06:09:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Shopee says 11.11 transaction value hits over $1 billion Wed, 15 Nov 2023 07:24:23 +0000 E-commerce platform Shopee saw a global gross merchandise value (GMV) of over $1 billion on Nov. 11 alone, with exclusive promotions for shoppers and breakthroughs for small online businesses.

When compared to an average day, Shopee Live saw an increase in products sold of 33 times, alongside an 8 times uplift in new viewers on 11.11 itself, Shopee Philippines said in an e-mailed press statement on Wednesday.

It also noted a seller’s livestream selling over 67,000 items, generating P1 billion in sales on the day alone.

“We are elated by the overwhelming response and record-breaking success of our 11.11 Mega Pamasko Sale,” said Vincent Lee, head of Shopee Philippines.

“[We] will continue elevating the platform for more rewarding shopping experiences,” he added.

The e-Conomy SEA report by Google, Temasek Holdings, and Bain & Company showed the Philippines’ digital economy is forecast to reach between $80 billion and $150 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) by 2030, slightly lower than its previous projection of $100-150 billion.

According to the report, it is projected to grow by 13% this year to $24 billion in GMV. This will be mainly driven by e-commerce, which is expected to expand by 21% annually to hit $24 billion by 2025. E-commerce is forecast to reach $60 billion in GMV by 2030.

Shopee Philippines said its top categories during the 11.11 sale were home and living, followed by health and personal care.

The links of an affiliate were able to generate P1.2 million in total sales, which grew five times from a normal day, it added.

It noted 12 million vouchers redeemed and 1.2 million entries for its Shopee Live Milyonaryo program, which has a P1 million prize.—Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Innovation in romance: Pioneering proposal planning in the Philippines Tue, 14 Nov 2023 16:02:11 +0000 By Arjay L. Balinbin, Multimedia Editor

CURATING moments of joy and surprise is the driving force behind M Proposals MNL, a wedding proposal planning company that hopes to expand all over the country, its founder Carmela Denise A. Alcordo said.

“We researched this several years ago, and until now, we’re the only one doing this full time,” Ms. Alcordo said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

Her journey started during high school in Batangas when a feasibility study project sparked her entrepreneurial spirit.

“Our teacher asked us to do a feasibility study, and what I did was create an events company. I saw that it was a viable business and something I could do.”

“So I started with weddings, debuts, social and corporate events. And then, right after I graduated, I went to a corporate job, and I saw there was potential in proposal planning because I saw one of those showbusiness proposals, and I saw it usually goes viral (on social media platforms),” she added.

The transition from general events to a niche as specific as proposal planning was not without its challenges.

“I didn’t have a business model to guide me; everything I created was based on my experience,” Ms. Alcordo said.

“It was challenging but exciting to really come up with a business that is unique but with a lot of opportunities and potential.”

M Proposals also experienced an unexpected surge in inquiries during the pandemic period, reaching an average of 10-20 per day, Ms. Alcordo added.

She said that the demand could be attributed to the hunger for surprise-filled proposals and the convenience the company offers to busy clients.

“We cater to overseas Filipino workers, nurses, executives, CEOs — people who lack time to conceptualize proposals.”

At the core of M Proposals lies the art of personalization.

Ms. Alcordo detailed the process: “From significant details to shared hobbies, we use these elements to conceptualize a proposal perfect for the couple.”

She recalled a flash mob proposal in a busy street, saying, “The unforgettable moment was the girl’s reaction.”

“She dreamt of this her whole life but didn’t expect her boyfriend could do it to her.”

Such moments, she said, epitomize the emotional impact M Proposals aims for, resonating not just with the couple but also the surrounding audience.

M Proposals embraces diversity through ready-made proposal packages starting from P30,000, Ms. Alcordo said.

Options like the hotel proposal, complete with decoration, cocktails, and an overnight stay, or the scenic lush proposal, offering breathtaking views, cater to varied preferences, she noted.

The inclusivity extends to LGBTQ couples.

While M Proposals does not have specific packages for them, Ms. Alcordo said, “They’re unique, [and] we give them the creativity they require.”

“Basically, we really cater to their requirements because they’re really unique and glamorous, and I like that,” she added.

As M Proposals continues its journey, Ms. Alcordo envisions expanding to different Philippine destinations and partnering with international companies.

“Clients ask about proposals in other locations like… Singapore,” she said.

This aligns with her ultimate goal — making M Proposals a well-known name in proposal planning.

“I really want M Proposals to be a well-known proposal company in the Philippines,” Ms. Alcordo said.

Beyond individual success, her vision extends to a collaborative network where proposal planners share creativity and craft unique experiences.

“Even if we are the first, definitely, I feel like we can have a network of proposal planners where we can help each other, but we will be top of mind when it comes to proposal planning. With all the clients that we’ll have, we can provide them with creativity, and the unique and unforgettable experience that they would like to have,” she said.

For Ms. Alcordo, her entrepreneurial journey embodies the essence of her business — unique, creative, and passionately driven.

“The good thing about this is the anticipation of surprises and having the privilege to listen to all of our clients’ love stories and make the most out of those stories to create unforgettable memories,” she said.

“Even if I’m working, it feels like I’m not… For example, if I have a client and ask them what their love story is, that’s the most precious part of my work.” — with Aaron Michael C. Sy

Hive Health opens HMO plans for SMEs and startups Tue, 14 Nov 2023 16:01:10 +0000 HIVE HEALTH, a digital health insurance startup, has acquired Health Plan Philippines, Inc. to open healthcare access for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the company announced on Tuesday.

It offers health maintenance organization (HMO) plans for SMEs and startups with outpatient, inpatient, emergency, and dental care, Hive Health said in an e-mailed statement.

Hive Health also provides small business owners and human resource managers with an HR dashboard that streamlines onboarding, offboarding, and invoicing of employees, it added.

Benefits include mental health sessions, maternity care, preventive care, and medicine coverage, which are typically not offered to smaller teams and minorities such as the LGBTQIA+ and domestic partners.

“The goal is for all Filipinos to feel secure that their health is taken care of, and to give employers a sustainable way to take part in making that happen,” said Camille Ang, co-founder and chief executive officer of Hive Health.

Only around 2% of Philippine businesses, mostly large ones, provide healthcare coverage to their employees, according to the multichannel insurance platform

The Insurance Commission noted only 20,248 enterprises that provided healthcare coverage to their employees as of 2021. There were more than 1.08 million establishments in the country that year, according to the local statistics agency.

“We started Hive Health with the mission to make healthcare more accessible in the Philippines and in many other developing countries where social safety nets are capped,” Jiawen Tang, co-founder and president of Hive Health, said.

“Our goal is to leverage tech and data to make quality healthcare more affordable and easier to use, especially for the underserved SME segment,” she added.

Ms. Tang noted the company’s in-house electronic medical records system that enables its team of doctors to better accommodate the concerns of patients who book on-demand video teleconsultations with them.

Members can request approval letters, view plan benefits, find nearby providers, schedule physical exams, and access medical records through their phone or device, Hive Health said. For out-of-network reimbursements, it claims a duration of three to five days.

Hive Health said it has a nationwide network of 1,700 hospitals and clinics, with over 60,000 doctors. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Fulfillment services seen empowering MSMEs in the age of e-commerce Tue, 07 Nov 2023 16:03:28 +0000 By Miguel Hanz L. Antivola, Reporter

A COMPLETE network of partners and tools is a growing necessity for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to leverage the steady rise of e-commerce, according to entrepreneur Jacqueline Y. Chua.

Just when the pandemic hit, Ms. Chua, along with her colleague, saw an opportunity. Drawing from their experience in setting up e-commerce ventures for a conglomerate, they embarked on a new venture dedicated to serving MSMEs.

Ms. Chua, as the co-founder and chief executive officer of We Empower Ecommerce Solutions, Inc. (FullFill), took the initiative to convert her business partner’s facility into their startup’s headquarters.

With just a single year in full operation, FullFill grew to become a one-stop e-commerce support hub with micro-warehouses, co-working spaces, photo studios, and other services, Ms. Chua said.

“We are a startup, small business owners as well, so we understand the challenges faced by each MSME,” she said. “We wanted to create an end-to-end solution for them.”

“Our main advocacy is to help as many MSMEs as possible like us so they will have an easier time scaling and finding partners to grow their businesses,” she added.

The Philippine e-commerce market reached P500.9 billion in revenues with a growth rate of 31.3% last year, according to GlobalData analytics.

It is expected to grow by 22.9% to reach P615.7 billion this year, it added.

While Ms. Chua recognized the high growth trajectory of the e-commerce industry, she noted that online-native MSMEs eventually integrate into brick-and-mortar businesses after gaining critical mass. This integration also prompted FullFill to expand its services.

“For things that we cannot do ourselves, we work with collaborator partners,” she said on partnering with other businesses and service providers for MSMEs.

“FullFill was originally intended for e-commerce players,” she said. “But over the course of the past year that we’ve been operating, we have actually expanded to include B2B or business-to-business channel fulfillment services as well.”

Ms. Chua also noted that most MSMEs born in the e-commerce space, typically pandemic-born partnerships, struggle with manpower and finding a trusted service provider that suits their needs.

“If I am the owner myself. I do not have time to run the actual operations, picking and packing orders, or creating social media content,” she said.

“It’s very important for you to have a partner or outsource these services to those who are experts in that particular field,” she said on FullFill’s collaborator partners for other resources.

“In terms of output, content, and the efficiency of fulfillment, your KPIs [key performance indicators] will all be better instead of you doing all the work by yourself,” she added.

“What we strive to do is create an ecosystem where these MSMEs would know who to talk to.”

While FullFill is still in its first year of operations, Ms. Chua said it is focused on ensuring its business concept is acceptable to the 40 clients it is serving.

“Once we actually tick that box, we will move on to expanding to about 10 more locations in five years,” she said.

Currently headquartered in Pasig, Ms. Chua noted the company’s convenient and strategic location in the metropolitan area.

“We are very near C5 and near Makati, Bonifacio Global City, and Quezon City,” she said. “In general, if you look at the radius, we are a maximum of 20 kilometers away from every location within Metro Manila.”

“But the intent is really to expand outside the metro already,” she added on the company’s plans to build hubs in provincial metropolitan areas such as Davao and Cebu.

Ms. Chua noted that some of FullFill’s clients are based in the provinces and are eyeing expansion in Metro Manila.

“They don’t have the bandwidth to create another team here because it’s not efficient anymore,” she said. “So they actually outsource the fulfillment and even the content creation to us already. We’re like their business partner in Manila.”

“It’s really the maturity of the MSMEs right now,” she said on the main industry driver. “At this point, it is very important that we listen to them as their business partners.”

FedEx Express says expedited Vietnam-PHL flight service to benefit local businesses Tue, 07 Nov 2023 16:02:27 +0000 EXPRESS transportation company FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp., has introduced a new flight service connecting Vietnam to the Philippines, aiming to expedite shipment transit and support e-commerce growth.

It will now take one business day for Southern Vietnam exports to reach the Philippines and major Asian markets, the company said in an e-mailed statement to reporters on Monday.

“Local businesses serving international customers may gain a competitive advantage with expedited delivery times,” said Maribeth Espinosa, managing director at FedEx Express Philippines.

“The improved transit time from Vietnam to the Philippines will support the growth in trade volumes between both markets,” she said.

“Combined with the projected revenue growth of e-commerce in Southeast Asia, the role of logistics in enabling intra-Asia trade becomes even more pronounced,” she added on enabling access to more import and export opportunities.

FedEx Express noted that deliveries taking too long were the number one consumer pain point for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), followed by handling returns, according to a study it commissioned last year.

It said consumers typically expected delivery within three days to one week. “There is a desire for delivery to be at least more reliable if not faster.”

However, it also noted how SMEs in India, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam were among the most optimistic about their future e-commerce growth in the next three years.

Trade between the Philippines and Vietnam increased by 14.7% last year, reaching $7.8 billion in revenues, the Philippine News Agency said in July.

“We anticipate increased investments within the world’s largest free trade area, stimulating economic growth in Southeast Asia,” Ms. Espinosa said on the new FedEx service alongside the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The Senate ratified the RCEP in June, which is billed as the world’s biggest free trade agreement (FTA). This involves a third of the global economy as the participating countries include the members of ASEAN, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.

RCEP-participating countries are expected to have increased trade among participants as the FTA allows a liberal, facilitative, and competitive investment environment, especially in terms of quantity, tariffs, and import taxes.

“The new flight will use a dedicated B767 freighter flying four evenings a week from Ho Chi Minh connecting Asia and Europe through the FedEx Asia Pacific Hub in Guangzhou, China,” FedEx Express noted.

The company now offers nine weekly flights departing from Vietnam to Asia, Europe, and the United States. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Agri sciences company introduces augmented reality game for promoting product stewardship among Filipino farmers Tue, 07 Nov 2023 16:01:27 +0000 AGRICULTURAL sciences company FMC Corp. on Tuesday said it is the first in the Philippine agricultural industry to introduce an augmented reality (AR) game designed to promote product stewardship among farmers.

 “The FMC AR game is a new addition to FMC Philippines’ FMC on Wheels initiative, a multi-purpose vehicle that brings training and crop advisory services right to the doorsteps of farmers,” FMC said in an e-mailed statement.

The game allows players to take on the persona of a farmer, allowing them to choose the appropriate personal protective equipment for a range of FMC products while offering guidance on how to use them correctly and the recommended dosage.

“The gamer can also learn about harmful insects and combat the pests in a game to win small prizes,” FMC said.

Veronica Tiburcio, FMC Philippines country manager, said FMC on Wheels is a unique learning platform that reaches farmers for crop protection solutions treated with the company’s technology.

“The addition of the AR game is a differentiated value-add that not only allows us to deepen our engagement with farmers, but to share product knowledge while encouraging good agricultural practices,” she added.

FMC said the project travels to rural areas, where it gathers farmers for a mini crop exhibition showcasing both untreated and FMC-treated crops.

It also provides educational talks on agricultural practices and showcases FMC products, all in a single vehicle, the company noted.

Since the project’s launch in 2022, it has reached over 15,000 Filipino farmers, according to FMC. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

The making of Baao women artisans: Building lives beyond embroidery Tue, 31 Oct 2023 16:03:57 +0000 By Miguel Hanz L. Antivola, Reporter

SUSTAINING a social enterprise means having a close loop with the community — an endeavor that goes beyond self-profit, according to farmer, artist, and social entrepreneur Bernadette B. de Los Santos.

“You employ the skills and materials of your community, and the benefits should also go back to them,” Ms. De Los Santos, founder of BidiBidi Enterprise, said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

“Success here is not measurable in terms of monetary value; it’s more about its effect on me and my community, and not only the pocket,” she added.

Ms. De Los Santos aimed to revive hand embroidery in her town, providing off-season income opportunities for farmers and their families.

“In between those two periods (planting and harvest seasons), farmers don’t do much, so they get buried in debt,” she said about the farmers in Baao, Camarines Sur. “By the time they get paid from their harvest, they use the money to pay off their debts.”

Ms. De Los Santos started her social enterprise after the Baao local government asked her to teach women hand embroidery.

Initial efforts to establish the project were not sustained, she said, noting that when she approached various government agencies with her idea, many were doubtful or did not immediately understand her initiative.

“They could not see the wisdom in teaching non-agricultural skills to farmers or their wives,” she said.

She eventually found support. The Department of Social Welfare and Development saw the potential of the proposal, she said.

 “In early 2017, I began teaching hand embroidery to 150 women through the Sustainable Livelihood Program, and this was also the year I registered the BidiBidi Enterprise.”

A noticeable community benefit of the social enterprise is the economic empowerment of Baao women from zero income to an average weekly income of P1,000, Ms. De Los Santos noted.

“People may think it is small, but they do not work in a factory; they work on the designs at home,” she said. “They continue to be mothers, wives, and sisters to their family.”

“They arrive every Saturday with their finished items, and they get paid by the piece,” she added.

Additionally, a portion of the profits from BidiBidi’s handicraft bags allowed Ms. De Los Santos to establish a scholarship fund for farmers’ children, which has already sent over 30 students to college, she said.

“I have a scholar who is going to be a public school principal,” she said. “It’s a matter of giving them a chance to have education.”

BidiBidi significantly expanded its market after the selection of Ms. De Los Santos as a beneficiary of the Gender Responsive Economic Action for Transformation Women Project Phase 2 in 2018.

Entrepreneurial experts mentored her to leverage social media marketing and broaden her reach.

“My market is not big in the sense that I export. It’s just local, but that is where the demand started.”

“That is also the time when the consciousness of Filipinos to buy local grew,” she said about BidiBidi handwoven bags also gaining recognition from celebrities. “We were able to keep up with the demand.”

While BidiBidi is not currently eyeing export quantities for its handicrafts, Ms. De Los Santos noted plans to join international trade fairs for wider exposure.

“The real plan is to make my enterprise sustainable,” she said. “My definition of success for what I do is when more people are hired, more hands are involved in making my products, so that means more mouths are fed.”

“I always get asked, ‘Did you get rich doing your business?’ I always say, ‘I got enriched,’” she added.

“It gives me a lot of joy — it’s non-negotiable… I have a better purpose for money.”

Simpler tech solutions to boost MSMEs’ digital transformation — expert Tue, 31 Oct 2023 16:02:56 +0000 SMALL BUSINESSES with limited technical expertise can build, customize, and deploy digital solutions tailored to their needs, global software company Kissflow said.

With more micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) being urged for digital transformation, easier technology solutions are needed to spur faster adoption, Dinesh Varadharajan, chief product officer at Kissflow, said in an interview with BusinessWorld on Wednesday last week.

“Low-code, no-code platforms” can democratize technology use among small businesses, which can be as simple as drag-and-drop, he noted.

“Business users can’t understand code and programming. We need to create a product that allows businesses to solve their own problems,” he said. “Just drag and drop to create an application for a specific need.”

“For example, if I am from the HR [human resources] function, and I want to automate the performance appraisal application, then I should be able to create it myself,” he added.

With full implementation by 2030, digital technology could create up to P5 trillion in economic value, equivalent to about 27% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product in 2020, according to a study conducted by global tech advisory firm Access Partnership and commissioned by Google.

This requires the Philippines to embrace digital skills training and education, accelerate digital adoption and innovation, and tap opportunities for digital trade, the study said.

“Unless these MSMEs change the way they operate, there is a significant threat to them,” Mr. Varadharajan said regarding more digital native competitors entering the market.

“They need to digitize faster through simpler products, especially those who do not have a huge IT [information technology] function,” he added, commenting on the opportunity Kissflow sees in the country.

With its core value ‘Keeping It Smart and Simple’ as an acronym in its brand name, Kissflow aims to modernize the legacy system of enterprises, small or large, by creating efficient applications around it, said Mark Anthony B. Zaplan, country sales manager for the Philippines at Kissflow.

“Business units, everyone in the organization, can build their own application as soon as they need it,” Mr. Zaplan said. “It is not exclusive to IT and programmers.”

Kissflow has served enterprises in the Philippines for the last seven years, garnering 30 customers to date, with plans to tap business districts outside the capital region, Mr. Zaplan said.

He noted the Philippines as the company’s first leg of expansion in the region.

Mr. Varadharajan said Kissflow is growing its global customer base of 1,600 companies, aiming to be one of the top two low-code industry players in the next few years. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Talino Venture Studios secures $5 million from Chemonics for fintech growth Tue, 31 Oct 2023 16:01:56 +0000 TALINO VENTURE STUDIOS, a venture studio for financial technology (fintech), announced on Tuesday a $5-million investment from global sustainable development consultancy Chemonics International.

Closing the financial inclusion gap in the Philippines requires inclusive and scalable technology solutions, said Jamey Butcher, Chemonics president and chief executive officer, in an e-mailed press release to reporters.

“We can create groundbreaking, scalable solutions with the potential to help millions,” Mr. Butcher said on combining Talino’s record of developing “high-impact” technology and Chemonics’ access to global expertise.

Based on the 2021 Global Findex Database, more than half (51%) of Filipino adults had accounts with banks or mobile money services, an increase from 34% in 2017.

The Philippine government aims to increase the proportion of Filipinos with bank or financial services accounts to 70% by 2024.

Winston L. Damarillo, chief executive officer of Talino Venture Studios, noted sustainable innovation as a driver for fulfilling the inclusive fintech goals of the partnership among the local unbanked citizens and other low-income economies.

“We want to replicate the innovation we started here in the Philippines to the world, where Chemonics has presence in 98 countries,” Mr. Damarillo told BusinessWorld in a phone message.

Talino has helped build fintech companies such as BayaniPay, a neobank serving the Filipino-American community in the United States; Asenso, which caters loans and tailored funding of small businesses; Earnie, which manages the payments and invoicing of Filipino freelancers with US employers; and Saphron, which uses artificial intelligence to provide microinsurance for small businesses.

“While Talino’s ventures are built on Filipino innovation, our partnership with Chemonics enables us to go beyond the Filipino diaspora and make a positive impact on the lives of many more people,” Mr. Damarillo said on further expanding financial inclusion. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Rising prices seen to influence brand choices as Filipinos boost holiday food spending — Kantar Fri, 27 Oct 2023 07:44:47 +0000 Filipinos are expected to spend more on food and beverage items again this holiday season despite economic challenges, according to marketing data and analytics company Kantar.

Data from Kantar Philippines, released on Thursday, showed a 7% spending uplift in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) from December last year to January, versus the rest of the year.

The food and beverage categories saw an 11% and 9% spending increase, respectively, Kantar said in an e-mailed statement. Spending on dairy products also grew by 6%.

“While the Christmas spirit is felt as early as September, Christmas spending in the FMCG segment typically starts in December when Filipinos receive additional disposable income through 13th month bonuses and other incentives,” said Nino C. Nierva, account director at Kantar Philippines Worldpanel Division.

“Despite economic challenges, families will continue with their Noche Buena and Media Noche traditions but with compromises in their brand choices,” he said on persisting value-consciousness among consumers to cope with rising prices and enjoy the celebrations.

Headline inflation accelerated to 6.1% in September from 5.3% in August but slowed from 6.9% in September 2022, preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed.

The heavily weighted food and non-alcoholic beverages index rose to a seven-month high of 9.7% in September from 8.1% in August. Food inflation alone soared to 10% from 8.2% a month ago.

“Inflation continues to impact FMCG in terms of pack size and brand choices,” Kantar said. “Household strapped for cash may downsize or buy less quantity of holiday meal staples… and may choose to purchase more affordable brands.”

Mr. Nierva suggested retailers to release holiday promotions or bundle packs, helping consumers save this season.

Kantar noted shopping basket staples that registered growth in December last year, which include spreads (34%), canned fruits (25%), alcoholic beverages (24%), noodles and pasta sauces (21%), lechon sauce (17%), condensed milk (9%), mayonnaise (8%), and all-purpose cream (6%).

On average, Filipinos spend P1,309 per month in sari-sari stores during the holidays, while seven in 10 households spend P1,559 in hyper and supermarkets, Kantar said.

Additionally, Kantar said Christmas baskets or boxes typically include the following FMCG products: pasta, pasta sauce, canned meats, biscuits and other snacks, instant coffee, cheese, canned fruits, sweets and even personal care items like soap.

Kantar Philippines based its findings and analyses on the spending habits of over 5,000 Filipino households. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Philippine small businesses increasingly turn to marketing automation — study Fri, 27 Oct 2023 07:00:13 +0000 There is a growing interest in marketing automation technologies among small businesses in the Philippines, a study by a web hosting and entrepreneurial aid company showed.

The GoDaddy 2023 Data Observatory showed that 56% of Philippine small business respondents embrace marketing automation, which is on par with the 57% global average, it said in its second set of findings released on Thursday.

They used automated tools for reporting and analytics (62%) and customer behavior tracking (59%) to leverage insights for informed decision-making, it added.

For companies that develop or sell marketing automation tools, the data suggests a robust market potential in the Philippines.

“It is clear that respondents believe that having a comprehensive digital marketing strategy is essential for future success,” Selina Bieber, vice president for international markets at GoDaddy, said in an emailed press statement to reporters.

“We encourage them to build a strong online presence to help their business grow,” she added.

The survey found that 65% of Filipino small business owners are keen to sell their products and services online, which is way past the global average of 53%.

It also noted online marketing investments as an increasing priority among respondents, with 85% planning to advertise on social media platforms, 70% seeing to create a responsive website design, and 69% intending to monitor page traffic.

With digitalization efforts ongoing for smaller enterprises, 34% of respondents have mentioned plans to build their own business website in the next three months, while 55% aim to do it next year, the report said.

Benefits of having a website-powered online presence pointed out by respondents included a better showcase of products and services (75%), enhanced visibility (72%), more information about their target audience (72%), exploring new sales channels (71%), and attracting new target audiences (70%), the report said.

The GoDaddy 2023 Data Observatory was conducted globally in March, surveying 4,682 small business owners with one to 50 employees, including the Philippines. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Increased holiday shopping budgets for online purchases seen among Filipinos Thu, 26 Oct 2023 11:10:56 +0000 Filipinos have increased their budgets for holiday shopping in online channels given the convenience, exclusive discounts, and range of offerings, according to marketing technology provider InMobi.

The InMobi 2023 Holiday Retail Guide for Advertisers showed that 57% of local holiday shoppers have increased their budgets for online shopping, yet it noted 43% have less than P10,000 in budget.

It added that 35% have a budget of P10,000 to P25,000, 13% can spend P25,000 to P50,000, and 5% eye running through over P50,000.

“They pick mobile for its convenience and physical stores for tangible product experiences and assurances,” InMobi said on holiday deal sources.

On one hand, respondents preferred shopping on mobile due to the convenience of ordering (72%), app-only discounts (60%), and ranges (47%), InMobi noted.

These included purchases in clothing and accessories, health and beauty, hobbies, and gadgets, it added.

On the other hand, in-store shoppers cited getting to see or try the product (96%), lesser chances of buying the wrong product (82%), and in-store offers (60%) as their top reasons, InMobi said.

It mentioned home appliances and improvement, gadgets, gift packs, and holiday-focused groceries as top in-store purchases.

InMobi noted peak shopping activities in double-digit festivals, such as 11.11 and 12.12, as opportunities for shoppers to explore and purchase, which brands must take advantage of.

“It starts with being present with those who have already started exploring,” it said on tips for brands. “With mobile emerging as the top shopping channel, it is important to create experiences that engage the holiday shopper at every touchpoint.”

InMobi suggested online retailers leverage technology, such as interactive camera filters and personalized mobile-first experiences, to engage with shoppers.

“Understand them and decode their online and offline behavior,” it said. “Evoke engagement throughout their shopping journey by being on the destinations they love.”

“Drive delight with innovative and engaging mobile experiences that inspire action.”

Additionally, the report showed that 55% of Filipino shoppers are category explorers, 38% are brand lovers, and 7% are bargain hunters.

“More men exhibit love for brands, while more women are hunting for the right deals,” it said on holiday shopper personas in the Philippines.

The InMobi 2023 Holiday Retail Guide for Advertisers sampled 1,000 mobile users across the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore between Sept. 12 and 18. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

BPI partners with business loan platform to boost small business financing Wed, 25 Oct 2023 09:45:57 +0000 Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) announced on Wednesday a partnership with FundSpace, an online lending platform owned and operated by 917 Ventures, to boost financing for small businesses.

The partnership will allow FundSpace to act as a loan originator for the Ayala-led bank’s Ka-Negosyo loan, the bank said in an e-mailed statement. 

“This partnership underscores our commitment to providing madali (easy), magaan (convenient), and mabilis (fast) solutions to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in realizing their growth plans,” Dominique R. Ocliasa, senior vice president and head of Business Banking said.

“We are grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with FundSpace and leverage its user-friendly online portal to make our suite of affordable loan products more accessible to SMEs in need of funding,” he added. “This partnership allows us to deliver an improved customer experience and empower SMEs to scale their businesses.” 

Through the FundSpace website, SMEs can apply for a range of Ka-Negosyo Loans, including Ka-Negosyo SME Loans, Ka-Negosyo Ready Loan, and Ka-Negosyo Credit Line.

The financial solutions offered by BPI in FundSpace are also available in BPI’s SME digital platform Ka-Negosyo On The Go, which was launched in June earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the Ka-Negosyo Credit Line, the Ka-Negosyo Ready Loan, and the Ka-Negosyo SME Loan were introduced in September 2022.

The Ka-Negosyo Credit Line is a financing tool for recurring expenses which can be used at any time through a standby checkbook.

Meanwhile, the Ka-Negosyo Ready Loan is intended for seasonal working capital requirements with a shorter repayment period to cater to cyclical funding needs.

The Ka-Negosyo SME Loan is meant for businesses that need to make big purchases for product expansion, equipment, and others. The borrower can pay on a monthly basis and can be stretched for longer terms. There is also an option to take out the loan with or without a collateral.

Earlier this year, BPI raised P20.3 billion from the issuance of peso fixed-rate bonds, the proceeds of which would be used to lend to small businesses.

Lending to MSMEs likewise continues to be pushed by the central bank, as banks are mandated by Republic Act No. 6977, or the Magna Carta for MSMEs, to allocate 10% of their credit portfolio for small businesses to boost the sector — 8% for micro and small enterprises and 2% for medium-sized enterprises.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed that private lenders’ loans to MSMEs fell short of this quota in the first half of the year, reaching just 4.71% of their total loan portfolio.

Total loans to MSMEs from banks amounted to just P461.387 billion at end-June, versus banks’ total loan portfolio of P9.8 trillion. Aaron Michael C. Sy

Financial education sought to boost microinsurance growth Wed, 25 Oct 2023 09:26:17 +0000 More Filipinos are using microinsurance for affordable protection, but increased financial education is needed to propel its growth, the Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association (PIRA) said.

“Imagine comparing buying a family-sized Coke to a solo-sized Coke. That’s the principle. It operates more like an assistance product, which is why its penetration seems to be superior,” Michael F. Rellosa, executive director of PIRA, said in an interview with BusinessWorld on Tuesday.

Owing to its affordability, microinsurance is more accessible to poorer Filipinos than traditional insurance, he noted.

Microinsurance daily costs cannot be more than 7.5% of the daily minimum wage for a non-agricultural worker in Metro Manila, according to Republic Act No. 10607.

The maximum sum of guaranteed benefits is not more than 1,000 times of the current daily minimum wage rate for nonagricultural workers in Metro Manila, according to the law.

“For instance, if you own a house, under standard insurance, you’d insure it based on the construction cost, say P1 million. In contrast, microinsurance provides a smaller sum, maybe P50,000 in case of a fire,” said Mr. Rellosa.

Mr. Rellosa noted that during Tropical Storm Ondoy in 2009 , microinsurance helped many from poorer sectors. “Not necessarily enough to reconstruct their homes but sufficient to tide them over during challenging periods.”

“Previously, regular insurance was less accessible due to its high cost, often being the last priority. Here, you can obtain coverage for a minimal amount. Are the premiums around P20-P30? It’s designed to be affordable even for the daily wage earner,” Mr. Rellosa noted.

Claims processing is swifter in microinsurance compared to traditional insurance. The former can settle claims within ten days, while the latter involves more complex bureaucratic processes, Mr. Rellosa said.

“The cost is lower, and the payout process is quicker and simpler,” he also said.

But managing microinsurance can be challenging for insurance companies due to the small premiums and the vast number of policyholders. 

“From an insurance company’s perspective, administration can be taxing. Given the tiny premiums and the extensive clientele, advanced technology is crucial for effective management,” Mr. Rellosa said.

Insurance providers are venturing into diverse microinsurance areas, noted Mr. Rellosa.

“Previously, there was predominantly one type. Now, we are exploring varied coverages. There are also dedicated microinsurance firms like CLIMBs (CLIMBS Life and General Insurance Cooperative) and 1-CISP (1 Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines Life & General Insurance), operating through cooperatives,” he added.

Advancements in insurance technology are also expected to further propel microinsurance’s growth, he noted.

In this year’s second quarter, premiums from microinsurance policies surged by 22.68% year-on-year to P6.7 billion, as per the Insurance Commission (IC) data.

In comparison, the 2020 gross premiums for microinsurance stood at P1.6 billion.

IC statistics also showed a 7.16% growth in the lives covered by microinsurance policies by the end of June, reaching 52 million.

“It’s been on the rise, constantly but in small increments. What’s really needed is financial literacy. More people need to know about it,” Mr. Rellosa said.

The IC has emphasized the importance of microinsurance as a tool for financial inclusion, especially for low-income earners, helping them mitigate risks like death, injuries, and damage to assets or livelihood.

“Microinsurance encompasses micro-life, health, and agricultural insurance. There are also micro pre-need products available, like micro-memorial, educational, and pension plans,” it said in a statement. — Aaron Michael C. Sy

Beyond candy and canned goods: The tech-powered future of sari-sari stores Tue, 24 Oct 2023 16:02:09 +0000 By Miguel Hanz L. Antivola, Reporter

AN AFFORDABLE internet provider, a job placement hub, and a dark warehouse — these are the other possibilities for a technology-enabled sari-sari store, according to entrepreneur Ibrahim R. Bernardo.

Driven by a vision of a high-tech future for Philippine small retailers, Mr. Bernardo and his team transformed their enterprise solutions startup to offer complete tech support for sari-sari store owners.

Mr. Bernardo, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Packworks, said the company has adjusted its offerings to meet the tech demands of sari-sari stores, much like those of large firms.

“Pre-pandemic, it was our CSR [corporate social responsibility], and we were helping around 5,000 sari-sari stores with our app,” he told BusinessWorld on how the company started.

Sari-sari stores are small retail shops commonly found in residential areas in the Philippines, selling a wide range of consumer goods, from food and beverages to household items.

There are about 1.3 million sari-sari stores in the Philippines, which 94% of consumers depend on for daily needs, according to the Asian Preparedness Partnership.

Excluding those without paid employees, there are 40,549 sari-sari stores in the country, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Packworks provides these small entrepreneurs with an ecosystem of solutions tailored to their market, Mr. Bernardo said. “We cater to the agri sector, carinderias, small businesses, and professional or ‘super’ sari-sari stores,” Mr. Bernardo said.

He said that super sari-sari stores can avail of an almost full enterprise resource planning solution, which includes inventory management and insights dashboards.

“We have a CRM [customer relationship management system] where they implement their own loyalty promo system because there are sukis — individuals or small sari-sari stores that go to them,” he added.

“The successful sari-sari stores even have local delivery, so they will have their husband, maybe, delivering and taking orders from the community on a motorcycle or pedicab,” he said, noting that 75% of sari-sari store owners are women.

Mr. Bernardo also noted the integral role of technology in recognizing sari-sari store owners as key opinion leaders in their respective communities.

“We amplify and put those super sari-sari stores on a podium and give them tools so that the smaller stores are inspired and emulated,” he said on directing efforts to maximize the potential of small community retailers.

“There are so many [possibilities] once you get them connected and provide value.”

However, creating work in the social enterprise is similar to running a marathon and shooting oneself in both feet, Mr. Bernardo said.

“You got two bottom lines: your KPIs [key performance indicators] for social impact, and keeping the lights on and scaling,” he said.

Providing tech and data systems to small retailers happened to yield actionable, real-time sales insights for brands of fast-moving consumer goods, he noted, which became a revenue generator for Packworks.

“For the big brands, they’ve never seen this data before,” he said on Sari IQ, a business intelligence by-product of the value Packworks adds.

“We were one of the few people that were able to provide data on how well their products were doing versus their competition, whether it was in-stock or out-of-stock in these stores,” he added.

“And that’s how we make money,” he said on precision marketing insights by category at a sari-sari store level being the company’s main profit source.

The data was also used to track prices for certain categories, which is where the company saw discrepancies in the reported inflation rate of the national statistics agency versus the actual cost of goods in sari-sari stores, where most Filipinos buy from, Mr. Bernardo noted.

Packworks said the average price of food items purchased from small retailers in the Philippines rose 15.62% in January, while the official food inflation rate reported by the PSA was at 11.2% in the same month, BusinessWorld reported in February.

“You’re looking at a 4.4% impact earlier this year on the cost of goods, and that’s painful,” Mr. Bernardo said. “The other challenge sari-sari stores faced was the fact that prices were fluctuating so much.”

“Can you image a small store with 200 SKUs [stock keeping units] and almost every week or twice a week, the prices are changing?” he said. “It is so incredibly difficult for them to know if they’re making money, how much should they add, and they’re doing this analog.”

“Access to brands, helping their businesses with the tools specific to them, margin protection — there are many ways we’re helping the stores, but the challenges are still there.”

He noted majority of stores aided by Packworks have increased sales, “doing better with the app than without it.”

“That is outpacing inflation, and I guess that’s the most we can do at this point in time.”

Mr. Bernardo said that the company’s next stage is rolling out radical, data-driven financial products that help sari-sari stores grow on a micro-level.

“Our goal is to lower the cost money,” he said on providing credit assistance to small sari-sari store owners, especially those who go back and forth from super sari-sari stores for stock. “They’ve been doing this for years, day in and day out.”

“What if I gave this person four grand through the superstore, and it’s not cash? It’s through the products that I know they sell,” he said. “They save time and money, and I know, because of the history of their transactions with us, that they’re professional and good for it.”

“These are little tactical things that we can do to make transactions more frictionless and allow them to grow their business more.”

Packworks is targeting to onboard 300,000 sari-sari stores in the Philippines to its ecosystem by the end of the year and another 200,000 in the next six to eight months, from the current 270,000 it has.

“It’s not just dreaming that this is something we could bring to other countries and help sari-sari stores and nanays there,” Mr. Bernardo said on the company currently working with multinational companies for expansion abroad.

“We’re looking at countries in the region. Africa isn’t out of the picture,” he added on the company’s plans to expand in countries that have a per capita income of $3,000 and below.

Exporters group: PHL should mirror halal success of neighbors Tue, 24 Oct 2023 16:01:09 +0000 THE Philippine halal market has the potential to grow with current efforts from both the government and the private sector, the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport) said.

There is a “big chance” that the halal market in the Philippines will grow, and “we have hardly scratched the surface,” said George T. Barcelon, chairman and trustee of Philexport, in a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Monday.

Halal food follows the strict guidelines of Islamic dietary laws. The global halal market now covers sectors like clothing, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, tourism, media, and more, beyond just food and beverages, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement on Oct. 16.

Mr. Barcelon, who also chairs the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), also expressed his hope that the Philippines could emulate countries involved in halal products, such as Thailand and Malaysia.

The DTI has partnered with global halal stakeholders, including regional powerhouses like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam. The department aims to learn from these countries to improve the Philippine halal industry’s credibility and integrity, it said.

Adroit Market Research expects the global halal market size to approach $3 trillion by 2029, growing at an annualized rate of 5.6% through the projected period.

Halal food has gained popularity among both Muslim and non-Muslim consumers. It is now seen not just as a religious mark but also as a sign of safe, hygienic, and reliable food, the research firm said on its website.

“I know we’re trying to work hard on this but I don’t know when… We’re still far from it… because first of all, we do have a Muslim population and they’re eating halal food, but you need to be competitive,” Mr. Barcelon said.

Philexport, PCCI, and the DTI have been working to expand the halal market in the Philippines, hoping to grow the country’s food and agriculture industry, he noted.

The DTI expects the Philippine halal industry to bring in P230 billion and create over 120,000 jobs for Filipinos in the next five years.

Such goals are achievable, said Mr. Barcelon. “But we must be competitive.”

The DTI said that the development of the halal industry aligns with its four primary objectives: fostering regional growth, achieving food security, enhancing and expanding micro- to medium-sized enterprises, and enabling job skills matching and skills upgrading. — Aaron Michael C. Sy

Tips: Investing in challenging times Tue, 24 Oct 2023 11:10:26 +0000 Investing amid economic headwinds can be daunting, but with education, research, and guidance, one can navigate the challenging waters with confidence, a financial analyst said.

The younger generation is aggressively investing, especially those entering the workforce with salaries ranging from P25,000 to P30,000, said Astro C. Del Castillo, president and managing director at First Grade Holdings, in a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Tuesday.

In 2022, online stock market accounts grew by 8.6% to 1.26 million, according to a stock market investor profile report. The average online transaction also increased to P46,236.40, up by 33.2%. As for the age distribution of account holders: 55.7% were aged 30 to 44, 20.8% were 18 to 29, and 18.4% were 45 to 59.

Against the backdrop of elevated interest rates, high inflation, and geopolitical tensions, Mr. Del Castillo offered insights for young investors.

Education is paramount

Mr. Del Castillo said that before diving into any investment, it is important to dedicate time to educating oneself.

“Number one, they should really invest time first to educate themselves on how to invest not only in stocks, but also in bonds, real estate, and mutual funds,” he said.

Understand the stock market’s complexity

Elaborating on the intricacies of the stock market, Mr. Castillo said, “I think it’s more tedious… Which companies you are buying, when and what to buy so medyo mas challenging ang stocks.”

Define your financial goals

Mr. Del Castillo said, “The rule of thumb of investing is number one, have your financial goal… What are you investing for? Are you saving for retirement? Start a business? Buy a car? Buy a house?”

Know your risk tolerance

When assessing risk appetite, he said, “You also need to understand your risk tolerance. Are you comfortable taking high, medium, or low-risk investments?”

Diversification is key

Highlighting the importance of spreading out investments, he said, “You diversify it — into stocks, bonds, real estate… So let’s say P30,000. Siguro you have P20,000 per month for expenses, then P10,000 for stocks per month.”

Start small and seek expertise

Emphasizing the importance of caution for newcomers, Mr. Del Castillo suggested, “Start small… Choose a reputable brokerage and stockbroker. Engage in conversations and learn from them. That’s when you can begin investing.”

Tailor investments to risk profile

Detailing investment strategy according to risk, he said, “Choose the stocks that are suitable to your risk. Are you low-risk? Go for blue chips… Or a combination of the three.”

Long-term over short-term

Reinforcing a long-term perspective, he said, “Better also to invest for the long term lagi. Sana yun ang una lagi rather than trading and short-term lang.”

Authorized stock brokers

He also stressed the importance of credibility saying, “Of course, kailangan authorized sila, recognized stock broker of the Philippine stock exchange and ng SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission).” — Aaron Michael C. Sy

Online entrepreneurship on a budget Mon, 23 Oct 2023 10:50:31 +0000 As the Philippines surges forward in the digital era, now is the time for aspiring entrepreneurs to dive into the digital marketplace, leverage its vast opportunities, and mitigate risks with informed strategies, according to the Philippine E-Commerce Association (PECA).

“E-commerce is one of the best opportunities for anyone to start a business,” said Kyle Matthew C. Jarque, communications director at PECA, in a virtual interview with BusinessWorld on Monday.

“Not only can you start with low capital, but you also don’t need to think about renovations, permanent structures, or even manpower. Essentially, you can use the people you have at home,” he added.

In acquiring supply, business owners can even opt to prioritize getting orders before purchasing from their suppliers as this will require less capital when it is time to scale up the business.

“With e-commerce, you can actually sell the product first and buy it later. You can tell your supplier you’ll sell it first and then buy it once you get customers,” he said.

“Only in e-commerce can you sell products with only visuals.” He added that business owners can opt to do it for free on their own using free tools on the internet like Canva, but hiring someone more experienced in graphic design to create a mockup of the product will give the business an edge against competitors.

“I would say you’re already ahead of everyone else because you’re already asking an expert to do it for you,” he said.

Another part of promotion is generating traffic for the product on social media platforms. 

“Admittedly, with as little as P10,000, you can start your online business. All you need is your product and your social media page, and that’s it. And maybe some skills to talk to people. But in itself, if you can just constantly post on social media, you’ll definitely be able to get the sales and validate your offer,” Mr. Jarque said.

While P10,000 should be enough to start, P30,000 would give the business a bigger buffer for failures and options, he added.

“Let’s say, for example, you want to start your own brand, then probably a P30,000 budget would be better for you. With P10,000, you can opt for pre-made stuff; typical buy and sell, or you can be a distributor of existing brands and all you need to do is sell,” he said.

There are multiple industries for reselling or distributing where a P10,000 starting budget will be sufficient, such as skin care, food, or supplements, he noted.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about starting your business because from there, you’ll learn how to be in business.” — Aaron Michael C. Sy

Ninja Van PHL expanding services beyond traditional last-mile delivery Thu, 19 Oct 2023 11:21:48 +0000 Logistics company Ninja Van Philippines is expanding its services beyond last-mile delivery by introducing a wide range of logistics solutions, a company official said on Thursday. 

“We’re branching forth beyond the last-mile [delivery],” Jose Alvin Perez, country head of Ninja Van Philippines, told reporters during the company’s seventh-anniversary media tour and briefing in its hub in Cabuyao, Laguna. 

The company has introduced other services that provide additional value to its customers.

Such services include “Ninja Direct (procurement service), Ninja Fulfillment, Ninja Rewards, and account management,” Mr. Perez noted, adding that the company also intends to continue investing in new technology for its online dashboards like automated callouts. 

“We do have $50 million across the region to invest,” said Sabina Lopez-Vergara, chief commercial officer of Ninja Van Philippines. 

“We are also talking to a lot of digital platforms,” she added on optimizing cash collections given the persistent cash-on-delivery market in the country. 

The logistics company is optimistic about the growth and potential of the e-commerce market in the Philippines.  “There’s so much to figure out, especially in a country like the Philippines, sending parcels in different islands,” Mr. Perez said. 

The Philippines’ e-commerce sector is anticipated to jump by 2025, with gross merchandise value expected to reach $15 billion, according to an analyst from Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity.

The country’s e-commerce market had an estimated gross merchandise value of $4 billion in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic started to affect most industries.

Logistics in the Philippines has unique challenges due to its archipelagic nature, and this is where the company steps in, Mr. Perez noted. 

He said the company is “just starting to scratch the surface” of e-commerce in the Philippines. “We have yet to see significant business coming from outside Metro Manila.” 

The company is also dedicating resources to set up and enhance facilities all over the country, as it aims to serve a broader market and ensure that its services are accessible even in far-flung areas such as Tawi-Tawi.

“[We are] establishing delivery stations, and we will continue to expand. On the tech-driven solutions, the focus now is how to improve the experience of the sellers,” Mr. Perez said. 

Ninja Van opened its 21,000-square meter fully automated hub in Cabuyao, Laguna last year — its largest in Southeast Asia. With fully integrated measurement and sortation systems, its receiving and outbound capacities were boosted by 300% and 400%, respectively, according to the company. 

Group-wide, Ninja Van offers logistics solutions across Southeast Asia and operates in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Logistics startup adapts to EV wave in Philippines Tue, 17 Oct 2023 16:03:08 +0000 By Miguel Hanz L. Antivola, Reporter

THE logistics landscape is rapidly evolving, with sustainability and eco-friendly solutions becoming paramount, according to an industry player.

Amid this shift, entrepreneur Dennis O. Ng, who had already marked his presence by establishing an on-demand delivery and logistics services business, sought further avenues for growth.

Late 2021 marked a shift for Mober Technology Pte., Inc., Mr. Ng’s six-year-strong startup at that time, when he was tapped and challenged to provide electric vehicles (EVs) for a foreign client’s delivery.

It became inevitable for the company to pioneer a new submarket and re-fleet toward EVs as the demand for green logistics among multinational companies also started to grow, Mr. Ng, founder and chief executive officer of Mober, said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

“I was able to find two EVs at that time. That’s where we all started,” Mr. Ng said on IKEA Philippines contacting Mober to start the Scandinavian furniture chain’s EV delivery.

Georg Platzer, IKEA Philippines store manager, reached out to Mober in May 2017 after seeing the company at an event by the Philippine Retailers Association, Mr. Ng said.

Starting with just two, Mober later doubled down on EV operations by continuously expanding its fleet, which now consists of 60 EV vans and trucks, Mr. Ng noted.

“Multinational companies are really gearing toward transitioning to EVs because they have a corporate mandate that they need to be net zero by 2030, 2040, or 2050,” he said on servicing Nestlé, Unilever, SM Appliance, Nespresso, and IKEA Philippines.

Chinese automotive group Dongfeng Motors launched in the Philippines on Monday, following a partnership with Legado Motors, Inc. to distribute EVs in the country.

The country needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030, Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said during the launch event.

Mr. Marcos in January issued an order temporarily lifting tariff rates on certain electric vehicles such as passenger cars, buses, minibuses, vans, trucks, motorcycles, tricycles, scooters and bicycles for a five-year period.

He also cut tariffs on certain EV parts and components to 1% from 3%.

Terry L. Ridon, convenor of InfrawatchPH, said the main challenge now of lobbying for EV is encouraging US, European, and Chinese EV manufacturers to set up manufacturing hubs in the Philippines to serve the Asia-Pacific market, BusinessWorld reported in May.

According to the Energy department’s roadmap for the EV industry, the Philippines aims to electrify 10% of its total fleet across all sectors by 2040.

Mr. Ng noted that customer benefits gained from a shift to EV delivery include zero carbon emissions.

“The current EV now is still two times more expensive than a vehicle with an internal combustion engine that uses gas or diesel,” he said on a diesel-run delivery van worth P800,000 being equivalent to P1.9M if electric.

“There’s a big difference in acquisition cost. There’s an upfront cost,” he said. “However, on the operations and maintenance, it’s very cheap.”

Mr. Ng said that the company only spent P3,000 for the maintenance of one EV.

“Hopefully, enterprises will realize sustainability has a cost also,” he added on contributing to the decrease of carbon emissions.

Mr. Ng noted that the biggest challenge he encounters now in terms of pushing the EV logistics market is the lack of commercial banks willing to finance commercial EVs.

“We’re talking to the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines now. We have an application with them,” Mr. Ng said.

While Mr. Ng is thankful for government regulations granting traffic leniency for Mober’s EV vans and trucks, he said that the biggest support the company gets is coding exemption.

“We can travel seven days a week. That one day extra revenue for us is quite significant,” he said.

“I’m still lobbying with the government if they can also remove the truck ban,” he added, citing that traffic enforcement of local government units fine the company’s six-wheeler EVs a one-day pass worth P600.

“The load of our EV is a lot lighter than a diesel six-wheeler,” he said. “There is also no noise and air pollution.”

“I hope LGUs and their special operating units can understand and help us be exempted.”

Mr. Ng has plans on building charging points in Cavite and Bulacan, aiming to electrify the 1,000-kilometer logistic route from Manila to Tacloban and further overcome range anxiety, he said.

“Logistics or commercial EV will come first before personal,” he noted on the future of EV in the country.

“I hope that our government also has the same mindset as China, US, and Europe, whose governments started funding and building charging stations first before they encourage us Filipinos to buy an EV.”

In terms of increased adoption of green logistics, he said that the Philippines is catching up, amid faster strides from countries in the region.

“I think Thailand is a little bit faster than us, but we’re there,” he said. “Thailand has the supply chain for the automotive industry since most of the Chinese manufacturers are going there.”

“I am hoping that the government can give us more concessions and exemptions.”

Smart opens affiliate links for small businesses, social media content creators Tue, 17 Oct 2023 16:02:07 +0000 SMART Communications, Inc., the wireless arm of PLDT Inc., introduced on Monday its new affiliate marketing program for small business owners and social media content creators to earn extra income.

The “Power Partner” program of Smart allows social media-native enterprises and individuals to receive up to 30% commission on each sale of Smart products and services made through their online channels, the company said in an e-mailed press release to reporters.

“Ultimately, the more sales that ‘Power Partners’ make, the more income they can earn from the program,” Smart said, alongside offering other incentives and rewards.

Smart opened its affiliate marketing program to all small business owners, influencers, freelancers, bloggers, media outlets, online publishers, and content creators with social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Approved partners may create or have their own unique affiliate links to promote on their online channels, Smart said.

Businesses and creators may apply for the affiliate marketing program through

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

IDC spotlights PHL enterprises for digital transformation Tue, 17 Oct 2023 16:01:06 +0000 THE International Data Corp. (IDC), a global market intelligence company, has recognized various enterprises in the Philippines for their digitalization efforts.

“In this transformative journey, forward-thinking businesses assumed leadership roles and swiftly understood that the roadmap to becoming a future-ready enterprise demanded an elevated level of digital capabilities,” James Sivalingam, senior program manager at the IDC Asia Pacific, said on the company’s 2023 Future Enterprise Awards in a press statement on Monday.

“These capabilities encompass intelligence-driven, data-centric, and AI-powered strategies, all aimed at enhancing customer service and satisfaction,” he added on the strategies employed by enterprises.

Mr. Sivalingam noted that Southeast Asia has experienced inflationary pressure, economic deceleration, and supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic, prompting businesses to adapt.

“As a response, the organizations in the Philippines recognized the imperative to adopt a digital-first approach to conducting business,” he said.

Future Enterprise of the Year was given to GCash or G-Xchange, Inc. for its ‘Finance for All’ vision, democratizing access to financial services through digital technology, especially underserved and unbanked Filipinos, the IDC noted.

“It has made savings, investment, insurance and credit easily accessible, understandable, and available at a click, while ensuring it safeguards its customers’ trust by prioritizing security and investing in the best technology available for financial inclusion,” it said.

Manish Bhai, chief executive officer of UNO Digital Bank, was awarded CEO of the Year for  “being steadfast and aggressive in chasing opportunities to fund, obtain regulatory licensing approvals, and commence bank operations,” the IDC said.

The digital bank gained 350,000 customers through its mobile app, alongside a growth to 110 employees across Manila, Singapore, and India, from its initial 5, according to the IDC.

The IDC prescribed Jonathan Mondero, chief information officer of semiconductor provider Amkor Technology Philippines, Inc., as CIO of the Year, for collaborating with executives and stakeholders to execute data-driven initiatives for efficiency and cost-competitiveness.

“Through this endeavor, Amkor’s connectivity soared from 30% to an impressive 95%, connecting approximately over 6,000 machines and ensuring seamless access for end users regardless of their location,” it said.

For using customer insights all throughout the property ownership process, the IDC named the Greenmist Property Management Corp. (GPMC) mobile app of the SM Development Corp. as Best in Future of Customer Experience.

“The GPMC mobile app aims to enhance service levels and deliver personalized experiences to managed properties and its residents, laying the foundation for an improved Resident Management phase in the customer journey,” it said.

The Union Bank of the Philippines won Best in Future of Industry Ecosystems and Best in Future Work for its financial supply blockchain — the country’s first.

“[It has facilitated] easier credit avenues for MSMEs [micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises] and vulnerable sectors amidst industry disruptions,” the IDC said on UnionBank’s use of commercialized blockchain to mitigate risks.

“UnionBank anticipates engulfing 200 supply chain ecosystems and reaching P1 billion in monthly MSME loan disbursements by the end of 2023, a near 1,500% surge from 2021 levels,” it added.

Universal Robina Corp.’s Command Center earned Best in Future of Intelligence for its central repository custom web and mobile platform which has made data accessible to users across levels, the IDC said.

Finally, the IDC gave a Special Award for Digital Innovation to the Quezon City government for its City Engineering Project Monitoring System, managing the execution of its infrastructure projects.

“A pioneering system, it includes a comprehensive project information system, document upload capability, timeline plotting, real-time monitoring of weekly progress, and structured databases for contractors and project engineers,” it said.

“The system not only helps the City Engineering department fortify their capabilities to validate accomplishments and gain real-time insights, but more importantly enhance transparency all the while minimizing disruptions and inconveniences to the citizenry.”

Winning organizations from the Philippines qualify for the AsiaPacific-Japan leg of the competition, the IDC noted.

Prize-businesses will be announced during the IDC’s Future Enterprise Summit and Awards in Singapore on Oct. 31.

“[All entrants] illustrate the increasing digital maturity of the country, with a growing number of pioneers in the digital-first approach adopting cutting-edge technologies to enhance resilience and drive growth in these transformative times,” Mr. Sivalingam said. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

1 in 3 SMEs in region not confident in hybrid work cybersecurity — study Wed, 11 Oct 2023 11:22:23 +0000 Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region should strengthen their cybersecurity measures amid the increased adoption of a hybrid work environment, according to experts.

One in three SMEs in Southeast Asia is not confident in its pursuit of cybersecurity breaches amid a hybrid work arrangement, cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks said in its 2023 State of Cybersecurity ASEAN report.

Cloud infrastructure and processes for onsite and work-from-home setups account for 41% among SMEs in the region, the report said. 

Top concerns include password attacks (63%), malware attacks (56%), and account takeovers (53%).

The Philippines’ electronic security rank fell to 45th this year out of 121 countries, down from 44th last year, according to the latest edition of the Digital Quality of Life Index by virtual private network service provider Surfshark.

Electronic security factors in cybersecurity and data protection laws, the company said.

In its 2022 study, technology company Cisco found that only 27% of the Philippine companies it surveyed possess “mature” defenses against cyber threats.

Cisco also noted that 43% of the local companies are at the “beginner” or “formative” levels in cybersecurity.

Readiness must be upheld across the five key pillars, such as identity, devices, network security, application workloads, and data, the report said. 

“While organizations in the Philippines are faring better than the global average (15% of companies in the ‘mature’ stage), the number is still very low, given the risks,” Cisco said in an e-mailed press statement. 

Steven Scheurmann, ASEAN vice president at Palo Alto Networks, said that risks continue with unsecured home networks and personal devices, which lead both SME employees and customers to identity theft and unauthorized financial transactions. 

He also noted that non-negotiables, even in resource-constrained businesses, must be set in place to maintain a formidable security posture. 

“Holistic visibility, a zero-trust approach, and AI [artificial intelligence] integration will help ensure that SMEs can scale up their cloud security,” Mr. Scheurmann said in an e-mailed press statement on Wednesday. 

“Imagine your company’s network as a bustling airport, where employees work from different ‘terminals’ or physical locations, such as offices, homes, or remote sites,” he said regarding holistic visibility of network traffic. 

“The challenge resembles airport security—knowing who’s allowed to board ‘network flights’ and who’s not,” he added. “The airport needs to have visibility on every ‘passenger’ (devices and users) and verify their ‘boarding passes’ (access permissions).” 

“This holistic visibility ensures SMEs that only authorized users and devices get access to data and applications.” 

Mr. Scheurmann also said that SMEs must operate on the principle of ‘never trust, always verify,’ or a zero-trust network access that manages each entry to and exit from the corporate network.

He added that sophisticated, AI-driven firewalls equipped with machine learning can help SMEs analyze network traffic while predicting and preventing imminent threats. 

“Organizations must stop approaching defense with a mix of point tools and instead consider integrated platforms to achieve security resilience while reducing complexity,” said Jeetu Patel, executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration at Cisco. 

“As people operate from multiple devices in multiple locations, connecting to multiple networks in a dynamic hybrid world today, it is crucial for organizations in the Philippines to adopt an integrated platform approach,” he added. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Innovative pivot: Startup simplifies financial operations for small businesses Tue, 10 Oct 2023 16:02:41 +0000 By Patricia B. Mirasol, Multimedia Producer

BORN as a financial wellness application in 2020, NextPay quickly morphed into a digital banking suite tailored for small businesses. Its mission? To simplify, streamline, and de-stress financial operations.

The goal was to offer solutions that resonate with the pain points of small businesses, Don Pansacola, co-founder and chief executive officer of NextPay, said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

Businesses used the company’s platform to pay their workforce, and in the process, NextPay would set aside money for the latter on their behalf.

“We’ve built an app where — when people get paid their salaries — we can help them automatically set aside money towards their savings goal, whether it’s towards their emergency fund or even towards aspirational goals like their trip to Japan,” Mr. Pansacola said.

But the pandemic period saw NextPay pivot its services, emphasizing helping businesses with their disbursement needs.

The public health crisis made it “almost impossible” for businesses, especially micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), to pay their workers, Mr. Pansacola noted.

Many small businesses found banking processes, like opening accounts, daunting.

“Another challenge would be the average daily balance you need to come up with to open such an account,” he added.

“These are not really problems that big companies have to deal with,” he noted. “It’s the MSME market — from the small business all the way down to the entrepreneur — they’re the ones who have no access to these financial services.”

NextPay, Mr. Pansacola said, expanded its services to replace the need to open a corporate bank account.

To date, it serves over 12,000 companies and has processed payments worth of P5 billion.

MSMEs are not just economic units in the Philippines; they are the lifeblood of the Philippine economy, comprising 99.5% of total enterprises.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, MSMEs contribute 35.7% of the total value-added in 2020, 60% of all exports, representing 25% of total export revenues, and support 62.7% of total employment.

Many of these businesses grapple with optimizing their digital platforms, making online visibility a challenge. Transforming online engagements into tangible sales is also a daunting task, according to a 2022 report by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

Accessing suitable financing options can also be a steep climb for many MSMEs.

Philippine banks failed to hit the mandated quota for small business loans in the first half of 2023, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed. MSME loans extended by banks amounted to P189.08 billion in the first quarter, comprising 1.93% of their total loan portfolio, or below the 8% quota.

“A lot of small business owners are stuck,” Mr. Pansacola said. “They’re not really able to grow their business because once they reach a certain scale, they’re just stretched too thin.”

Growing a business while managing the operational side of things — not to mention acquiring customers — is challenging, he noted.

“We’re not even talking about having to manage your vendors and ensuring your employees are doing the job they need to do.”

Among the company’s clients are Prosperna, an online store builder;  Bizu, a patisserie and bistro; and KinderCare, a feeding accessories brand for babies.

Before using the NextPay platform, KinderCare facilitated its payrolls by collecting the timesheets of its more than 100 employees, computing everything, collating the data in an Excel document, and then using two banks to dispense the payments.

“This company literally sends a person to a Palawan Express [a pawnshop offering money remittances and corporate payouts] — with the driver serving as a bodyguard — because she’s holding a lot of cash to send their pay,” Mr. Pansacola said.

The whole process, which used to take three days, has been whittled down to under three hours with NextPay’s platform, which also enables businesses to disburse salaries through a member of staff’s e-wallet or bank account of choice.

While smartphone penetration among Filipinos is 80.34%, only 56% in the country are banked.

Automated platforms also offer automatic reconciliation of payments, so business owners know who paid what, instead of having to ask each customer to send a screenshot of their individual payments.

“That is a big improvement over the current status quo,” said Mr. Pansacola.

NextPay is targeting non-registered MSMEs next.

“I’m sure you know someone, like a tita [aunt] or cousin, who sells something on the side,” said Mr. Pansacola. “They’re not included in the one million MSMEs statistic from the Department of Trade and Industry. If we were to include those people, the number could rise to as high as 40 million. That’s a significant number of people.”

Lending also presents another opportunity.

“If you consider the type of data we have access to, especially as their financial transactions come through our platform, we are positioned to excel in lending,” Mr. Pansacola said.

“We can process loans much faster than the traditional method where businesses would send documents like a business plan,” he noted.

“Our approach has always been there’s always an opportunity that’s not addressed,” he added. 

Viber steps up with new business tools, targets PHL MSMEs Tue, 10 Oct 2023 16:01:40 +0000 MESSAGING platform Viber unveiled on Tuesday a new set of business tools, initially targeting the Philippines because of its vast user community and vibrant small business sector.

Viber has started enabling business accounts with a free self-serve communications hub for discoverability and engagement, David Tse, senior director for Asia Pacific at Rakuten Viber, told reporters on the sidelines of the company’s briefing in Pasay City.

The features include a public business profile, 1:1 customer chats, search discoverability, dedicated chat folders, and a product catalog, according to Viber.

The new Viber for Business offerings are in line with the needs of over 300 beta-tested local micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), among around 8,000 global participants, Mr. Tse noted.

“We have seen a lot of home-based, small businesses conducting their business on communities, channels, and group chats,” he said of the 1.5 million global users the platform saw conducting business on Viber.

“We see that conversational commerce is happening,” he added. “We see people wanting to have a conversation piece between buyers and sellers, and we have seen smaller platforms that are better at the messaging part.”

“We want to kickstart a defined identity and growth for their business, evolving based on the needs of the users.”

Mr. Tse noted that many MSMEs do not have a website for their business. “This is going to help those who don’t have the resources to set up and update a website, or even create a social media account.”

In the first half, Viber saw a year-on-year increase in business accounts created (30%) and business messages delivered (34%) among big enterprises in the Philippines.

This prompted the platform to expand the same offering to MSMEs for free, Viber said in a press statement.

“Tailored pricing plans will be offered soon based on market feedback to expand the initial set of free self-serve business solutions,” it added.

Regarding digital security, Mr. Tse said that Viber uses an algorithm across all their services to filter suspicious mobile numbers under spam accounts and inappropriate companies, with aid from their own list of legitimate businesses.

The new self-serve business accounts are available in the Philippines and Greece, with plans to onboard additional countries soon, Viber noted.

The platform also expects to integrate digital payment channels and other features in the future, Mr. Tse said. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Filipino MSMEs struggle with logistics in global arena — Shopee Thu, 05 Oct 2023 06:50:51 +0000 LOGISTICAL support is a challenge for Filipino micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), especially in the global market, according to e-commerce platform Shopee.

Harnessing the transformative potential of technology is key to facilitating long-term growth for Filipino sellers, Vincent Lee, head of Shopee Philippines, said in an e-mailed press release on Thursday.

Shopee Philippines launched its #TatakPinoy International initiative on Tuesday, which offers free cross-border logistics support for Filipino MSMEs to expand and connect with international customers.

The program will be available to all Shopee sellers soon, initially opening in its markets in Singapore and Malaysia, the company said.

The platform and its third-party logistics partners will process order fulfillments for sellers through a system similar to what they currently use, it added.

“Sellers and brands can maintain their local selling experience but can now reach a wider buyer pool and higher order volume to expand their consumer base to Shopee users in other markets.”

“This underlines our dedication to fostering local economic growth and forging sustainable opportunities for our community of local MSMEs,” Mr. Lee said.

Shopee Philippines aims to benefit local sellers and enhance cultural exchange and collaboration across Southeast Asia, in line with the broader economic goals of the country.

The initiative hopes to “empower local sellers to expand their business and connect with international customers, strengthening the global presence of Filipino brands,” the company noted.

“It will also empower Filipino entrepreneurs and artisans to showcase their talents and products to an international audience, promoting Philippine culture, craftsmanship, and ingenuity globally,” it added.

The platform also offers learning and livestreaming tools for entrepreneurs — avenues to form communities with key opinion leaders and buyers.—Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Pangasinan sets sights on growing MSME exports Wed, 04 Oct 2023 09:38:49 +0000 The province of Pangasinan wants to expand the range of products offered by its small and medium-sized businesses for the global market, moving beyond just salt exports, its governor said on Wednesday.

The local government mentored and funded ten entrepreneurs to participate in Manila FAME, a trade show for home, fashion, and lifestyle.

“Since the province is abundant with other natural resources and local talent, there are actually more products we can produce,” Ramon V. Guico III, governor of Pangasinan, told BusinessWorld at the Manila FAME launch. 

“We have to transcend beyond what we are known for — salt, bagoong, tinapa, bangus, alamang, patis,” he added on the province being a major producer of salt, crops, and milkfish. “We have to give a different perspective.”

Mr. Guico said that the province would like to promote the use of its indigenous materials and technology for the “international marketability” of its micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Such materials include corn husks, buri, rattan, and bamboo.

Pangasinan saw 13,981 MSMEs in 2020, a decrease from 14,480 in the previous year, according to the Pangasinan Provincial Planning and Development Office. This consisted mostly of microenterprises with an income of less than P3 million, it said.

It also noted that manufactured products such as furniture, wood products, and metal crafts are considered leading industries by the province, with an export value of $168,000.

“We have to double or triple [our MSMEs] in the coming months and years,” Mr. Guico said on continuing support for the province’s MSMEs, alongside other initiatives for economic development and job creation.

“Championing MSMEs shouldn’t be an option,” he said. “It should be part of the local government’s agenda — to invest in their MSMEs.”

The Pangasinan Polytechnic College, which is fully owned and run by the provincial government, is set to offer free educational and vocational courses upon opening, including programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Mr. Guico noted that the institution can be an arm of the local government to sustain programs for MSME growth.

“We are in serious talks with major investors to establish more economic zones in the province,” he said on expanding beyond the North Luzon Aero Industrial Park-Special Economic Zone in Binalonan, Pangasinan.

Mr. Guico also noted the local administration’s plans to establish an international seaport and airport in the province to position itself as an accessible industrial hub.

He will sign a joint venture agreement on Oct. 19 with San Miguel Holdings Corp. for the first phase implementation of the Pangasinan Link Expressway, connecting Binalonan to the province capital Lingayen.

The first phase will be completed in 48 months, he said. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

From disaster to solution: Startup takes on climate change with intel platform Tue, 03 Oct 2023 16:02:12 +0000 By Miguel Hanz L. Antivola, Reporter

EFFECTIVE disaster management requires access to real-time data and a swift means of disseminating critical information — a realization that entrepreneur Felix R. Ayque had in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda, which wreaked havoc in Eastern Visayas in 2013.

Fast forward to 2021, and that realization turned into a solution called Komunidad, a software-as-a-service company specializing in weather and environmental intelligence services.

With Komunidad’s resilience suite, businesses and government units can tap into real-time climate data and localized early warnings. This data and analytics software equips them with the tools to monitor and anticipate climate-related risks and natural hazards, from typhoons to heatwaves, according to the company.

The mission was clear: to confront the challenges posed by climate change head-on, armed with actionable data, Mr. Ayque, founder and chief executive officer of Komunidad, said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

Situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines faces a multitude of natural hazards.

“If you are in the Philippines, you would focus on climate resilience in day-to-day operations like typhoons and flooding,” said Mr. Ayque, an information technology developer who has worked with various weather agencies.

“It could also be for long-term reporting purposes, client risk assessment, power demand forecasting, physical risk assessments, and even sustainability reporting,” he added, highlighting various industry use cases.

“For us, it’s mostly about using what is needed and what is best available.”

For the government, support for communities is crucial as only a small portion, or 36%, of Filipino households are fully prepared for natural disasters, according to a 2017 study by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Mr. Ayque also noted that providing social impact lies at the core of Komunidad, which is reflected in its name — mapping out resilience with adaptation and mitigation through technology.

Komunidad leverages sophisticated technology, including artificial intelligence, as a backend solution to deliver information through simpler channels like predictive alert text messages.

This approach ensures that critical climate data reaches a diverse audience, including farmers and fisherfolk, empowering them to make informed decisions in the face of environmental challenges, according to Mr. Ayque.

As the sole player in an emerging market, the company faces unique challenges, he also said.

“We believe that we already have enough data to become climate resilient, but using that data is the issue — we are not connected,” he said.

“We have a lot of bureaucracy in terms of connecting that data; there is no agency bridging the gaps,” he added.

The situation highlights the pressing need for efficient data management and sharing mechanisms. To achieve this, Mr. Ayque calls for collaboration between the government and the private sector.

“This is how we see the collaboration: governments improve the science and invest in infrastructure, but the private sector tailors solutions to industries, individuals, or whoever would benefit from it,” Mr. Ayque said.

Recognizing that the ability to withstand natural disasters is a unique strength of Filipinos, Mr. Ayque saw an opportunity to export this talent.

“We believe that this is the best export of Filipino talent, being climate resilient,” he said. “We believe that we are the best to tell the world that we know all these things.”

The company has established an office in Singapore, strategically positioning itself to tap into the global market. It also plans to expand in Europe.

Presently, the company serves 24,000 villages in India and supports 1,500 farmers in Cambodia. “With that reach, we are very happy that it came naturally to us,” Mr. Ayque said.

Mr. Ayque also expressed optimism in the mainstream adoption of the climate tech market, bringing the hopeful trademark of the Filipino to the world at large.

“Having more players market even in this industry is better for the planet and for the world,” he said on embracing competition, overcoming climate vulnerabilities, and fueling public environmental consciousness.

Payoneer’s incubation program targets Philippine BPO SMEs and freelancers Tue, 03 Oct 2023 16:01:11 +0000 PAYONEER Global, Inc., an American financial services company, has opened applications for its incubation program in the Philippines, targeting digital freelancers and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

The Bridge for Billions program aims to support 70 Filipino entrepreneurs with four months of mentorship, sustaining growth in digital industries, including SMEs and the gig economy, the company said on Tuesday.

“The challenge for SMEs is access to support — having a strong business foundation,” said Jenell P. San Antonio, marketing lead for emerging markets at Payoneer APAC, recognizing the rarity of incubation support for SMEs.

“This is open to any startup and freelancer who provides any type of digital service,” she said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

According to Payoneer’s Global Freelancer Insights Report 2023, global demand for freelancers has increased in the fields of programming, marketing, project management, and web design.

The information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) industry has 1.7 million full-time employees, which is up 8.7% from the previous year. It anticipates adding 257,000 full-time workers and generating $5.9 billion in revenues over the next two years.

The program will consist of eight modules on value proposition, competitor mapping, and the formation of a business plan backed by Bridge for Billions best practices.

The Bridge for Billions’ methodology is based on the concept of disciplined entrepreneurship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to the company. It has been used for 270 incubation programs in 134 countries over the past eight years.

Once the four-month incubation has ended, 15-20 participants will be chosen to join a pitch competition where three winners will receive cash prizes of $1,000, $1,500, and $2,000 to kickstart their businesses, Ms. San Antonio said.

“We’re banking on equipping them with business tools, mentors, and a community network of entrepreneurs,” she added.

Impact assessment to monitor the growth of supported entrepreneurs will be conducted post-program.

Participant and mentor applications for the Bridge for Billions program will end in December. The incubation proper will be from March to June.

Ms. San Antonio also noted the need for collaboration between the IT-BPM sector and the gig economy, where freelancing is being acknowledged as competition to BPO companies in terms of business registration and talent acquisition.

Jack Madrid, president of the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, said that potential investors must accept such competition, and Filipinos must understand the pros and cons of working for an unregistered company, BusinessWorld reported in May.

Both industries must work together and understand each other’s pain points to improve necessary regulatory processes, Ms. San Antonio said. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola

Inclusivity, eco-friendly trends seen reshaping the beauty industry Tue, 26 Sep 2023 16:03:34 +0000 #tdi_1 .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item1 { background: url( 0 0 no-repeat; } #tdi_1 .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item2 { background: url( 0 0 no-repeat; } #tdi_1 .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item3 { background: url( 0 0 no-repeat; } #tdi_1 .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item4 { background: url( 0 0 no-repeat; } #tdi_1 .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item5 { background: url( 0 0 no-repeat; } #tdi_1 .td-doubleSlider-2 .td-item6 { background: url( 0 0 no-repeat; }

By Patricia B. Mirasol, Reporter

THE push for inclusivity and eco-friendly practices continues to impact the landscape for beauty businesses, according to an industry player.

The beauty industry is not just about enhancing one’s appearance; it is also a platform for empowering individuals while safeguarding the environment, said Theresa Carbonel-Buenaflor, founder of the 16-year-old makeup brand Ellana Mineral Cosmetics.

The push for inclusivity in the beauty industry acknowledges that beauty knows no bounds. This means offering products that cater to individuals with diverse skin tones, Ms. Buenaflor said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

Ellana Mineral Cosmetics was established on Sept. 9, 2007, with the goal of addressing the concerns of individuals with delicate skin, she noted.

Her inspiration stemmed from a friend who grappled with the scarcity of makeup suitable for her.

“I wanted to make something to address Coney [Avellana’s] problems,” Ms. Buenaflor said.

According to her, the challenge was apparent — individuals with morena (medium brown) skin tones found themselves underserved in a market dominated by Western brands.

“She had morena skin, and there weren’t a lot of options for people with morena skin,” she said. “It was a lot of Western brands then.”

“It was hard to match the shade of the Filipina skin tone. We were the first in that movement,” she added. 

The early years saw Ellana Mineral Cosmetics selling products at bazaars from 2008 to 2012, carving a niche presence. Soon thereafter, it transitioned to a recognized name in the beauty sector, securing spots in retail giants such as Landmark, Watsons, and Robinson’s Department Store. 

Ellana’s core customer profile is predominantly female, aged between 18 to 45 years old, living in urban and urbanizing areas, and within the B, C1, and C2 socioeconomic classes. They are also knowledgeable about skin concerns and value-driven, Ms. Buenaflor said. 

The new generation, known as Gen Z Filipinos, is redefining beauty standards.

They are not merely consumers; they are conscious advocates for eco-friendly products and brands, Ms. Buenaflor said.

The values and preferences of Gen Zs revolve around sustainability, environmental responsibility, and ethical consumption. Hence, the brand remains vegan and cruelty-free, adhering to principles that resonate strongly with Gen Z Filipinos, Ms. Buenaflor said.

They’re really more into the eco, the clean beauty, and it resonates to them more versus the people who are used to traditional makeup,” she noted.

Producing vegan makeup is not as stringent as halal products, she said, referring to ingredients and processes permissible under Islamic law.

“Vegan is just choosing plant-based ingredients. You can use synthetic ingredients as long as it’s not animal-based,” she noted. “Cruelty-free is easy because it’s simply doesn’t test on animals nowadays, and a lot of people can claim that.”

The eco-friendly promise, in contrast, is challenging because “not a lot of people understand what it is all about,” she also said.

To reduce its carbon footprint, the company made the decision to cut down on packaging by introducing refillable sachets and reusable jars. It also started using glass instead of plastic.

Availing of a loose mineral foundation from its product line, for instance, means having to purchase the refillable sachet separately from the reusable jar.

“A lot of people would ask me, ‘Why are you making it hard on the customer? Just put the powder directly in the jar.’ It’s the effort. It’s that conscientious act of reusing your jar that… you don’t have to throw it away.”

Ms. Buenaflor, who grew up with parents who are vegan, said it was about the advocacy of being conscientious about what one uses. 

She said the larger beauty industry is likewise heading towards this direction.

“I went to Cosmoprof [an international beauty trade show] in Singapore last year, and the theme was everything sustainable,” she said, adding that it was not like that in the past.

An August 2023 study by Statista cited the global beauty and personal care market’s 2023 revenue at $579.2 billion. Its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is also forecasted to be 3.53% between 2023 to 2028.

In the Philippines, the same market amounts to $5.89 billion in 2023, with a 2023-2028 CAGR of 0.83%. 

Ellana has recently started lowering its product prices in a bid to become more accessible to its core market.

“As a 16-year-old brand, you’re not young anymore,” Ms. Buenaflor said. “The values that we have are being championed by the younger generation, so we need to be more leveled towards that demographic.”

“That’s why we’re also addressing accessible prices,” she added.

Planning and bulk prices are how the company manages this. Apart from the raw materials, “a lot of the costs that go into it are actually the packaging,” which makes buying in bulk a means to achieve its objective of lower prices, Ms. Buenaflor said.

Planning is a crucial aspect, and ingredient sourcing is another challenge, she noted. Half of Ellana’s raw materials are from South Korea.

“Everything has to come from outside,” she said. “There’s a lack of processing plants and manufacturing facilities that are really focused on ingredients in [this] country.”

Even so, the Philippine beauty industry, Ms. Buenaflor said, has become more competitive since she started selling lip balms as a college student in 2003.

Even during the pandemic, “there was an explosion of beauty brands, which is good, honestly,” she noted. “I believe that with a lot of competition comes innovation, more creativity, and many more things to play with, unlike 20 years ago.”

The industry is still perceived as a shallow one, according to Ms. Buenaflor. “We get a lot of those — even up to now,” she said, “but to see how a transformation is…even putting on red lipstick can build confidence. I think it’s very rewarding to see that.”