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Congratulations to my friend Ramon Arnaiz, Manny Tordesillas, Randy Roxas and their team for the successful Maybank’s InvestAsean Conference last week. They were able to gather hundreds of local and foreign funds and corporates, innovative entrepreneurs and enablers and leaders in government. Aside from our listed company RFM’s meetings with various funds, I had the privilege to join the plenary forum, together with respected entrepreneurs/business innovators Anton Huang of Stores Specialists Inc., and Lorenzo Tan of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), to discuss business and consumer trends in the country.
We all see stronger consumer spending as we approach the election period, as well as with the growing remittances from dollar-earning OFWs and BPOs which are aided by a depreciating peso that translates to more peso in their wallets.
Yes, there are uncertainties in China, and Greece and other economies, but they also lead to some upsides especially in the further lowering of commodity prices that benefit users-manufacturers like us.
More fundamentally upgrading the consumer profile are the so-called demographic dividends, with the Philippine economy now reaping the benefits of a growing population as consumer base, young, educated, employed, and a growing middle class that will double by 2020, growing in labor force that all translate to higher spending power. With more than 2/3 below 35 years old, this will be a young and sustained growth of workforce, with better paying jobs and as consumers as well.
The country is also regarded as the second highest in terms of consumer confidence, which leads to more spending. This benefits the tourism sector, leisure, self-indulgence products, adding premium or trading-up to better brands, appreciation of heritage brands, dining-out, and new retail concepts.
We also recognize we are in the digital age where transactions are fast-paced and convenient. Selling and marketing via e-commerce and social media are growing each day, which facilitate as well our real-time feedback mechanism from our customers. There is no way entrepreneurs can do business without applying more digital tools in the business model.
Anton Huang, who leads a lifestyle and retail merchandising company, shared it is now easier to get consumers’ feedback. The digital media has provided a channel of communication for both the consumers and the companies. Companies now have a way to better understand the customers’ needs and preferences.
Lorenzo Tan also shared that businesses must invest in quality technology and digital tools. When the digital era arrived, the banks offered online banking which is a platform for consumers to do transactions via the Internet. He said, “Gone are the days when a lot of people go to banks to do transactions. That is why we had to invest behind a stronger backroom and IT infrastructure.”
But despite the growing number of online consumers, I still see the value of television marketing and advertisement. We are considered as one of the top countries who are always online, but the penetration level of Internet usage in the country must still reach the mass-based Filipinos. Not all have access to a stable Internet. Good thing the government, led by Sen. Bam Aquino, and our telco partners PLDT-Smart group are addressing these issues relating to the Internet and its stability.
Moreover, the credit system is limited. Not all are granted credit cards nor have access to formal lending institutions. Mass-based consumers also rely on buying on credit from the sari-sari stores and borrowing from informal sectors. But there is definitely room for growth for the mass market as we empower the bottom of the pyramid in the business sector with entrepreneurship education and information on these lending facilities. If this big number of enterprises are mentored and lead to the next level, they are the ones that can drive up greater employment and income opportunities for many Filipinos.
Even if we focus on the top 20 percent of enterprises, which according to Dr. Alip of CARD, would be those who would have the strongest potential in growing the business when properly mentored, we can surely make a difference in creating more employment opportunities in the future.
Aspiring entrepreneurs also receive mentoring through Go Negosyo. But we are now taking mentorship to the next level as we work on institutionalizing the mentoring process and as we gather all the enabler institutions which support the entrepreneurship advocacy. These will provide business advisory services to the Negosyo centers which are established under the Go Negosyo Law of Sen. Bam Aquino in partnership with DTI, as well as to major MFI or Micro Finance Institutions around the country, so we can focus mentorship to those who really want to grow.
With the elections coming up fast next year, we can only hope for good governance in the next administration. I personally hope for a progressive and decisive administration that will harness all enablers, whether public or private, to maximize efforts to help alleviate poverty and empower the micro and small entrepreneurs.
We in the entrepreneurship advocacy will continue to do our part in helping build an inclusive growth. Together, let us inspire and, most especially, mentor one another to strengthen the entrepreneurial culture in our society.