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SME development now takes center stage. For the first time in APEC, a dedicated summit was mounted to focus on SMEs’ innovation and big ideas. In prior years, SME discussions have only been a topic in the APEC Agenda. The other day, Go Negosyo was privileged to partner with APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and Asia Society, both headed by industry icon Doris Magsaysay-Ho, in mounting the APEC SME Summit, held in GreenSun, Makati. President Aquino and some of his Cabinet Secretaries, together with our entrepreneurship co-advocate in the Senate, Sen. Bam Aquino, who was also the Go Negosyo Act’s principal author, likewise joined the summit to give importance to the sector and how we can all rally the support it needs to elevate the competitiveness and innovativeness of the SMEs to push them to grow and expand. As SME’s account for 99.6 percent of the number of enterprises, they play a major role in having a kind of growth that is more inclusive and beneficial to a wider base of the population.
The SME Summit was jampacked with an SRO crowd of over 2000 micro, small and medium entrepreneurs, business leaders, and young and aspiring entrepreneurs.
President Aquino keynoted the summit where he encourage SMEs to inject innovation and greater competitive value-adding to be able to grow. He cited a number of SME programs like the Shared Service Facilities, and the setting-up of Go Negosyo Centers under the Go Negosyo Act that are being built around the country to assist micro SMEs.
The summit, I would say, was a cut above the rest as we were able to feature leading innovative entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the world such as the passionate founder of AirAsia Tony Fernandes, Uber’s chief adviser David Plouffe, Barbara Navarro of Google, Josette Sheeran of Asia Society, Scott Anthony of Innosight, Wendy Kopp of Teach-for-All, Nix Nolledo of Xurpas, Fil-Ams Shiela Marcelo of Care.com, Dado Banatao of Tallwood Capital Ventures, Maria Ressa of Rappler, Dexter Ligot Gordon of Kalibrr and Angelo Umali of Simple Wearables, just to name a few.
Josette Sheeran talked about how megatrends can contribute to change. She mentioned Manila is one of the next megacities and center of innovation in the world and could bring more opportunities. Internet connectivity is one of the important ways SMEs can gain access to global information and market.
David Plouffe discussed the sharing economy and how this has helped Uber scale up from a small company in San Francisco to a global brand servicing in more than 300 cities in the world. He commended the Philippines as one of the first countries to regularize these kinds of transport services. Key learning is on how regulations and behavioural changes are needed to maximize the potential of innovation.
Tony Fernandes shared how branding and investment in people is important for companies. He has changed AirAsia by looking at other non-traditional marketing campaigns and made use of social media and merchandising. He also mentioned how his people are his biggest assets. Lastly, he reminded everyone to turn their dreams into reality, to inspire and to always have a positive outlook in life.
One of Go Negosyo’s featured entrepreneurs, Sheila Marcelo of Care.com, shared how CARE is an economic imperative. After sharing the story behind Care.com, which connects families and caregivers in 16 countries, Sheila stressed how important it is to value the people, in and out of the organization. She mentioned, “Building companies is about building people.”
Another global Filipino entrepreneur who shared his inspiring story was technopreneur Dado Banatao. Dado discussed how SMEs could grow with innovation. He mentioned the need to include the poor and underprivileged sector in the economic growth and empower them with education to compete in a global world. He also said that to eliminate poverty, a country must compete with its innovative products designed by its people.
Bunker Roy discussed the importance of education in uplifting people’s lives. He founded Barefoot College, a school that teaches engineering to elderly women who could not afford to send themselves to school. Bunker is proud this advocacy of Barefoot College has educated many women from different countries including the Philippines.
The inspiring stories continue. The next speaker, David Swanson is the co-founder of Thumbtack. Thumbtack is a remote-staffing company that provides services for various corporations by getting talented and qualified people from all over the world. He shared the story of a young Filipina who uplifted herself from poverty by working hard and realizing her talents. She is now fulfilling her dreams of studying for her MBA in France.
Maria Ressa of Rappler.com and Nix Nolledo of Xurpas Inc. shared how they started their companies and maximized the use of technology products such as mobile phones and internet. Rappler challenged the traditional broadcast journalism by incorporating it in social media. Xurpas, on the other hand, is considered as a pioneer in the Philippine IT industry which specializes in creating digital mobile products.
Another forum session featured Dexter Ligot-Gordon of Kalibrr Inc., and Angelo Umali of Simple Wearables. Dexter shared how he failed twice but continued to become a problem solver by connecting jobs to people through Kalibrr, an online recruiting platform. Angelo discussed how a personal experience pushed him to establish his company which provided life-assisting and life-saving devices for elderly.
Barbara Navarro of Google shared how passion is the driver of innovation. Google’s passion is to organize information for the world and make it accessible for all. She encouraged SMEs to do something in a different way and to think bigger and let the passion do the impossible.
“Innovation is changing everything,” said Scott Antony of Innosight. He shared the background of several companies who changed the traditional way of doing things. He also mentioned what great innovators do – simplify, enable, and disrupt.
Alok Shetty, another young and inspiring speaker, wowed the audience with his innovative architectural works. Shetty is the principal of Bhumiputra Architecture, the firm behind several outstanding, but convenient designs of houses that help shelter people in need of a home.
Bill Barhydt of ABRA discussed how ABRA, a new type of digital cash money transfer app helped in the promotion of financial inclusivity. ABRA is the world’s first digital cash, US dollar-based mobile wallet.
Teach For All led by Wendy Kopp, is a social enterprise which aides in changing low-income communities through education. Teach For All programs invests in people through trainings and seminars and equips on how to ensure that an excellent education is provided to all children across the globe.
Karen Reddington of FedEx Asia Pacific shared how it is important for small businesses to go global. “Small businesses will double its growth once brought global”, she said. She also advised SMEs that it is a must to have mobile technology in order to reach global market as this provides platform for e-commerce.
Lastly, Scott Anthony returned on stage to address the need for companies to anticipate disruptions and create transformative strategies.
World-class and ground breaking technological advancements were also featured at the interactive exhibit during the Summit.
The Summit was definitely a unique advanced experience for all those who attended. They heard innovative ways to grow, out-of-the-box ideas, newfound inspiration and encouragement, importance of disruptive innovations, need for value creation, growth strategies, need for competency-building, humility to accept mistakes and correct them at once, and the essence of customer satisfaction.
Enhancing SME growth potential through innovation, moreso thru disruptive innovation, and the use of technology can surely lead to a more robust SME sector, which will lead to a more inclusive economy, to make sure that nobody is left behind.
Mabuhay ang Micro SMEs!