For a Philippine company to increase its chances of surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation is the key. Unfortunately, most micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) here have struggled to introduce digitization.
About 73 percent or more than 720,000 MSMEs should increase their ability to digitize their businesses, according to the September 2020 study by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The most necessary skills include financial, marketing, content management. They also said that they should know the basics of e-commerce and start an online business.
While loans can potentially help the digitization of operations, some MSME owners like Melody Manalaysay are reluctant to borrow money either from banks or through the DTI COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises program for fear of not repaying them.
“I have turned down several loan offers because with all the uncertainties that the pandemic entails, I am unsure if I can really pay it back. So I’m just squeezing all my resources to support my online marketing efforts, ”says Manalaysay, co-owner of Crafting Time, a seller of handmade polymer clay jewelry.
The 45-year-old Manalaysay admits moving the operation to digital has been extremely tough for those who are not proficient in technologies and are used to marketing their products in brick stores. Thriving in e-commerce during a pandemic can be exhausting for many MSMEs, but there are support services and resources available that can help them in their digitalization journey.
For example, online payment platform PayMongo recently launched its accelerator program that will give local MSMEs a two-month fee waiver across all payment channels, marketing support and features across all its social media platforms, and invites exclusive webinars and content. Approved applicants will also receive assistance from PayMongo partners on financial discipline, software development and e-commerce fulfillment. Interested companies must register at paymongo.com/accelerator by August 31, 2021 and pass the application and screening processes.
Nonprofit Organization Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI), which has provided financial and capacity building assistance to local social enterprises, on the other hand, is implementing its “Digital Bayanihan” program. According to this, FSSI helps 15 social enterprises, mainly from rural areas, to track their digitization efforts during the pandemic. The program includes a three-month online asynchronous training in computer use, social media marketing, and legal considerations for MSMEs. Participants will each receive a laptop, pocket Wi-Fi and a Microsoft 365 license.
Another program that promotes the Philippine “bayanihan” spirit of pandemic recovery is the BPI Foundation’s seven-year accelerator program “Sinag Spark.” This startup program will select 10 social enterprises with the highest business viability and social impact this year. They will be assigned mentoring opportunities that will equip them with the tools, knowledge, and skills to thrive during the pandemic. They will also each receive cash grants from P100,000 to P300,000. Inquiries about future Sinag programs can be sent to interested entrepreneurs by email [email protected] Trias has meanwhile helped its partners MSMEs to develop a stable market for their products during the pandemic. One of the marketplaces is Purple Market PH, a Facebook page that sells food, accessories and household items made by 114 home-based female artisans from Quezon City, Caloocan, Bulacan, Rizal and Laguna.
Online platforms, tools
In addition to the online platform, Trias has helped micro-entrepreneurs develop their business plans, marketing skills, social media management skills and content creation. Trias also helps partners upgrade their products and packaging to stand out in the competitive online marketplace.
The multinational technology company Google, for its part, offers Google My Business, a free tool that enables entrepreneurs to promote their business on Google Search and Maps. By creating an account, an entrepreneur can conveniently connect with customers, post updates, and monitor how customers interact with their business in Google. The web tool also comes with a free mobile app with enhanced features that allow businesses to manage their online presence on the go. For more details, go to: google.com/business.
MSMEs can access various technological tools, applications, platforms, and resources available to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic through DTI’s “Tech Tools for MSMEs during COVID-19” Google Web site. The site includes tools and solutions — mostly free — about e-commerce, e-payment, digital marketing, logistics, home-based collaboration, productivity, and webinars offered by government partners. To access these resources, visit: https://sites.google.com/view/tech-resources-for-msmes or email [email protected]
Google is providing more support to Philippine small businesses during the pandemic through its MSME Caravan, which primarily offers free webinars, tools and resources for teleworking and transition to digital operations.
The online caravan’s wide range of free weekly virtual workshops on YouTube are taught by Filipino business owners, digital marketers or community volunteers. Topics include interacting effectively with customers via social media, learning how to start using e-commerce and keeping your business relevant to the market. MSMEs can also use Google Primer, a free mobile app that offers fast, easy-to-understand lessons for entrepreneurs and anyone looking to develop their business and digital marketing skills. Individuals can register for MSME Caravan here: events.withgoogle.com/msme-caravan.
DTI has also offered a series of free webinars called “CTRL + BIZ: Reboot Now!” on the digital transformation of MSMEs. In this webinar series, industry experts share their knowledge and tips on how entrepreneurs can successfully understand business concepts and implement strategies using the digital space. The webinars are streamed on DTI’s Youtube channel: youtube.com/c/DTI_Philippines
Similarly, Go Negosyo’s “Mentor Me Online” provides free live mentoring sessions on their Facebook page with Go Negosyo mentors and guests to equip entrepreneurs with technical and practical know-how to manage their business and tackle issues and concerns faced. them during the pandemic. Recently, the program has focused on promoting COVID-19 vaccination in the business world. To learn more about topics and schedules, go to the Go Negosyo Facebook page: facebook.com/GoNegosyoOfficial.
– The contribution
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