Prospects brighten for MSMEs after Apec meet
Harnessing technology and innovation in the digital world as a means to help link small firms to the global economy is a key message that resonated well among participants of the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit hosted by the Philippines.
For Apec Business Advisory (Abac) chair Doris Magsaysay Ho, “the work begins after Apec ends” and that it would henceforth be up to stakeholders from the public and private sector to “connect the dots.”
Abac has been mostly successful in incorporating into Apec leaders’ overall agenda their recommendations, particularly for every economy to build digital infrastructure and innovation system. At present, Abac has an existing project to map out incubators–or organizations that help start-up entrepreneurs–in the region.
A big focus has been given to micro and small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) at this summit, with no less than Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, championing support for the “small guys” and young entrepreneurs who would otherwise find it difficult to find their place in globalization. As summit host, President Aquino also actively pushed for MSMEs and inclusive growth in the overall agenda.
“One thing that I saw in this Apec was a lot of discussion around inclusive growth and focus around more business development, education and innovation. Fostering development of small businesses is one area that came out very clearly form this Apec and it’s an issue that resonates very well with us,” JP Morgan Asia Pacific chair Nicolas Aguzin said in an interview.
As part of its corporate social responsibility thrust, JP Morgan has invested about $200 million in the last 12 months on projects focused on financial inclusion and financial literacy, improving human capital and education and small company development.
“We take that very seriously and we try to promote many incubators or entities that foster development of small business, entrepreneurship and young talent,” Aguzin said, noting that in the Philippines, the American bank was supporting Endeavor, an organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurs.
“Our employees dedicate quite a big amount of time—from the juniors to the seniors of the country and it’s not only the money because for a lot of these young entrepreneurs, it’s not only the funding that they need. They need advice, mentorship, how to go about with issues, how to contact suppliers, how to fund themselves—is it more debt or more equity and how should they try to make inroads in selling their products,” he said.
Nix Nolledo, founder and chief executive of consumer mobile technology firm Xurpas, said his key takeaway from Apec was the huge potential that Southeast Asia offered for e-commerce when there was a company like Alibaba going 600 million online transactions in a single day. Alibaba achieved the milestone in China last Nov. 11 during the “Single’s Day,” when people who were not in any relationship rewarded themselves with material things.
The Xurpas chief added that the simultaneous onshore presence of three of the most powerful people in the world—US President Barack Obama, China President Xi Jinping and Japan Premier Shinzo Abe—also underscored how important the Apec region was to the global community.
Nolledo was among the speakers during the Apec SME Summit, which provided a venue for a broader audience—including many young people who had no access to the main Apec CEO Summit—to learn from successful entrepreneurs.
“The main challenge of Philippine SMEs, I believe, is that Filipinos tend to be satisfied having one to five stores and are contented to just be located in Manila rather than expand nationwide,” said Benedict Carandang, co-founder and managing director at Tuldok Animation Studios Inc. and head of business development at MoneyMax.ph, a website that compares insurance products.
“Filipino entrepreneurs should not be complacent and should create business models that are scalable and can easily be replicated in other countries. The Apec SME summit has opened my mindset to be an entrepreneur who doesn’t think local but also regional or global,” said Carandang, who participated during the Apec SME Summit.
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