UnionBank lends hand to SMEs, puts them on the Web
ILOILO CITY—Joy Doronila-Palmada rang the bell amid applause from small and medium-scale entrepreneurs in Iloilo who attended a forum at the Iloilo Convention Center.
The ringing of the bell signaled that Pavia Entrepreneurs Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PEMPC), which Palmada chairs, now has a website and officially became part of the Ureka shops platform.
“Our website will help us in our thrust to be transparent to our members. This will also provide information about our services and best practices and experiences,”Palmada said.
The full-feature website is PEMPC’s first since it was formed in 1999.
The cooperative has about 700 members, mostly market vendors, jeepney drivers, municipal employees and small entrepreneurs in Pavia town in Iloilo.
Among its services are low-interest loans, market management and helping members set up savings and time deposit accounts.
Palmada signed up the PEMPC to be part of the Ureka platform after attending the recent Ureka e-commerce forum at the Iloilo Convention Center.
She was among the 100 entrepreneurs who attended the forum.
Spearheaded by UnionBank and its consortium partners, the Iloilo forum held on Feb. 20 was the first mass signing up in the Visayas of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to the e-commerce system.
It was the second nationwide following a similar forum in Baguio City in October last year.
The gatherings matched business experts, who provide insights on how the Internet can grow businesses, with the SMEs who need the help.
Among those who spoke at the forum was Silicon Valley billionaire Diosdado “Dado” Banatao, chair of the Philippine Development Foundation.
Genaro Lapez, UnionBank executive vice president and Ureka proponent, said owners and operators of SMEs were aware of the need for an online presence, and it was important for UnionBank to prove that the technology was not as daunting as it seems.
“They (non-Internet natives) think it’s too complicated,” Lapez told the Inquirer.
He said studies showed that only a dismal 1 percent of registered SMEs in the Philippines have websites.
SMEs comprise 95 percent of registered business companies in country and employ about 62 percent of the total workforce.
Generally, Internet use in the Philippines is growing significantly with Filipino Internet users spending an average of six hours a day online.
“All these only emphasize a major ‘disconnect’ out there that has not been addressed, and which UnionBank and its consortium partners are aiming to resolve by staging the Ureka Forum nationwide, one region at a time,” according to a briefer.
Lapez said helping SMEs set up their website and provide them with technological and logistical support will help them “discover and unlock opportunities.”
In the Visayas, presence in the e-commerce network will help boost tourism-related services offered by local tourism agencies and government offices.
The marketing of handicrafts and other products in the region will also be benefited, he said.
After attending the forum, pre-screened SMEs can register for a P500 fee and become part of the Ureka e-commerce platform.
They will have their full-feature website or e-portal, which includes payment channels that can also be used by buyers without credit cards or bank accounts.
Those who are part of the platform can also avail themselves of the support of UnionBank’s consortium partners including Air21, Accent Micro Technologies Inc., DragonPay, Department of Trade and Industry, Panahon TV, PLDT Smart SME Nation, Shopinas and GeiserMaclang Marketing and Communications Inc.
Lapez stressed that e-commerce was inevitable for SMEs and provides much wider opportunities because it transcends borders.
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