Building RP's SME Virtual Community
“The Internet will be everywhere,” said Microsoft founder and visionary Bill Gates. It will change almost everything we do: how we relax, how we work, how we communicate, how we transact business. And it is happening right now.
Recognizing the strategic advantage offered by the Internet, more small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) are turning to this medium as a marketing and communications tool. However, local information and communications technology providers that focus on SMEs remain few and far between.
Planters Development Bank aims to bridge this service gap through SME Solutions, a suite of services harnessing the twin forces of globalisation and the internet revolution to serve the SMEs. “Our goal is to empower the Filipino entrepreneur and to bring them a new world of opportunities using development information communications technology,” according to Plantersbank chairman and chief executive officer Jesus P. Tambunting.
Towards this end, Plantersbank’s extensive knowledge of the SME market was fused along with the resources of its foreign shareholders the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, Asian Development Bank and the Netherlands Development Finance Company to enhance business networking and community building among entrepreneurs through the SME.com.ph membership program.
Management consultant Norberto Belen states that the SME membership development program and its related site URL offer a triad of helpful and valuable propositions. First, there is the business connection side enabling companies to trade with SME community members and connect with trade associations and business outside the country. Second, the business promotion angle wherein members can avail of publicity via print media and the web. Third, the suite of business solutions that include tips and tool kits, business applications like accounting, sales, inventory, human resources management and marketing as well as exchange deals and discounts.
“Being a member in SME.com.ph and having our website linked to it has kept us in the ballgame,” said Jacque Ruby, general manager of Philippine-based World Link Couriers that competes with international companies FEDEX and DHL. “Without the website developed by Plantersbank, we could not have competed with the big guns.” THE WLC website plays a key role in market penetration and expansion at very cost-effective rates.
The company marketing popular ladies shoe brand Figlia also attests to its advantage. “We gained new local and international customers through Figlia’s membership in SME.com.ph. It is an opportunity not many SMEs get to avail because they’re not in the loop,” says Figlia vice president Jose Enriquez. “Our website allows us to showcase our products to New York-based purchasers and to receive orders from department stores there.”
The SME.com.ph community also hosts the Rice Exchange Traders, a group of grain merchants who have used the Internet to eliminate six layers of middlemen and ensure the quick delivery of this essential staple. Through their website, affiliates of the Rice Exchange get real-time, on-line information on prices and stocks of rice, enabling them to better fill the needs of the ultimate consumer.
Creative talents have also benefited from the online arrangement. In fact, a rock band and dance group that marketed their services on the Web experienced a marked jump in invitations to perform at corporate events. The group has since been providing entertainment at product launchings, anniversaries and parties.
To date, the SME.com.ph program has over 200 companies enjoying the advantages of membership in its growing community. More and more local business enterprises are establishing their web presence and experiencing the radical effects of the digital revolution first-hand, including the promotion and expansion of their market reach.
True to the assertion of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the Internet will be everywhere. In fact, it is already here.