As the country strives to return to the post-pandemic new normal, smaller businesses have been experiencing unprecedented roadblocks that prevent their recovery and stability. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation’s second Future Festival gathered industry leaders to propose solutions to their challenges, harnessing MSMEs, small communities, and the underserved sector to fuel economic resilience and national development.
Filipino MSMEs comprise 99.5% of the national economy and provide employment to 62.4% or 5.5 million Filipinos. The event, “The Future of Livelihood: Multi-Sectoral Approach that Empowers Local Economies to Power Progress,” looked into how the government, private institutions, and community-engaged individuals can support the growth and expansion of MSMEs.
Serge Bernal, Pilipinas Shell Vice President for Corporate Relations, said that the energy company’s approach to livelihood is rooted in the communities. “When communities are able to provide for and support their own needs, they promote an overall more robust national economy,” Bernal said.
Moreover, he emphasized the value that collaborations bring to realizing goals into fruition, saying: “We aim to continuously create a positive and rippling change towards the future, starting with various initiatives that target the needs of the communities in the areas where we operate. We continue to encourage other institutions and enterprises to engage their immediate communities so that we welcome progress together.”
One hurdle MSMEs face in this age of technological disruption is their difficulty in swiftly adapting to a competitive and fast-paced environment. One recourse is to help integrate Filipino enterprises into the greater local economic ecosystem, providing them more access to relevant markets, products, services, and resources to scale their businesses.
“From the conception of ideas to the protection of IPs (Intellectual Property); from the development of a prototype, to pilot production; and eventually, to commercialization and marketing, we have the necessary programs for our stakeholders to literally put their innovation in the market,” said Atty. Marion Decena, Director of the Department of Science and Technology-Technology Application and Promotion Institute (DOST-TAPI). Atty. Decena also shared that the DOST-TAPI offers support to accelerate MSMEs’ commercialization of innovative technologies payable within three years at 0% interest.
Another factor preventing MSMEs from progressing is the lack of and inaccessibility to financial products and services. Jaypee Soliman, First Vice President, SME and Microentrepreneurs Head of UnionBank, highlighted the importance of addressing this issue: “It’s being able to provide financing to the people who really need it the most with whatever available data they have. That’s a big problem, especially in the countryside.”
Nelly Nita Dillera, Executive Director of DTI training arm, Department of Trade and Industry-Philippine Trade Training Center (DTI-PTTC), added to the conversation that Filipino entrepreneurs can also benefit from national line agencies’ various programs which can capacitate them into becoming competitive enterprises.
“There’s a need for upskilling and reskilling our workforce. ‘Agham na ramdam ng bayan,’” Dillera said. “We’re really networking and going to the regions just for us to get what the needs and gaps are, so we can respond to them (MSMEs) with programs that are really relevant.”
These programs include trainings to qualify MSMEs for certifications such as Food Connect; programs to help shape and scale businesses: ASEAN SME Academy, Push Start, and ASCEND; and even programs intended to help protect entrepreneurs from disasters and other unpredictable scenarios through PAYONG that is available in digital.
Beyond supporting the needs of MSMEs, technical upskilling equips budding entrepreneurs to respond to their customer’s changing needs and come up with innovative products and services that can sharpen their competitive edge.
“From starting up to scaling up,” as Katrina Chan, Co-Founder of QBO said. She pointed out that, while the Philippines may lack the unicorns or startup companies with a value of over $1 billion, “… we do have ‘Qalabaws’ that are diligently getting the job done.
“The pandemic has shown us how quickly startups can adapt. We believe supporting startups is the key to recovery and creating an innovative and competitive country. It’s a great way to create jobs for people.”
Institutions can also further support MSMEs in securing vital capital to bolster growth and expansion. By allowing these businesses to successfully thrive, Filipinos as a whole can enjoy an economic landscape that provides room for leisure, entertainment, and other aspects of life apart from basic necessities.
Shell’s Future Festival is becoming a platform where leaders, advocates, and stakeholders are provided the avenues to welcome collaboration to fulfill the discussed ideas.
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, President and Founding Partner of Rags2Riches, described that collaborative process intended to help SMEs: “… To solve something that is fundamentally wounded and that is hard to untangle. We are here to establish that trust. What we did in the beginning was create bridges and give access points … A bridge [will] help them see what it’s like. We also have to see the perspective of who we are serving and who we are collaborating with.”
Birthing an age with a more robust and resilient economy will also energize a new generation of entrepreneurs who can build a long-lasting and brighter future. “With the support from our government, the best practices from established enterprises, help from the private sector, and the vigor from Filipino communities will be important factors that help differentiate the economy we have now to the future we aspire to build.,” Bernal said.