Thriving in the physical world is no longer enough for businesses; when people do not find them online, it is as if they do not exist. Israel Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ICCP) President Itamar Gero implied as much in his recent interview with ANC.
Gero cited recent statistics showing 90% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Philippines lack sufficient online presence. According to the ICCP official, SMEs need to go digital as soon as possible because their absence in the online scene could significantly hurt their chances of competing on a regional and global scale.
“People are looking for you, and if you’re not found, you might not succeed anymore,” he said. “These days, everybody’s on their mobile looking for a restaurant, looking for a lawyer, looking for a dentist, and you can’t find these guys here. Now is the time for SMEs to go online.”
“Digitize the Philippines” Project
TrueLogic Online Solutions, Gero’s digital marketing company, is working on a project to help SMEs navigate the digital world with confidence. The firm is offering online courses for free – bite-sized, five-minute videos – to teach SMEs how to make their businesses thrive on the digital platform. The courses tackle very useful topics, particularly for non-techie businesspeople, such as how to start their website, buy their domain, or establish their presence.
TrueLogic has just started this “Digitize the Philippines” project, but he is optimistic that the online courses can raise awareness among Philippine firms. “It’s something that we do on the sides because we still have our core business. We’re building slowly but surely, let’s call it pro bono,” he said. “We realized that we do it for so many companies outside the Philippines, why not help Filipino companies capitalize on it?”
He added that Israeli start-ups such as Wix.com could help, as well, as they make everything more accessible to the SME business owner.
Fear of Technology?
When asked about the reason behind the lack of online visibility among Philippine SMEs, Gero cited “paralysis by analysis” as a possible cause. “People think, ‘I can’t do it, it’s not for me,’ but they’re missing out. Not only locally, also when it comes to exports,” he told ANC.
Gero, who attended the recent ASEAN forum in Manila, said the overall business environment seems to be moving towards digitization and e-commerce. He cited Alibaba, China’s homegrown online marketplace, as an example. It exposed Chinese manufacturers to the world, and now many businesses outside of China are drop shipping or importing from China just because they have a go-to portal to find every type of supplier. He said the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry and Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions are looking into establishing the same.
Several opportunities likewise exist between Philippine and Israeli companies. Gero said that with their collaboration, the two countries could work together to improve particular sectors such as cyber security, agrotech, medical technology and military defense. He added that the ICCP is training companies in the medical and cyber security fields to explore available business opportunities.
As the business world increasingly becomes digital, there is a greater need for Philippine enterprises to keep up. A stronger online presence is, after all, the key to survival in a world that’s increasingly becoming mobile and globally connected.