GLOBE Senior Advisor for Small and Medium Business Group Derrick Heng said connectivity and innovative business solutions are important factors in the development of the small and medium enterprises (SME) in the Philippines.
Coming straight from a meeting and donning the traditional Filipino barong, the Singaporean Heng discussed with the BusinessMirror the synergy between the country’s SMEs and the telecommunication industry.
“The Philippines is poised for entrepreneurship. I think what is very interesting is SMEs no longer mean the traditional sari-sari store. We are seeing this trend of very progressive millennials that have very interesting business models and have very digital mind-sets to doing business. Social media is key to how they communicate and connect with their potential customers so we want to make sure to help them deliver success,” Heng said.
Being a veteran in the telecommunications industry for 20 years and counting, Heng sees young Filipinos starting to have entrepreneurial mind-sets that does not merely lean on profit-making, but now have a higher sense of purpose.
Currently, the Philippines has more than 1 million SMEs and corners 60 percent of the country’s total employment.
Heng said Globe wants to be part of the SMEs success stories in the country as one of their leading business partners.
His career path
Heng carries a degree in economics and communication, which helps him in the scheme of things in crafting new roads for advertising and marketing in Singapore.
“I think the hybrid of that two majors laid my principle that communication drives businesses and creativity drives its growth. I could end up working in a bank or in the communication industry. At the time, I was very intrigued with advertising, how brands can be defined by the right communication,” Heng said.
Working for Singtel, Singapore’s leading telecommunication company, and prior to that, in an advertising agency, have given Heng a better perspective of both being the client and as the service provider.
According to Heng, the advertising world is very demanding, with long hours, but helping customers with their needs and seeing the evolution of communication technology and culture through the years is rewarding.
He remembers the time when he designed Singtel’s branding in time for the inclusion of Singapore in the F1 Racing circuit. He said it was a good property to be associated with and brought a lot of excitement.
“Life of an advertising agency man, it is very hectic. We have to manage the customers and clients’ demands and requirements, but beyond trying to deliver what the client wanted, I think a good agency needs to be proactive to help strategize where does the customer play in the competitive market, so it was quite an exciting platform for me to start. Yeah, it was long hours, but if you have that genuine passion for creative thinking, it is not work actually.”
Then, as part of his career progression, once their advertising client, he ended up working for Singtel. It is where, at one point, he started a digital marketing team out of necessity.
“Customers then where no longer taking on what the brands are telling them,” he said, while adding that it now led to having customer support service and relevance
Heng then lent his expertise to Indonesian telecommunication company Telkomsel for three and a half years. He said there are similarities between Indonesian and Filipino media consumption and communication patterns. Both of which he sees are quickly moving to the digital platform.
“There is a lot of commonality, whether in Indonesia or the Philippines. Digitalization has driven a lot of commonalities across different groups of business, so if you have access to content, digital plays a key part to reach out to today’s generation, whether it is a mature market like Singapore or an emerging country like the Philippines,” he added.
Heng described Indonesia as a very huge market with a population of 250 million. He said that even with nine telecommunication companies, Telkomsel cornered a majority of the market with over 145 million subscribers.
Taking care of SMEs
Moving in the Philippines only in July, Heng oversees a 450-man team that is one of the keys to Globe now having 54 million subscribers and 60 percent of the data being used.
Heng describes the country’s telecommunications industry as very competitive and where focus has shifted to broadband.
“There is space for Globe to bring innovations and differentiations. We are aggressive with content. We want to bring relevance to the market. We are targetting SME solutions for them to be efficient and productive,” he said.
Heng added that, just like in Indonesia, Filipinos are very much keen to be connected and that there are similarities in challenges and opportunities.
“The Philippines is a very exciting country. There is so much social dialogue. If you look at the growth of broadband and the growth of mobile, it is a very exciting place to be. I want to create impact from my experience in Singapore and Indonesia, which I hope would help add value to Globe,” Heng said.
In handling SMEs, Heng said Globe wants to go beyond providing connectivity and, instead, wants to give full solutions to assist them in their businesses.
These include partnering with web-based design and management-solution companies to companies that offer tracking and delivery services and productivity applications for business owners.
“Customer is key to us. We always want to make sure we are addressing their needs. We need to make sure we have the right connectivity, whether by mobile or wired broadband. We need to understand their other pinpoints and how we can help to address them,” Heng said.
Heng also said their clients are mostly payers from the retail and hospitality-centered businesses.
Globe’s current ventures are geared toward strengthening broadband and mobile-data connections, seeing the high demand for social-media usage, Heng said.
According to Heng, fast Internet speed is crucial to any business establishment. Globe has already made Manila’s Binondo district as its first fiber-optic city, where its subscribers can reach speeds of 100 Mbps on the Internet.
Heng said they will try to recreate the Binondo project in other key cities in the country that have large SME concentrations.