Providing the digital tools for small and medium biz

In Photo: Jeff Ortega, La Union Surf School managing director (from left); Kris Seville, HP Inc. Philippines PC business unit manager; Shaina Tantuico, JeepNeed cofounder and executive director; Michael McCullough, KMC Savills managing directo and RJ Ledesma, cofounder of Mercato Centrale, Mercato Academy and EnterPH.

IN the current environment, it has become essential to possess the digital tools to remain relevant, productive and competitive.

In response to this new reality, HP Philippines Inc. is doing its share, through the company’s entreHPreneur Lab program, or Lab, to empower small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the country.

The first session of the Lab focused on the theme “Digitizing the Brick and Mortar” to share insights on how digital advancements shape Filipino businesses and lives that featured some of the movers and shakers in the SMB industry such as Mercato Centrale Founder Rene Ledesma Jr.; La Union Surf School Managing Director Jeff Ortega; KMC Savills Managing Director Michael McCollough; and JeepNeed Executive Director Shaina Tantuico.

Under the tech giant’s entreHPreneur campaign, the Lab aims to equip entrepreneurs with adaptive, secure and collaborative business solutions.

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“HP is committed to improving today’s offices and businesses through technology,” Kris Seville, HP Philippines’s business unit manager for PC said in media statement.

“Our experts’ insights are valuable in our pursuit for relentless innovation. By bringing together entrepreneurial minds in the Lab, we want to help business owners navigate through the digital landscape.”

Ledesma, a De La Salle University alumnus, told the BusinessMirror in an interview that collaborating with HP is benefiting start-ups like Mercato Centrale. “They have realized the important role of small medium enterprises [SMEs] in helping the country,” he said.

Known to be focusing on disruptive innovations, such as the introduction of Mercato, Ledesma’s move has resulted in creating new market and value to displace existing ones. He recalled that the weekend market was once a disruptor in the food and beverage industry.

With technology making competition tougher, Ledesma said, grit is crucial to an entrepreneur’s success. Harnessing social-media platforms (serving Instagram-worthy dishes, for example) spells the difference between SMBs that take flight or crash and burn.

With the emerging millennial market, Ledesma believes that success is likely for businesses that capture the minds and hearts of digital “natives.”

Mercato, according to Ledesma, is aware that they have to be innovative. It was the first night market to adopt cashless payment system.

“If you are working with younger people, you have to immerse yourself into technology to keep up with the pace,” he said.

Moreover, Ledesma added, Mercato’s role has evolved into a food incubator where it trains aspiring food entrepreneurs. Once they have established a solid presence under the Mercato brand, they can now go solo if they want to.  

Ledesma said having a reliable partner like HP is very important these days because this gives an entrepreneur a time to present the business profile to clients and investors, and give them updates “For me, entrepreneurs have to the fastest adopters of change especially in the food business,” he added.

Discarding the archaic way of doing business, Ortega depends heavily on social media for
marketing and advertising.

Technology, he said, enables them to conduct business transactions real time. Currently, the school enjoys a solid stream of first-time and veteran clientele, thanks to a steady online presence.

Through social media, the tourism entrepreneur receives bookings and inquiries, addresses customer feedback, and taps into larger markets. The school also expedites its transactions with cashless payment methods.

Even the real-estate market is responding to the digital age. McCollough revealed that buyers prefer searching for property online. Customers find photos, virtual tours, and interactive maps helpful in assessing their potential purchases. He also revealed that millennials comprise the largest group of new homebuyers in 2017, at 66 percent.

For McCollough, if a huge industry such as real estate is adapting to the technology-driven market, SMBs must also respond and make adjustments, too. Recounting his experience with start-ups, McCollough reiterates that the right office spaces and equipment are essential for growth.

Tantuico said her organization focuses on the struggles of teachers in the countryside, such as the daily workload. On average, a teacher works for 12 to 16 hours, allotting three to five hours for lesson plans. This forces educators to rely on traditional and inefficient teaching methods.

Tantuico leads her team in improving science education through hands-on activities, both online and offline. To date, JeepNeed’s mobile science laboratories have served five schools and 980 students in Sarangani.

The first session of the entreHPreneur Lab was made possible through a partnership with Impact Hub Manila, a coworking space and business incubator that housed the second leg of the entreHPreneur campaign which also featured the entreHPreneur Hub.

“I am just very happy that HP understands that sort of calling. One nice thing about entrepreneurship is that it has no age boundaries. It might be a millennial thing or a generation X passion,” Ledesma said.

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Turning Points 2018