"People-Powered Markets" to hold exhibit-cum-trade fair in run-up to EDSA 25

Business leaders, microentrepreneurs, and NGO workers will gather at the NBC Tent, Fort Bonifacio, Global City from Feb. 22-23 to celebrate the work of the private sector in providing poverty-stricken Filipinos with livelihood opportunities, and to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the People Power Revolution.

The “People-Powered Markets” exhibit will also serve as venue for the participants to discuss and plan how to build on the work of companies and microfinance institutions in engaging enterprising Filipinos in poor communities and empowering them with funds, training, and outlets for their products.

President Benigno Aquino III will attend the event.  Among the business leaders who will attend the event are Philippine Long Distance Company chair Manny V. Pangilinan,  Philippine Investment Management, Inc. president and chief executive officer Ramon del Rosario,  and renowned accountant-philanthropist  Washington Sycip.

“We seek to bring about a People Power to transform the market into an instrument for shared progress for all Filipinos,” said Dan Songco, president and chief executive officer of the PinoyME Foundation, a key organizer of the exhibit.

“I am inviting all Filipinos who believe that we can bring growth to our lives and to society through hard work and unity. The exhibit will not only show models on how we can participate in supporting microentrepreneurs, but also share knowledge and encouragement for people to start their own microenterprises.”


People-Powered Markets also marks the 5th Year Anniversary of PinoyME, which was started by former president Corazon Aquino in 2006 with the aim of reducing poverty by championing microenterprise and microfinance. In one of her last speeches, the People Power icon urged Filipinos to join PinoyME in its mission.

“Over the past year, I have been inspired by the noble work of microfinance institutions which have reached out to the entrepreneurial poor, giving them the means to uplift their lives through honest and hard work. To many of us, livelihood loans of P1,000 to P10,000 may not mean much, but to those outside the fringes of the mainstream economy, these are vital in tiding them over from day to day. The small but steady income from their micro-enterprises makes it possible for them to eat decent meals, to send their children to school and to nurture dreams of a better life,” Aquino said.

In a mere five years, PinoyME has established itself as a driving force in different microfinance and microenterprise areas.   Today, it is more than a source for funds; it has stimulated more academic research on microfinance, gathered information experts to help automate microfinance institutions, and helped microentrepreneurs find outlets for their products. Not surprisingly, its growth has coincided with the advancement of microfinance in the country. Microfinance now reaches more than 5 million Filipinos through the services of 500 microfinance institutions with a combined portfolio of P12 billion.

Value chains that work for the people

PinoyME has not been alone in efforts to promote microenterprise as poverty reduction tool. There have been various allies–from companies and universities to microfinance institutions and consolidators. The unity of these institutions to support microentrepreneurs will be showcased as  “value chains that work for the people.”

A value chain is a physical representation of the various processes that are involved in producing goods. For instance, there is a chain between Jollibee Foods Corporations and farmers from Nueva Ecija, Bukidnon, and Nueva Vizcaya. Jollibee partners with the farmers for its requirement of fresh ingredients like onions and bell peppers. However, the two would not have been able to transact without the collaboration of The Catholic Relief Service Philippines, which promotes market-driven strategies to facilitate farmers’ participation in the mainstram market, and the National Livelihood Development Corporation, a government corporation mandated to provide for the credit needs of farmers. The chain hence is not merely between Jollibee and the farmers, but also includes CRS and the NLDC.

Labeled by Lopa as a “reverse trade fair”, the exhibit is innovative in the sense that it allows microentrepreneurs to learn of ways of doing business with established companies by being part of their value chain. This is an inversion of the traditional trade fair wherein microentrepreneurs market their goods to the companies and to consumers.

“On the other hand, businessmen can learn from these models and say ‘I want to use this model to meet my requirements and also help out the people in my community. Or a NGO could say ‘I want to be part of this value chain and organize people into a cooperative so they can meet the delivery requirements of a company’,” said Songco.

“These are not just value chains but models of People Power. In a sense that is what we are celebrating and what we want to bring about more–People Power that has transcended the political and that makes a direct impact in the lives of people,” he added.

People-Powered Markets will also feature product development clinics on niche marketing and seminars on how to partner with companies by being part of the value chain. Admission is free. For more information on PinoyME, please visit the website http://www.pinoyme.com/.

Why Facebook matters to Filipinos, and Philippine business

Twenty-one million. That’s how many Filipinos are on Facebook, according to Jim Ayson’s must read piece on The Philippines as a Facebook Nation.

The Philippines ranks (at the time of this writing) fifth in the world, in terms of Facebook population.

Both are huge numbers.

To put it in proper perspective, Facebook’s Filipino population is almost twice that of Metro Manila’s. It can almost be a province of the Republic.


Let’s reframe our understanding.

For a lot of people, Facebook is the Internet.” —Jim Ayson

Facebook is the number one place where people from the Philippines go to on the Internet. It is bigger than Yahoo. It is bigger than Google. It is bigger than YouTube. Facebook consumes everything.

Twenty-four percent of Pro Pinoy’s traffic comes from Facebook, for example, and most sites from the Philippines probably registered something similar, if not more. It is invaluable.

In all the talk about the rise of blogging’s influence in the country, and how the Telcos want to squeeze out Filipino’s use of the Internet, it is important to note how little this online world really is.  How little traffic originates from Philippine businesses really is. Just look at the top 100 sites on Alexa for Philippines. How many of those are from local companies, or media entities, and how many are global?  Ok, that sounded a little bit more nationalistic, and insular, which is really not what I meant.  Indulge me for a bit?

How little in the sense that most Filipinos use work places and Internet cafes to browse the Internet, and how much of it is spent on Facebook, and little else simply because they don’t have access to it everywhere in their lives.

One way of looking at that is to see it splashes cold water on how influential bloggers, and Filipino net entrepreneurs really are.   But personally, I prefer looking at it from the perspective of how huge this market is, and how great the potential is, and how much more we can take it.

The rise of Mobile Internet in the country will be a game changer as big as GSM and text messaging was to Filipinos. Already we are seeing more and more people tied to their Blackberries. How much more is this going to grow once a nation explodes on mobile space?

It is cheaper to deploy wireless technologies now, and in an island nation such as the Philippines, it is the only way to go. It is why I do not understand why telecommunication companies are simply considering this as a value added service when in fact they should be directing their attention into investing, on bringing the technology to the general public. Making it so affordable that even the lowly janitor can afford it, and can pay meals with it.

It is time to exchange the SMS market, with a market driven by mobile internet. In a country that values PrePaid, one would argue that turning a mobile phone into a wallet would be big business too. Smart and Globe are already doing this, with their respective offerings but it isn’t quite enough is it?

Of course this is a matter of speculation. As a matter of disclosure: I own no stock in any local telecommunications provider, and I am not privy to their internal numbers.

The Telecommunications providers seem to think that they are protecting shareholder value, and have a free market going. Protecting shareholder value is also about creating new businesses rather than milking old business models that are clearly up. As a consumer, from my perspective, I think telecommunication providers simply lack balls.

I have argued that Facebook is done.  There is something fundamentally flawed with Facebook, and revenue generation. Yes, It made over a billion dollars in new financing, nearly a billion revenue and yes, in SecondMarket, Facebook is valued over US$70 billion dollars. As a business, it looks and feels like the end of Web 2.0, and that the next version of the Web would easily eclipse it.

I see it as a market waiting to grow up.  There is huge potential.

This is why Facebook matters to Filipinos, and Philippine business.

What the Philippine ranking of Facebook; what alexa ranking tells us is not about the quality of Filipino users on the Internet, nor the level of the discourse we engage in.  The average CPC doesn’t tell us how little the market is worth.  They all tell us less about what Filipinos value more, but more about the opportunities that exist right now, not just for media, but also of communication, commerce and how much more we can gain by unleashing the Internet on Filipinos. Do you see it?

Photo credit: Facebook logo is in the public domain.