As the Philippines deals with a new surge of Covid-19 cases, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty reminiscent of early 2020, three businesses share their tips on how local enterprises can fully recover from this pandemic: be aware of fundamental changes in consumer behaviors, leverage technology to cater to these behaviors, and, above all, always put people first.
These insights were discussed in the recent webinar “PH Recovery: Are We There Yet?” organized by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, under the Inquirer Project Rebound, the broadsheet’s contribution in helping the country bounce back from the economic impact of Covid-19. Moderated by Inquirer Business Features editor Tina Dumlao. the webin guests Winsley Bangit, chief customer officer of Mynt (Globe Fintech Innovations, Inc., which operates GCash); Rosemarie Bosch Ong, president of the Philippine Retailers Association and SEVP-COO of Wilcon Depot; and Zoe Chi, vice president of J&T Express Philippines.
Mynt: ‘Plan for the worst’
According to Bangit, Mynt is able to navigate challenges brought about by the pandemic by responding to shifting consumer and commercial behaviors instead of simply looking at market trends. Specifically, Bangit says that from a safety and security lens, the company is always “planning for the worst.”
“We definitely think of [ways on] how to protect our employees in this new setup—how to enable them and ensure the right protocols for a work-from-home setup,” he says. “We’ve [also] been looking at improving business processes and procedures: For example, GCash was ready to serve businesses and consumers when the economy closed. Safe and secure payments systems were easily rolled out, and we empowered many small businesses so they could survive and thrive through cashless solutions.”
Since the pandemic hit, Bangit says GCash has seen transaction volumes rise by four times the usual amount; in December, the company had already reached the P1-trillion mark.
Aside from the growth of digital payments and cashless transactions, Bangit says some of the biggest changes in consumer behaviors include home deliveries; non-contact services such as the RFID toll system in the country’s major expressways; online communities; and virtual events. The “stay-at-home economy” is another huge change, Bangit adds, as consumers now confine themselves to their own safe havens, turning homes into all-around activity hubs, whether for work, school, hobbies, or entertainment.
As for businesses, Bangit says many have become more conscious of their financial health, especially when it comes to their savings and investments. “Again, these are all fundamental shifts, not just trends,” he adds.
Wilcon: Focus on its people
On the part of Wilcon Depot, Ong says their company has been able to rise above pandemic-related challenges by focusing on their No. 1 asset: their people. Even when Wilcon had to close down stores for two months during last year’s strictest lockdown, Ong says the company made it a point to still give employees their wages so they would not have to worry about their job and financial security.
Ong says they also extended this kind of assistance to communities where Wilcon Depot operates through various donations. “We made good use of our resources to ensure that people would still have food at the table,” she says. “We know that we are part of this ecosystem, so we do our best to help our economy to recover.”
According to Ong, caring for their employees and communities was the “single best decision” they made for the company. “With our continued visibility, we were still able to open eight stores amid the pandemic; six of which was opened last year,” she says.
With their people taken care of, Ong says that, like other retailers, Wilcon has also leveraged technology to turn the business around, especially since their company is heavily dependent on the brick-and-mortar model. To cater to what Bangit calls the stay-at-home economy, Wilcon now offers a “Browse, Collect, and Pick Up/Deliver” option to give buyers a safe and worry-free shopping experience.
J&T: Digital technology, bayanihan spirit
Like Wilcon, courier and logistics company J&T Express leveraged digital tech and the Filipinos’ “bayanihan” spirit to thrive amid a challenging business climate, says Chi. To help small and medium enterprises, especially those in the provinces, showcase their products, the company launched last year the “Certified Lokalista” campaign, which encouraged Filipinos to patronize such local businesses in an effort to revive the largest sector of the Philippine economy. The campaign ran from October 2020 to early this year.
Chi adds that while many people lost jobs because of the pandemic, J&T was able to give riders employment thanks to the accelerated adoption of ecommerce, which led to a sharp increase in package deliveries. “This synergy between the logistics and transport industry, and technology, ultimately leads to economic empowerment across cities and regions,” says Chi.
Moving forward, businesses can learn from these kinds of solutions, says Ong. She adds that companies shouldn’t just “ride the wave of digitalization,” but proactively work with other sectors, such as government, in transforming the way enterprises operate in the next normal.
“We were able to navigate 2020, and while we won’t be able to solve all problems in 2021, we have become better at looking for these solutions,” adds Bangit. “It is still a continuous learning process for all of us.”