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Local startup 1Export brings global opportunities to MSMEs

In tough times like these, taking steps toward exporting may seem expensive, confusing and risky, especially since a profitable return is not certain. This is where 1Export comes in.

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As the current economic downturn continues, exporting has become one of the last remaining opportunities for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME’s) hoping to hold on through the pandemic. Many such businesses are finding a life line through the local startup 1Export, an end-to-end platform for cross-border trade and fulfillment.

With 1Export’s help for all their exporting needs, MSMEs aren’t just staying above water, they are growing. 1Export has won numerous awards internationally (Gojek Xcelerate 2019 & SoGal San Francisco 2020 Global Pitch winner), because of its focus on making exporting easier for businesses big or small. It remains to be the largest export e-commerce platform in the Philippines in terms of revenue share.

In tough times like these, taking steps toward exporting may seem expensive, confusing and risky, especially since a profitable return is not certain. This is where 1Export comes in. Led by young professionals in their respective fields, 1Export is a one-stop, holistic solution for businesses looking to expand their market range without needing to carry the numerous pitfalls associated with exporting their products.

Exporting through technology

As the process of becoming compliant begins, 1Export holds the hands of its partners by finding them the appropriate buyers for any and all of the products that they wish to export. Currently, 1Export offers its services to 9 international markets, with each market having their own sets of standards that each business must comply with in order to successfully export their products. These compliance standards make exporting more complicated than it needs to be. 1Export smooths out  the process with a tech platform, which makes creating the correct documentation for any country simple. In addition to this, MSME suppliers can also conveniently use automated labeling through a simple upload of a photo, making the path to going global a seamless one. With a myriad of services to adequately equip partner suppliers with their exporting needs paired with a 100% port clearance rate, 1Export presents an opportunity unlike any other with a potential to earn in US dollars. 

“Exporting is often viewed as a tedious and laborious process. For most MSMEs, creating a truly globally competitive brand remains just a pipe dream. We believe that, when done right, exporting can be a powerful tool to showcase MSME talent, uplift the economy, and change the lives of people. At 1Export, we aim to harness the innate ingenuity, talent and beauty of the country and showcase it to the world.” Daniel Remo, Chief Operating Officer of 1Export says.


Hope for our MSMEs

Mel Nava, CEO of 1Export, during their pitch in SoGal San Francisco 2020

There are a lot of opportunities that MSMEs can take advantage of while in this pandemic. Global trends point to an increase in purchase of essential products, but as the curve flattens in other countries, people are looking for things that provide comfort or happiness. So the question at the end of the day is, how do we make MSME products relevant? According to Mel Nava, Chief Executive Officer of 1Export, “We make them globally competitive so that they can export, we help them export so they can sell more, stay afloat, and serve the needs and wants of other markets”. Because travel is limited, cross-border trade has increased and to bring products people want and long for now need to comply with trade regulations abroad.

While the pandemic has been the cause for the demise of a lot of businesses, there is hope for the economy because platforms like 1Export addresses the various problems of MSMEs brought about by exporting: a need for international partners, compliant products, and finding guaranteed buyers. In a time of disarray and economic decline, 1Export has created a system that works for both its buyers and suppliers, making it a complete and sustainable technology platform of the country.

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COVID-19 accelerating skills gap, raising employee expectations of their employers – IBM

71% of high performing companies surveyed report they are widely deploying a consistent HR technology architecture, compared to only 11% of others.

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As many business leaders look to close the skills gap and cultivate a sustainable workforce amid COVID-19, a new IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) studyreveals less than 4 in 10 human resources (HR) executives surveyed report they have the skills needed to achieve their enterprise strategy.

Pre-pandemic IBM research in 2018 found as many as 120 million workers surveyed in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained or reskilled because of AI and automation in the next three years. That challenge has only been exacerbated in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – as many C-suite leaders accelerate digital transformation, they report inadequate skills is one of their biggest hurdles to progress.

Ongoing IBM consumer research also shows surveyed employees’ expectations for their employers have significantly changed during the COVID-19 pandemic but there’s a disconnect in how effective leaders and employees believe companies have been in addressing these gaps. 74% of executives surveyed believe their employers have been helping them learn the skills needed to work in a new way, compared to just 38% of employees surveyed, and 80% of executives surveyed said their company is supporting employees’ physical and emotional health, but only 46% of employees surveyed agreed.

“Today perhaps more than ever, organizations can either fail or thrive based on their ability to enable the agility and resiliency of their greatest competitive advantage – their people,” said Amy Wright, managing partner, IBM Talent & Transformation. “Business leaders should shift to meet new employee expectations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as holistic support for their well-being, development of new skills and a truly personalized employee experience even while working remotely. It’s imperative to bring forward a new era of HR – and those companies who were already on the path are better positioned to succeed amid disruption today and in the future.”

The new IBV study, “Accelerating the journey to HR 3.0,”conducted in partnership with global independent analyst Josh Bersin of the Josh Bersin Academy, includes insights from more than 1,500 global HR executives surveyed in 20 countries and 15 industries. Based on those insights, the study provides a roadmap for the journey to the next era of HR, with practical examples of how HR leaders at surveyed “high-performing companies” – meaning those that outpace all others in profitability, revenue growth and innovation – can reinvent their function to build a more sustainable workforce.

Additional highlights from the study include:

  • Nearly six in 10 high performing companies surveyed report using AI and analytics to make better decisions about their talent, such as skilling programs and compensation decisions. 41% are leveraging AI to identify skills they’ll need for the future, versus 8% of responding peers.
  • 65% of surveyed high performing companies are looking to AI to identify behavioral skills like growth mindset and creativity for building diverse adaptable teams, compared to 16% of peers.
  • More than two thirds of all respondents said agile practices are essential to the future of HR. However, less than half of HR units in participating organizations have capabilities in design thinking and agile practices.
  • 71% of high performing companies surveyed report they are widely deploying a consistent HR technology architecture, compared to only 11% of others.

“In order to gain long-term business alignment between leaders and employees, this moment requires  HR  to operate as a strategic advisor – a new role for many HR organizations,” said Josh Bersin, global independent analyst and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy.  “Many HR departments are looking to technology, such as the cloud and analytics, to support a more cohesive and self-service approach to traditional HR responsibilities.  Offering employee empowerment through holistic support can drive larger strategic change to the greater business.”  

Report findings suggest three core elements to promote lasting change

According to the report, surveyed HR executives from high-performing companies were eight times as likely as their surveyed peers to be driving disruption in their organizations. Among those companies, the following actions are a clear priority:

  • Accelerating the pace of continuous learning and feedback
  • Cultivating empathetic leadership to become a more health-oriented company and support employees’ holistic well-being
  • Reinventing their HR function and technology architecture to make more real-time data-driven decisions

Burger King Brazil is an example of a company who rapidly responded to new employee expectations and needs presented by this moment. Burger King Brazil worked with IBM to create a new virtual assistant based on IBM Watson Assistant, which helped during the pandemic to provide its workforce with self-service support and more transparent communications and connection to each other and company leadership. The solution supports its 16,000 employees, and on average responded to 1,100 questions per day in April alone.

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Empowering employees through tech can supercharge returns – Lenovo

IT leaders are reporting a 5x return (USD $1 spent on these programs yields USD $5 of increased staff productivity, organizational agility and customer satisfaction), with many expecting to increase their investment by nearly 25 percent in two years.

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A new Lenovo and Intel commissioned study, “Empower Your Employees with the Right Technology,” conducted by Forrester Consulting, has found that the impact of technology in improving the employee experience (EX), or an employee’s full journey in an organization, is much more than anticipated — highlighting opportunities for organizations’ IT decision makers (ITDMs) in today’s remote and hybrid work environment.

The key insight points out that while companies on average see a 5x return on investment in the EX driven by increased productivity, organizational agility and customer satisfaction, ITDMs and employees disagree on technology priorities. While ITDMs are prioritizing strategic IT integration, software and service needs, employees are more focused on their fundamental daily technology experience.

This suggests that business leaders have room to collaborate more closely with employees on their IT purchase decisions to elevate team engagement, increase customer satisfaction and improve the bottom line.

Bridging the divide between employees and IT decision makers

With organizations now shifting their focus toward remote and hybrid work, ITDMs are upgrading devices, software and services as part of EX initiatives to improve team engagement and satisfaction. Based on the research findings, this has led to more tech spending. IT leaders are reporting a 5x return (USD $1 spent on these programs yields USD $5 of increased staff productivity, organizational agility and customer satisfaction), with many expecting to increase their investment by nearly 25 percent in two years.

Yet employees still report that they’re frustrated with their PC hardware and software experience:

  • Fifty (50) percent of respondents say their PC devices are out of date or insufficient (e.g. not fast enough, reliable enough or powerful enough)
  • Forty-six (46) percent note their software frequently malfunctions and disrupts their work
  • Only 33 percent are extremely satisfied with the current laptop provided by the company
  • Only 30 percent said their laptops or desktop work well for cross-collaboration.

Importantly, ITDMs and employees both define employee satisfaction with technology as a crucial goal. Satisfaction with technology also has the greatest observable positive impact: nearly 60 percent of ITDM respondents noted a more than 10-percent increase in EX scores by improving employee satisfaction with technology. It’s evident that IT departments and the technologies they offer are instrumental to driving EX, beyond conventional factors such as human resources, worker benefits and more.

Yet again, there is a clear disconnect between employees and these ITDMs, whose primary concerns are the longevity of their technology investments rather than its impact on team engagement. According to the study, whereas 84 percent of ITDMs believe employees can easily switch to a different PC device if their current one needs to be replaced, only half of employees agree that’s an available solution. Ultimately, both ITDMs and employees agree that refresh cycles can be improved and better aligned. In addition, ITDMs believe the integration of hardware and software will impact EX the most, whereas employees simply want devices that work consistently.

Prioritizing employees to better leverage technology investments

The study outlines a few key recommendations on how business leaders can better improve employee engagement and business outcomes through technology investments.

  • Realign investments. While many ITDMs are investing resources into exploring newer, emerging technologies such as 5G, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning tools, based on worker respondents’ feedback there is an opportunity to focus first on immediate employee priorities—building a strong foundation of collaboration tools and PC devices—while IT departments explore more advanced technology tools in parallel.
  • Reorganize priorities. Decision-makers should also focus on improving EX vs only focusing on specific productivity metrics. In fact, according to the study nearly 80 percent of ITDMs plan to focus on improving employee engagement over the next few months.
  • Focus on PCs. PCs have become critically important to employees, with 77 percent of full-time employees saying that PC devices are a critical factor in their daily work and collaboration with one another. A renewed focus on PCs can make the greatest impact on the bottom line and customer satisfaction, with most respondents agreeing that PC devices are critical to increasing customer satisfaction (69 percent), revenue growth (62 percent) and employee retention (55 percent).
  • Involving employees in PC investment decisions. Overwhelmingly (72 percent) of employees responded that listening to workers or getting clarity on what they need ranks in the top three of what companies should do to improve EX. This feedback is important, as employees understand their work devices’ value in driving business outcomes, based on technology factors such as performance, connectivity, reliability, portability, size/weight, battery life and more. Listening to employee feedback can go a long way towards making the case for better technology options.

“Our new study findings further affirm our belief in the strategic importance of technology as critical investments, and not as simple transaction costs. The right deployment of technologies delivering returns can far exceed the initial expense of new business models and opportunities,” said Christian Teismann,  President, Commercial PC and Smart Devices Business, Lenovo. “Given employees are a company’s greatest asset, the study further maps out opportunities to uplift the return on technology investment by focusing on PC devices and collaboration tools, while better involving employees in purchase decisions. In today’s new remote and hybrid work set-up, these steps are pivotal for companies in yielding opportunities that go far beyond the initial spend on their technology.”

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MSME sector is key to COVID-19 inclusive recovery for Phl – UNDP

Majority of the MSMEs still need assistance to recover from their losses. At least 60% of the respondents reported that they have not received any assistance from any stakeholder (gov’t, private sector, NGOs, and others) yet. Among the most pressing needs of MSMEs are access to credit facilities, tax breaks, and deferred loan payments.

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Photo by Luke Chesser from Unsplash.com

Despite the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, majority of the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are still temporarily closed or are operating at decreased capacity—an indicator of the difficulties they are facing in getting back to their business operations according to the recent survey conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the impact of COVID-19 on MSMEs in the Philippines.

MSMEs comprise 99.5% of business establishments in the Philippines and are employing approximately 63% of the country’s workforce. In the past years, MSMEs were responsible for 40% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). During the second quarter of 2020 and almost four months since the community quarantine was put in place, the country’s GDP sank to 16.5% as the Philippines experienced recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the first MSME online forum organized by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) and UNDP Philippines through SIKAP (Synergizing Recovery Initiatives, Knowledge, and Adaptation Practices for MSMEs), the results of the survey were presented to more than 170 MSME owners and development organizations.

The survey also showed that out of the 285 respondents, 81% reported experiencing low consumer demand. This low demand alongside shortages related to transportation and logistics, and lack of financing capacity were cited as the primary challenges of MSME owners in resuming their operations.

Since the implementation of community lockdowns, MSMEs continued to suffer from disrupted cashflow and continuing expenses, which led to income losses. Close to 80% of the respondents reported a reduction in their average monthly income from April to June compared to their average monthly income prior to the pandemic. While 20% of the respondents tried to retain employees with full pay despite income losses, their cashflow was so severely affected that 25% of them began to lay off employees.

“We are in the middle of a once in a lifetime medical emergency. I know you are worried about your health, scared to open your businesses. But for the sake of our families and ourselves, we have to take that step and reopen while maintaining safety standards. We have to find a way to keep going as long as we need to,” said Butch Meily, President of PDRF.

MSMEs comprise 99.5% of business establishments in the Philippines and are employing approximately 63% of the country’s workforce. In the past years, MSMEs were responsible for 40% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

To address the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, MSMEs started implementing adaptive business measures. Among which are digitalization or the use of online platforms for their business transactions, cost reduction, diversification of products and services, utilization of non-cash payment options, and allowing employees to work from home.

However, despite these adaptive measures, majority of the MSMEs still need assistance to recover from their losses. At least 60% of the respondents reported that they have not received any assistance from any stakeholder (gov’t, private sector, NGOs, and others) yet. Among the most pressing needs of MSMEs are access to credit facilities, tax breaks, and deferred loan payments.

“MSMEs play a crucial role in the Philippines’ efforts to recover from the crisis brought about by this pandemic. UNDP will continue to support Government and its development partners to facilitate their sector representation in policy dialogues and program planning so as to capitalize on available solutions that could prevent further closures of MSMEs. We are also working very closely with the private sector to provide online resources and to ensure that all MSMEs can get the right access to e-commerce trainings to support their digital transition. Digital infrastructure in the country is key to enable the development of a new market space online,” said Enrico Gaveglia, Officer-in-Charge of UNDP Philippines.

The result of the survey intended to provide data-driven recommendations that can help the Inter-Agency Task Force come up with more effective policies and programs that are responsive to the immediate and long-term needs of MSMEs.

Majority of the MSMEs still need assistance to recover from their losses. At least 60% of the respondents reported that they have not received any assistance from any stakeholder (gov’t, private sector, NGOs, and others) yet. Among the most pressing needs of MSMEs are access to credit facilities, tax breaks, and deferred loan payments.

Among these recommendations were the integration of MSMEs in public sector procurement, a balanced and complementing mix of monetary and fiscal policies including wide-reaching government guarantees for MSME lending that will support overall spending, and mechanisms to increase household consumption in the country. Other recommendations included addressing the challenges in public transportation to ensure safe and efficient mobility of people, products, and services, and the strengthening of supply chain management by integrating more local suppliers.

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