15 years of service

Last Nov. 23, Go Negosyo celebrated its weeklong anniversary with a jampacked MSME conference. For the major event, we invited local and international speakers from the public and private sectors who shared their experiences and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs on how to grow their businesses despite the pandemic.

The event was streamed live on Go Negosyo’s Facebook page, reaching nearly 100,000 people and garnering more than 40,000 views.

The program started with the Zoom rapid talk with my friend and host, Rico Hizon. We shared photos of Go Negosyo through the years – highlighting personalities, programs, and advocacies special to me, as well as the people behind the success of the organization.

Among those who I’m thankful for and who has supported our mission is President Duterte. The President is what I would describe as “street smart.” He and I understand the same language of the people. He is pro-poor and believes that we must work together as a nation to help fellow Filipinos move up in life. At this most challenging time, he too encourages all of us to come together to revive the economy and keep the momentum.

I was also asked about my wife, Marissa, who has been supportive of my cause since day one. I call her the “general” or the “boss.” Our protocol now at home is very strict, so now I also call her the “dictator.”

Everybody that comes to our house needs to be tested. And whenever I go out, she always asks me if I’m sure it’s safe and necessary. I always assure her. She’s been a great partner. My success would not be as meaningful and I would not be the man I am today if I didn’t have a co-pilot in life. I think that’s what she provides; she is my inspiration. It’s really important to have a co-pilot in life because it’s hard to drive alone.

In the presentation, we also recognized as well former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who had appointed me as presidential adviser during her term. I told Rico that without her and the trust that she gave to me, I don’t think I would be in my position right now. It’s been a great privilege to be of service and to help our MSMEs move up from poverty. I’m grateful for her trust and confidence in me.

Our first panel discussion, aptly called “Disrupting the World,” featured Anthony Tan, co-founder of Grab. From a ride-hailing firm based in Singapore, Grab has transformed into a $14 billion regional super-app that has ventured beyond its transport roots. But even Grab was not spared from the adverse impact of the pandemic.

“COVID forced us to change. COVID forced us to say, ‘Let’s pivot very quickly.’ That outburst emerged even stronger through this crisis,” Tan said during the forum moderated by Hizon. “Pivot and resilience. I think that’s really the DNA of very strong entrepreneurs...Resilience can’t be taught at business school. It can’t be taught at [any] school. It’s just in you and I encourage you to bring that out.”

Engr. Dado Banatao, managing director of Tallwood Venture Capital, better known as the Philippines’ Bill Gates, stressed the importance of keeping up with the latest technologies, especially artificial intelligence. He lamented that the country is not investing enough in AI, which he foresees will make life easier for everyone, especially small businesses.

“We have a lot of very bright engineers in the Philippines,” he said. “I am hoping, at some point in time, the Philippines will go to (Silicon) Valley...It is about time that the machines and other things that we design here are also capable of a lot of these kinds of technologies [in the Philippines].”

During our CEO forum, moderated by broadcast journalist Karen Davila, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala of Ayala Corporation, Tessie Sy-Coson of SM Investments Corporation, Enrique Razon of International Container Terminal Services, Inc., and Tony Fernandes of AirAsia shared key lessons in leadership under crisis.

Ayala emphasized the importance of working together as the pandemic has shown that shared problems require collective solutions. “This is a moment where we all should be holding hands and riding this together. It doesn’t matter if you’re someone handling a business as big as Ricky’s, Tessie’s, or Tony’s, or part of a medium-size industry, we’re all part of a system that is increasingly integrated,” he said.

Tessie Sy-Coson, a staunch advocate of Go Negosyo, echoed the sentiment. “There should be a lot of work put into ‘working together’ between the private and public sector,” she said.

Razon pointed to the critical role of MSMEs in propelling the local and regional economy. “Without SMEs, there wouldn’t be any big business. They’re the bedrock of any successful economy. They provide most of the employment. They are the market for any big business,” he said.

“What we’re trying to do is do more business with smaller companies. The bigger companies will survive, so [what] we have to, whenever we can, is to give business to small companies and the medium-sized companies. That’s the only way we can contribute to SMEs,” he said.

“I think it’s very important in ASEAN that there’s enough capital. ASEAN people are natural entrepreneurs, but the disadvantage we have versus the US and Europe is access to capital,” Tony said. “Entrepreneurs can change and will change the ASEAN, and will continue to drive the economy – but we need to find new methods of getting them capital.”

Our keynote speaker, Capt. Raghu Raman, the ex-president of Reliance Industries and founding CEO of NATGRID, touched on innovation during his talk. “Innovation is not the prerogative of the educated. Innovation is there all around us,” he said, citing how individuals demonstrate innovation day after day. “In my mind, the two things that are needed for innovation is (1) you need constraints, and (2) you need humility.”

To close the conference, DTI Secretary Mon Lopez outlined the department’s programs for MSMEs, including monetary assistance. Bayanihan 2 earmarked P10 billion for SB Corporation, the financing arm of DTI, to support MSMEs through this crisis and enable them to thrive in the post-pandemic economy.

Together with our partners from the government and private sector, Go Negosyo will continue to provide those avenues for growth – whether it’s guidance from our 700-strong mentor network, access to capital for your operational needs, or the ability to reach new markets through digital platforms. Go Negosyo will always be here for you at every step of the way.