Future-proofing for a ‘better normal’

future proofing for a better normal - Future-proofing for a ‘better normal’

By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Writer

First leg of BusinessWorld Insights SparkUp Entrep Series shared how businesses can brace for future crises

The direct hit of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis to businesses further highlighted the need for them to be ‘future-proof’, or resilient against future crises, whether natural or man-made.

This point was further driven in the first leg of “BusinessWorld SparkUp Entrep Series: Innovating Towards A ‘Better Normal’”, where industry experts and startup founders shared their experiences and insights from the previous months under lockdown.

Moderated by BusinessWorld digital platform editor Santiago Arnaiz, the online forum last June 24 had Lope Doromal, chief technology officer of IBM Philippines; Roland Ros, founder of Kumu; Miko David, co-founder of David and Golyat; and Gorby Dimalanta, co-founder and head of business development at BukidFresh, in the panel.

A chance to adapt

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Mr. Dormal of IBM Philippines highlighted the importance of transforming and adapting for organizations of all sizes, given the uncertainties in the new normal.

While their scenario planning made pre-COVID likely “goes out of the window”, he recognized, organizations can take advantage of the crisis to innovate and prepare themselves to face future challenges.

“It’s important for every organization to understand where they sit today and what they need to do to be able to adapt to this new normal,” he said.

Moreover, Mr. Dormal laid out six initiatives organizations should look at to become stronger as they come out from the current situation: empowering a remote workforce, engaging customers virtually, remote access to everything, accelerating agility and efficiency, cybersecurity, reducing operational cost, and enhancing supply chain continuity.

Mindset at the core

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As the head of a digital strategy consulting firm, Mr. David of David & Golyat has observed some shifts within the space companies share, which he finds are opportunities for both startups and companies. While many have seemingly acted on these shifts, some have not been able to leverage such opportunities. “I think the leaner, more agile companies will have greater opportunities to capture market share,” he said.

Moreover, he pointed out that organizations should start with a change of mindset before taking in any business process.

“Talking to multiple MSMEs in our country, we’ve always found that it’s not really the companies with the largest budget to spend who do phenomenally well,” he explained. “It’s really those with the mindset to accept changes and say ‘Hey, we’ve got to do this’.”

With starting at the mindset and thereafter plotting the action steps a company needs to achieve, the processes, technologies, and people will follow.

“Whenever you look at winning within the market, it’s a function of people, process, and technology working all hand-in-hand; but that is focused on mindset at the core,” he added.

Driven by passion and community

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Sharing his experiences with the Filipino-tailored mobile platform during the crisis, Mr. Ros of Kumu noted that the current situation heightened Kumu’s concept of building and scaling up authentic connections, as the mobile app likely has dealt with the spike in boredom and loneliness.

“Right when COVID hit [there] was about a half a million downloads per month. Now, closer to about a million downloads a month,” he noted.

Furthermore, Mr. Ros shared that the ‘passion economy’ must be growing further during these times. “A lot of times we say a content creator would need to generate millions of views or hundreds of thousands of likes to earn an income. But what we’ve learned, through passion economy, it’s really just gaining the attention span of a couple hundred people who believe in your passion.”

He likens ‘passion economy’ to busking, albeit in a digital and spanning from various interests like wellness, financial coaching, and even cooking—done by thousands of people in Kumu. To illustrate, he recalled a certain user who earned a lot from the platform.

“I know one particular user in the province. She just made half a million pesos in income last month just because of all these busking gifts she’s receiving from Filipino users in the US, Canada, Middle East, Singapore, and Japan who definitely have the discretionary income to support creators,” Mr. Ros noted.

With the Kumu app gathering people and even businesses through these means, its founder has observed the rise of a community-driven approach to commerce.

“What we’ve noticed in Kumu is [users] call themselves family, tribes, nations, tropa, squads. And we’re starting to see [them] come together as a family or community to engage and support each other through e-commerce and through microtransactions. Because of that, it forced the product team to start thinking about how to do community-driven experiences for commerce,” he said.

Increased engagement

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Sharing his experience with BukidFresh, pre-selling initiative that disrupts traders’ systematic means of dictating low-prices to farmers, Mr. Dimalanta has observed that they have been actively responding to the crisis.

“We do have a once-a-week delivery, but we had to ramp it up to twice-a-week because people were already demanding so much. Farmers also needed to have some kind of leeway for us to order from them,” BukidFresh’s founder shared.

Listening to their customers, checking the data, and assessing how fast they could move goods are important moves BukidFresh took, Mr. Dimalanta added. “We really need to check the data to inform our farmers this is what the market demands now,” he said.

Being data-driven
From their insights and experiences, the panel agreed that there is a more pressing need to be data-driven.

Mr. Ros finds it important for Kumu to make sure they look at the data they have and act on it. “We really need to take a look at the data and be able to prepare so that when you’re making those orders you don’t find yourself in a situation where you’re making expensive purchases and end up losing a lot of revenue that way,” he shared.

Organizations with a data-driven philosophy and a data-driven culture are geared towards success at present, he added.

Mr. David, meanwhile, finds that there is an opportunity nowadays to adopt a data-driven philosophy, having observed that there are companies that actually have a lot of data internally yet have not integrated or analyzed it yet.

“Apparently for one project we worked on, [we found that] the output of one department is the perfect input of another department,” Mr. David shared. “It’s just that if they knew that they could connect these two dots together, they could have saved up to 30% of costs.”

For Mr. Dormal, even if they don’t have any infrastructure or expert to help them make sense of their data, there are many technologies available that will allow them to take these data, integrate them into a single platform, and generate insight. “It’s really just a matter of attitude among organizations that they want to do it, that they want to spend some time learning some new skills to be able to leverage on that,” he said.

Mr. Dimalanta, meanwhile, said that practical solutions are as sufficient for organizations as modern technologies to advance into being data-driven.

“We can use whatever is in the cloud and remove the use of pen and paper…It’s really shifting to a more digital economy,” he explained. “You just need to get more information from your customers, and customers should be able to input it in the company’s database, as basic as Google Sheets or whatever tool that can be uploaded in the cloud.”

Lifting the ‘bayanihan spirit’ higher
The Philippine startup scene is often described as evoking the spirit of bayanihan or collaboration; and this has been further stressed by the crisis, as some in the panel have observed.

“It’s just this community, this bayanihan spirit, that has been forged together because of this crisis. We’re seeing platforms being built on the fly, with social media platforms where communities are getting together, where people now find market to sell products and services.”

Being in one of those platforms bringing people together, Mr. Ros expressed his excitement over the sense of community of people coming together to help each other during the crisis

“It feels a lot different than ‘This is a business deal, whatever,” he said. “There’s a sense of ‘Hey, let’s do this because this is our time to actually shine’; and if we can do this together and survive, we’ll actually end up becoming stronger than ever before.”

The next leg of BusinessWorld Insights SparkUp Entrep Series will discuss the topic “The Next Frontier in Innovative Business” on June 30 at 11 a.m., streaming live on BusinessWorld‘s, SparkUp‘s and The Philippine STAR‘s Facebook pages.

#BUSINESSWORLDINSIGHTS x #SPARKUPENTREPSERIES is made possible by Globe, SM Supermalls, BusinessWorld, www.olern.com and The Philippine STAR with the support of IdeaSpace Foundation, Impact Hub Manila, Kickstart Ventures, QBO Innovation Hub and StartUp Village.

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