Saturday, January 3, 2009

Business Online Networking: Bam Aquino’s Interview with Adonis Yap

Last January 1, 2009, Thursday, Bam Aquino interviewed Adonis Yap to talk about business networking using online tools. Here's the full interview:

BAM AQUINO: Business networking is crucial for a starting business. Attending road shows and trade fairs, not only expose your brand but it gives you a chance to meet people who can potentially help take your business to greater heights.

But for a starting entrepreneur, this could also be a source of stress like going on a blind date of sorts. After all, you’re meeting strangers for the first time in the hopes of forging profitable partnerships. To help us get through our business networking jitters, we’re talking to a pioneer of 2 business networking sites – sme.com.ph and bizter.com.ph – both websites, of course, are projects of Planters Development Bank’s SME Solutions, to aid small to medium entrepreneurs in growing their businesses. Our guest tonight is the President of that division, Ado Yap.

Good evening Ado, welcome to the show.

First thing in my mind about business networking, I guess, for most Filipinos, the first level is still family and friends, right?

ADONIS YAP: That’s right. That’s right.

BAM AQUINO: Ok. Let’s say that we’ve done that already…you’ve already told your family, your friends. You’ve asked all the help you could get, what other places could you go to actually network your business?

ADONIZ YAP: Well, nowadays, a, online is very important. That’s why we created SME.COM.PH and BIZTER.COM.PH, for us to help, as part of the advocacy of Planters Bank, for us to help the SMEs to cover their places in the online world.

Business Networking: SME.COM.PH and BIZTER.COM.PH are online communities for SMEs.

BAM AQUINO: Ok. SME.COM.PH is really more for more established, I guess, more mature businesses, those that fit the small category which isn’t really that small…BIZTER is more for everyone who just wants to…

ADONIS YAP: For everyone…

BAM AQUINO: Ok. And you’re saying BIZTER is like Facebook, Friendster, right, but for businesses. Maybe you can tell us more.

ADONIS YAP: Initially, what, we got then was, social networking is very, are getting more and more popular. So there are a lot of hits coming all over; that’s why we, though, maybe we can come up with something for business, because mostly are for socialization.

Planters Bank created the networking sites to expand the market of Filipino SMEs.

So this one is for business, something that we can provide Filipino SMEs so they can come up with their own webpages, very easy, doesn’t have to be so technical about it, just like opening your Friendster accounts, it’s just that we’re not interested with your travelled picture, rather we are interested in your company profile, what you do, what you sell, especially, and some images of your products or even stores.

BAM AQUINO: So it’s, it’s also, primarily for B to B, business to business, or for consumers to business?

ADONIS YAP: It can be for B to B and business to consumer. What we want talaga is a broad spectrum. Whatever it is that you want to sell about your products, whatever you want to promote, you can do it online using Bizter.

Online networking is an inexpensive and effective way of increasing marketability.

BAM AQUINO: What, in your experience, are people looking for with Bizter, even with business networking outside of the online world, when you try to partner with somebody else, what are the things that people look for?

ADONIS YAP: Normally, based on my experience, what they want to know more about your products right away. So on the online world, ganun din, so what they want to see is, h’wag nang masyadong maraming…

BAM AQUINO: Company background!

ADONIS YAP: Well, you can put company background but you can put it in a plain and simple as possible, so not the very formal, more stiff type of company profile. So whatever it is that you think people will want to know about you, straight ne kaagad, direct to the point, because we don’t have so much in reading all this; and it’s not easy to read online like 2 hours, so if you need something, you can see it there, you can see the products and later on, we were thinking of coming up with videos pa, if they have video requirements or maybe some other thing that would help them showcase their products and services even more.

BAM AQUINO: So everything from, for example, people who want to sell your products further, p’wede ‘yun? That’s possible. People who want to supply you, is also possible?

ADONIS YAP: Well, Bizter can be a place where they can converge, e, so those who are supplying and those who are looking or supplies or raw materials, maybe…Unlike the social networking websites, you have to be a member to be able to see the profile.

In our case, because we would want to service also the, we want to sell so they should, to as many as possible. So you don’t need to be a member if you’re looking for something. So just go online, look for the, you can use the search, so you look, for example a raw material that you need, and then open the profile one by one. Or if you want you can contact them straight because they have numbers there; addresses are there so you would know more or less if theses companies are close to your business place or not, so you can easily contact them.

BAM AQUINO: So all of these factors can be found there, basically. Now, one thing I found interesting is that, I guess, an old school of thought was, parang, your company has to do everything itself; if you can source it yourself, create it yourself, sell it yourself, better. These days, it seems that, the strength of your company is also the strength of the network of companies that you have with you. Is that what you’re finding also?

ADONIS YAP: The people who know you, the people who can get in touch with you, and the people who can see right away. Nowadays, people (don’t) use telephone directories anymore; (don’t) call friends anymore, previous suppliers anymore. They would go online, Google it, Yahoo it. If he needs something, everything will be there.

BAM AQUINO: You know, before, merong, there’s still a sense of distrust (with) things online na feeling, but I guess these days, it’s getting less and less na, no?

ADONIS YAP: Yes, because nowadays, people are getting to be more and more online. Businesses are getting to be much dependent on the online transactions nowadays. Before, it was unfortunate that we know a lot of negative things than the positive things that the Internet is bringing. But nowadays, medyo nag-ma-mature na. So marami nang mga entrepreneurs, marami nang mga SMEs who see Internet as something that is something very much forma way of them selling it, selling their product.

BAM AQUINO: Kung baga, before it was the alternative way. Now, it’s becoming the normal way.

ADONIS YAP: The normal way, unlikely, for you to have a very stable business without a website.

BAM AQUINO: In fact, remember the time when business cards were the main thing, right, you have to give your business card to everyone. Now I guess, it’s like giving away your website address, right?

ADONIS YAP: In the business card. Business card still.

BAM AQUINO: With the website address…

ADONIS YAP: With your email address there. It’s very important to use business cards pa rin, because that’s way of connecting. They can’t remember all the URLs or the domain names that you’re telling them. But a good business card can be something that will bridge them to your websites.

BAM AQUINO: You have any tips for entrepreneurs out there if they want, you know, if they feel that they need help with other businesses or other entrepreneurs. Is there a place to go or a place, aside from Bizter, of course, to talk to these people or find them or connect to them?

ADONIS YAP: You know, in our SME.COM.PH website, there’s a place where we call “Ask the Experts.” So we have experts there in Marketing, in Accounting, in HR. it’s a place where they can also ask questions online, so without necessarily seeing face to face. Sometimes Filipinos are medyo nahihiya, so, and then, sometimes they’re also thinking baka mahal, so they can go online and look for experts there. They will not answer right away but at least information coming from people who are really in the, either, expert in the field doing business or in the academe. Our website can also be a good place to get it, plus, we, a project between Planters Bank and IFC of the World Bank which we call SME Toolkit. It’s a place; it’s a compilation of best practices, not just in the Philippines but globally. There are about 20, 22 countries globally who’s doing toolkit so they can also browse over that.

BAM AQUINO: Is that also on the site.

ADONIS YAP: On SME.COM.PH. They are very interesting topics there about networking under marketing.

BAM AQUINO: What do you think (is) the next step for business networking? We’ve seen the trade fairs are still there, the conferences are still there, then you have the online component. Would there be a next step for the Philippines, at least?

ADONIS YAP: The offline component will definitely be there, even if maging popular na ang online, chances are, it will still be around because we still need offline; we still need face to face. However, what I’m seeing, down, about 2-3 years down the road is, marami na ang online because mas mabilis, very convenient at mas mura, even if you are in your pajama, you can network. You don’t need to dress up and, but you still need to do the trade shows and fairs, as you said, but online, is I think, getting to be more and more popular.

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