Enable MSMEs by solving gaps, harnessing tech — AIM prof

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

A professor from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) has reported that capacitating micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) involves addressing certain gaps. Some of these gaps are connected with information technology (IT) and innovation which drives competitiveness and creates market spaces.

Dr. Maria Elena B. Herrera at the AIM Conference Center during the roundtable briefing of the Entrepreneur Survey which indicated the challenges of entrepreneurship in the Philippines

According to Dr. Maria Elena B. Herrera, these gaps are access to customers and markets, capital, talent, technology, ideas, and critical inputs like raw materials.

Herrera, who is also AIM’s Department of Strategic Management chairman and academic program director for its master in entrepreneurship, spoke during a roundtable briefing on June 22 at the AIM office in Makati City regarding the findings of the Entrepreneur Survey conducted by the management school.

Access to customers, markets, and capital may be addressed via an ICT infrastructure which includes e-commerce, explained Herrera. Incubators and accelerators are likewise critical enablers.

“Never in the entire history of business has it been as easy to start and operate a business as it is today. You can use Shopify, Lazada, even Amazon. The Internet opens doors,” she said. But in the Philippines, there are barriers, she admitted.

“Computing power, for the most part, requires the ability to access the cloud quickly,” Herrera explained. “Any country whose ICT infrastructure is not as competitive as other countries’ is essentially giving their citizens a disadvantage.”

There is also the problem of talent as the country does not have enough data scientists. With companies now relying on a lot of data and information, the demand for human resources for this line of expertise has risen. Yet, not all IT graduates actually have the skills, according to Herrera.

As for access to ideas, she noted that the only way to innovate is to have a lot of ideas and data. How to mine and understand these data is important for both big and small business.

“Entrepreneurship is building something that creates employment and wealth. Livelihood will only lift people out of poverty. It is not enough to get us to the point where we are living comfortably. We must have people like Bill Gates, people like Dado Banatao, people like Mark Zuckerberg,” the AIM professor said. “We need people who have fresh, new ideas who will build entire industries.”

She added that when it comes to business, a saleable product is not the only important thing. A manager who is a strategist, entrepreneur, organizer, and innovator rolled into one is also essential.

With regard to access to technology, Herrera revealed that only some local businesses are technology-ready.

According to AIM’s research, the Philippines slid in its rankings from 2017 to 2018 in every criteria used for the study namely, economic performance, business efficiency, government efficiency, and infrastructure.

Herrera also cited the Global Innovation Index 2017 where the country was ranked 73rd out of 127 economies and the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018 where the country was on 57th spot out of 127 economies, a notch higher than its previous year’s ranking.

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