Digital banking enabled rise of ‘hyperlocal’ entrepreneurs, says BPI

The Covid-19 situation that forced the world to implement limited mobility and strict social distancing guidelines has ushered the emergence of a vibrant “hyperlocal” market.

“When we say hyperlocal, we’re talking about residents buying and selling products among and within their immediate communities,” said Noel Santiago, chief digital officer of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

Overnight, communities organized and created Facebook groups or Viber group chats for their respective neighborhoods where they could freely advertise home-baked bread and desserts, home-cooked meals, fresh produce, seafood, and meats. They purposely kept the trade within the community to limit the entry of outsiders and simplify delivery and pick-up logistics.

Santiago noted that prior to the pandemic, more Filipinos preferred “kaliwaan” or cash-on-delivery(COD) payments when ordering online. The hyperlocal market saw a shift to mobile and online transfers as the preferred mode of payment.

“Digital transfers are feasible because there’s a certain level of trust when you’re dealing with your neighbors. The temporary waiver of InstaPay fees for transfers to other banks, coupled with people’s wariness about touching cash that may have been handled by strangers, made digital banking a great enabler for hyperlocal trade,” said Santiago.

BPI said customers appreciated being able to send and receive money transfers in real time from the safety of their homes. Hyperlocal entrepreneurs particularly liked being able to easily track incoming payments on their phones or computers.

Santiago said that as mobility guidelines have become more relaxed, some of these hyperlocal entrepreneurs may want to expand their market beyond their immediate communities, which could give rise to the need for a modified mode of payment.

“If you’re buying from a complete stranger, you may be wary about sending money in advance, because if you don’t get your item, you can’t have that reversed. This is why we’re looking for a digital solution to allow our clients to do COD transactions digitally,” said Santiago.

Santiago said BPI is committed to provide its clients, especially the budding entrepreneurs, with the digital tools to help them thrive in the new normal. He said they are about to launch new features in the BPI Mobile app and BPI Online that will help clients customize their accounts and organize their transactions more easily.

“Surviving and thriving in the new normal requires sound planning and adaptability. Having the right partners who can provide complementary ecosystems for these businesses, no matter how big or small, are incredibly important for their success,” said Santiago.

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