PHILIPPINES. Makati. 90,000 local businesses have closed since March 2020 when the government imposed a lockdown and quarantine. Many of the small and medium enterprises (SME) that remain continue to struggle despite the Philippine government slowly reopoening the economy.
However, there are local businesses that thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their luck changed when this pandemic hit the worst. And these businesses share their experiences and the process that they have gone through.
Lack of transportation, a boon for small companies
The Philippine government allowed workers and local businesses to operate in May 2020 but there was no public transportation. This led to high demand for van rentals and shuttle services.
In an interview with Transcontinental Times, the owner of JSS Transportation, Jewel Francisco Pasion, shared her success. She said, “They increased the vehicles needed, increased the number of the trips, and secured a contract with their sister companies.” This was possible only with strict compliance to health protocols.
Souvenirs to medical ventilators
The Philippine government opened its tourism, but the fear of COVID-19 infection has slowed it down. Local tourist businesses, including enterprises that rely on selling souvenirs and handicrafts, face many challenges. For example, Subida is a social enterprise that has steadily grown for the past four years.
Subida is one of the local businesses in Negros Oriental that catered to local artisans that makes souvenirs. Their production slowed down and ultimately stopped on 15 March 2020. They decided to re-plan and innovate in order to keep the business alive.
Michael Angelo Alano, co-owner of Subida, collaborated with DOST, architects, engineers, designers, and doctors to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Their volunteer employees and artisans produced personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks and face shields in thousands. The production was so large that their suppliers could not keep up. This led them to start a movement to innovate further and shift to help with the lack of mechanical ventilators. Alano said that they created, “An easily produced low-cost ventilator design with locally available materials since domestic is not available.”
The Oriental Negros Emergency Ventilator (ONE Vent) project creates medical ventilators from upcycled materials. It led them to set up a fabrication lab called the Peak One FabLab that opened on 25 July 2020. Alano said, “The Peak One FabLab provides an opportunity for an education in innovation, design-thinking, problem-solving and change-making for the community. And, together with open access to 21st Century digital fabrication tools, equipment, and technology.”
Working together in a virtual space
Many of the local businesses rely on meetings, seminars, and other social gatherings that the COVID-19 pandemic placed on hold. However, one space that caters to start-up businesses, both foreign and local, found that a virtual office benefited them in the pandemic. SHARVD, a coworking space designed to bring business and law together, was co-founded by Ignacio Joaquin Campos Domingo in 2017. Before the lockdown, the business had around 30% occupancy but was seeing steady growth. Domingo said, “Our business model follows the Pareto principle where you need to maintain lean management, prioritize on function before aesthetic.” This model helped them to adapt to the quick shift to online and continue to grow their business.
They have reached an occupancy of 95% with both foreign clients establishing in the Philippines and local businesses going virtual. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed everyone to go online and SHARVD was prepared to make the changes necessary to do the same. Domingo said, “What helped us in the pandemic is good preparation and innovation. So, we need to reconfigure, re-access, and re-innovate to react to the market.”