How Filipino Entrepreneurs Can Compete In The South East Asian Arena

Updated: July 3, 2015

The ASEAN Integration is just around the corner, and there is a need for Filipino entrepreneurs to prepare for the opportunities and challenges that this will bring.

Today, my friend Sean General shares the lessons he learned from a professor, on how SME business owners can become a competitive player in the ASEAN market.

Let’s read his article contribution below.

A few months ago, my brother, a friend, and I started a food cart business, selling cold drinks such as buko pandan, melon, and pineapple juice.

Before we installed our food cart, I scouted for suppliers at the nearby wet market. I canvassed among the fruit vendors and found 10 possible sources for each necessary fruit. Selecting the right suppliers among a large pool was challenging.

Then I pondered, “How do these palengke vendors earn enough living, when they all sell the same fruits at the same price? How do they manage to stand out from each other?”

A few days later, I met with a friend and shared with him these thoughts. My friend, Joeffrey Calimag, is a professor of International Business, and Trade and Global Management in South Korea, and I wanted to know his opinion on the matter.

Joeffrey, who also holds a doctorate on Business and Economics, says that many SME owners, including myself, should prepare for the ASEAN Integration.


The ASEAN Integration is the unification of Southeast Asian nations into a single market, which is set to commence in the last quarter of 2015.

He advises that we should prepare for the opportunities that this will bring to the Philippines.

Among these includes easier access to supplies and products from our ASEAN neighbours, more goods to export to the region, and more job openings abroad for local workers to take.

But more importantly, small Filipino entrepreneurs must also deal with the challenges that ASEAN Integration presents, especially stiffer competition from foreign businesses.

Joeffrey advised the need to adopt new methods of thinking and doing business in order to thrive in the new trade environment in 2016.

Among his suggestions were:

Raise Business Standards

Overall, Filipino businesses have low customer service standards among countries in the Southeast Asian region. The largest Internet provider in the country is swamped with customer complaints due to their lack of service.

One of the largest mobile networks is notorious for overbilling, poor connections, and slow cellular Internet. A no-frills and affordable airline is also known for overbooking seats, flight delays and cancelations.

The problem is that these companies in most cases, don’t even bother to compensate for the hassle and inconvenience they are causing consumers.

Once ASEAN Integration commences in the last quarter of 2015, bigger foreign businesses will slowly enter the Philippine market, which will pressure local enterprises to protect their customers’ loyalty.

Whoever provides the better service, regardless if it’s a foreign or local business, will win in their industry.

Innovate Products, Processes, and Business Models

Businesses must continuously innovate their products, processes, and business models. “The tastes and preferences of consumers nowadays are sophisticated and complex,” he said.

Local companies must recognize these changes before their foreign competitors do. With more competition entering the Philippines in the following years, local companies are pressured to stand out among other brands.

If a larger foreign internet provider introduced faster Internet speeds to our country, how would our local Internet Service Providers react with their limited technology? If the price is right, many will switch to the faster and more reliable company.

However, ASEAN Integration is not limited to the influx of foreign competition. Filipino businesses will have opportunities to compete abroad, too.

We have a chance to dominate other countries’ industries.

In the field of commodities, local companies that deliver the most goods (rice, coffee beans, sugar, etc.) at the lowest prices are most likely to dominate in exporting products abroad.


Explore New Ventures

Lastly, he pointed out a few opportunities the Philippines can take advantage of. Such as being a country that remains free from the canker of bird flu and foot-and-mouth disease, both of which are spreading among Southeast Asia.

Moreover, local livestock farmers can invest in Halal dressing plants to capture the Muslim market in other parts of the region.

The Philippines is the social media and texting capital of the world. With these honors, Filipino companies have many of opportunities for software development.

Local programmers and IT companies can capture the regional market by aggressively developing new software to disrupt our current lifestyles and business processes.

199 Jobs offers Filipino freelancers to gain more exposure and expand their client portfolio. The Spark Project, a local crowdfunding website, encourages Filipino entrepreneurs to increase social impact through their business.

I mused some more after Joeffrey shared his insights on ASEAN Integration, my thoughts returning to the vendors in the palengke. How will they be affected when foreigners enter the Philippine agricultural industries?

I thought of my own business ventures. With Japanese manufacturers setting shop in Laguna, from Metro Manila, should I move my food cart business to serve their workers?

So many questions are still needed to be answered. But I know one thing is certain: we need to prepare for ASEAN Integration 2016.

This article is written by Sean General, CDPR. He is an entrepreneur, and online marketing consultant for Digital Public Relations. An alumni and subject matter expert of the International Institute of Digital Marketing, he is a Certified Digital Public Relations Consultant (CDPR).

His friend, Joeffrey Calimag, Ph.D is a subject matter expert on International Business in the Certified Professional Managers (CPM) course, a mini-MBA program that provides professionals and businessmen training to lead their organizations in the dynamic Philippine and ASEAN business landscape.

You can learn more about International Business through the CPM Mini-MBA program.

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Photo credits: awsheffield and don2

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