Manila, Philippines – Around 51% of women-led SMEs and 56% of microbusinesses in the Philippines saw revenue growth after they started accepting digital payments, new data from Visa recently revealed.

Considering that SMEs are important to the economy and that women make up more than half of the population in Asia, utilising women’s economic potential might boost the Asia Pacific region’s GDP by $89 billion a year, including the Philippines. 

According to the study, around 72% of the SMEs in the Philippines surveyed said that running their own business has gotten easier. Digital wallets—GCash in particular—dominate as the primary means of digital payment for SMEs, particularly those led by women (61%) according to a Philippine poll. Millions of unbanked Filipinos now have access to the advantages of having a payment card because of Visa’s partnership with GCash for the launch of the new GCash Card.

Out of all the companies that have begun to take digital payments, those that accept cards have seen the biggest gains in turnover (83%). Instantaneous transfers and cashless transactions are made possible by digital payments, improving the shopping experience. Visa helps small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the Philippines by providing broad acceptance and strong security against fraud for both customers and merchants. 

The Philippines has over a million micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), making them important for the nation’s economic development. 99.5% of the businesses in the Philippines are MSMEs, according to data from the Department of Commerce and Industry. Almost 50% of these enterprises are involved in wholesale and retail commerce, which accounts for 65% of all jobs in the nation. 

Guaya Melgar, CEO and co-founder of Mochi, said, “My business has grown since I introduced digital payment methods. I appreciate the convenience, speed, and the ability to easily track payment records. It provides my customers with a convenient cashless payment option too. I hope to expand my business beyond the Philippines so enabling cross-border payments will help me grow my customer base.” 

Meanwhile, Jeff Navarro, Visa’s country manager for the Philippines, stated, “Small and medium-sized businesses are the driving force behind the thriving economy in the Philippines. Visa is proud to contribute to their growth by providing secure and convenient digital payment solutions. Visa is committed to continuously supporting the Philippine government’s financial inclusion and digitization goals, including empowering SMEs, the cornerstone of the economy, by introducing innovative financial and payment solutions so they can build on this foundation to grow their business.”

Recently, Visa released an online toolbox for SMEs to help travel-related businesses take full advantage of contactless payments. Visa launched the SME Accelerator Program in the Philippines in 2023 with the goal of assisting partners and SMEs with competitive pricing, expedited onboarding, and comprehensive go-to-market support. The enhanced SME Accelerator programs will also concentrate on a broader range of collaborations with ecosystem players to assist smaller vendors and expedite the implementation of solutions for SMEs.

To help women-owned and underrepresented SMEs in APEC countries like the Philippines gain faster access, the Visa Foundation has committed to donate $100 million over the course of five years. Approximately 29.6 million SMEs are from APEC economies, and 10.9 million of the nearly 67 million SMEs that Visa has addressed globally are led by women. 

Singapore – To celebrate the Global International MSME Day for 2024, digital payment and financial services provider Ant International has shared its support towards almost 100 million Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) worldwide through its businesses and programs as well as its global campaign.

Through these efforts, Ant International reinforces its commitments towards MSME digitalisation and inclusion through the expansion of its services as well as new programs for skills development with industry partners.

In its ‘Embrace the power of small” campaign, Ant International features three business owners and their journeys of digitalisation namely, Cholthicha Joyyangsuk (Numwan) from Thailand who sells desserts on her tuktuk, Lem Cheong from The Hainan Story, Singapore who was inspired by his grandma’s rich heritage and flavourful recipes, and Lewis Ames from Wrimes Cosmetics, UK who started with neon face paint and pivoting to pet care during the pandemic.

These stories then will be featured on out-of-home billboards, starting in Europe, in time for the UEFA EURO 2024, of which Ant International is the Official Payment Partner, and rolled out to other global markets, and also on TV and social media.

In terms of Ant International’s other efforts, Alipay+, the cross-border mobile payments and marketing solutions operated by Ant International, announced an expansion of its global acceptance. As of June 2024, Alipay+ is accepted by over 90 million merchants in over 66 markets, enabling many small businesses to efficiently connect with global mobile-first consumers.

This initiative from Alipay+ is then supplemented further by digital payment solutions providers Antom and Worldfirst, empowering more SMEs with international payment solutions.

Additionally, ANEXT Bank, a digital wholesale bank incorporated in Singapore, recently celebrated its second anniversary, with two times year-on-year increase in its customer base, of which 69% are micro businesses. To further support regional MSMEs, the bank has introduced its second batch of ‘SME Friends of ANEXT’ with forward-thinking small and growing businesses to co-create the “digital bank of tomorrow”.

In Indonesia, Ant International and DANA will launch the second edition of ‘SisBerdaya’, an initiative that provides female micro entrepreneurs training, mentoring, and educational programs in business management and digital skills. Started in 2023, the first edition drew more than 2700 applicants, with 180 participants undergoing a one-month training, and grants awarded to 30 entrepreneurs.

Lastly, in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation, ‘10×1000 Tech for Inclusion’ is an open learning platform to help future digital leaders develop more skills to drive greater impact within their communities. As of 2023, with the support of 40+ global strategic partners, more than 6,000 individual talents from 100+ countries and regions completed the 10×1000 learning programs, of which 90% are from developing markets and 60% work in MSMEs.

Talking about these initiatives, Douglas Feagin, president of Ant International, said, At Ant International, we firmly believe in the power of small and that small businesses can make a big impact. Fintech innovations today unlock new possibilities for small businesses to dream boldly and compete globally.”

“Together with our partners, we want to ensure that every business and every person will have access to the knowledge, network, and digital tools to help them achieve their goals,” he added.

Philippines – Visa, a global payment solutions provider, is dedicated to increasing digital and financial inclusion in Southeast Asia by providing women and youth with digital and financial skills. This effort strives to promote long-term growth and prosperity. 

Southeast Asia’s young population, which makes up approximately a third of the region, as well as its SMEs and MSMEs, which account for 99% of all firms, are critical to economic growth. Visa is contributing to this success by increasing digital and financial literacy among women SME owners and young people.

In 2023, Visa will have digitally empowered 10 million SMEs in Asia-Pacific. The Visa Foundation has invested more than US$47m in the region, supporting two million women-led SMEs and sustaining 500,000 jobs. It just invested US$100m to APEC economies over a 5-year period.

According to an OECD assessment, women, people from specific ethnic minority groups, and rural regions have obstacles when it comes to fully embracing digital possibilities. These groups frequently face institutional and cultural barriers to growth, in addition to a predilection for unofficial funding. 

Stephen Karpin, regional president, Asia-Pacific, Visa, said, “In the Philippines, women and young people form a crucial engine propelling local economic growth. Visa utilises our resources and vast network to give back to the communities we operate in, particularly in promoting digital and financial inclusion. We believe in the transformative power of providing individuals and communities with global access to digital financial tools. As a key partner in Southeast Asia’s financial ecosystem, Visa is committed to reaching the most underserved communities, ensuring they too can reap the benefits of the digital economy.” 

Meanwhile, Kelly Tullier, vice chair, chief people and corporate affairs officer, Visa, added, “At Visa, we are dedicated to empowering women, particularly those running small businesses, to set them up for success. My trip to Vietnam reinforced how contributions within local communities are most impactful when done in concert with leaders on the ground. We met Visa Foundation partner, WISE Vietnam (Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship), which has supported 100,000 women entrepreneurs in Vietnam with access to digital tools to grow their businesses. 

“Meanwhile, Visa’s partnership with The Asia Foundation enables us to work with government agencies and microfinance institutions to support local businesses and help the digital economy thrive. By supporting each other, we lay the groundwork for equitable futures for all,” Tullier added. 

Visa and the Visa Foundation form strategic partnerships to promote digitisation and financial inclusion in Southeast Asian communities. 

In line with Visa’s financial literacy initiative in the Philippines, which began in 2017, has trained over 36,000 students and teachers in 64 schools spread across 21 cities. Visa collaborates with Tanghalang Pilipino, the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ resident theatre troupe, and Teach for the Philippines (TFP), a non-profit organisation supported by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. 

The program includes a Tagalog skit that was performed in classrooms and eventually developed into two online series about financial literacy. In order to promote student development programs and leadership development projects that place transformative teachers and changemakers in schools and education governance organisations, TFP recently received a grant from the Visa Foundation. 

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Visa provided women-led Indonesian SMBs with the tools they needed to drive financial and digital inclusion. Since its launch in 2017, the “Ibu Berbagi Bijak” (Women Sharing Wisdom) financial literacy initiative has benefited over 1,400 women, including more than 1,000 women-led MSMEs in Central Java, Yogyakarta, Bali, and West Java, through training, mentorship, and business matching. This project received backing from regional governments, Bank Indonesia, the Financial Services Authority, and key ministries such as the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy and the Ministry of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises. 

Additionally, the Visa Foundation’s partnership with UN Women and the Swiss Association for Entrepreneurs in Emerging Markets produced a program that provides business coaching, networking opportunities, and funding to women-led care firms. Following program completion, the first cohort touched over 6,500 employees and independent caregivers in addition to over 27,000 care beneficiaries. 

In Vietnam, Visa’s ‘Accelerate My Business’ program, developed in collaboration with The Asia Foundation and the Center for Women and Development, assists ethnic minorities, youths, and female Vietnamese company owners. This initiative delivers basic financial, commercial, and digital expertise to micro and SME owners in disadvantaged communities, with the goal of empowering 25,000 female company entrepreneurs over the next three years.

Additionally, Visa provides help to households and ethnic minority communities under a three-year Memorandum of Understanding signed with the State Bank of Vietnam in 2023, in collaboration with the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs. Improving financial and business literacy in Vietnam is the goal of the yearly Financial Literacy Program, which was founded in 2012 in collaboration with the Vietnam Students’ Association Central Committee. 

Furthermore, in Cambodia, Visa works with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Cambodia (MoWA) and the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) to empower women through financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs. Since 2020, Visa, MoWA, and NBC have collaborated on a four-year initiative called “Promoting Financial Literacy for Women and Women Entrepreneurs,” which has benefited over 10,000 female entrepreneurs and students. 

Visa is committed to coordinating its social impact initiatives with the objectives of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), in light of NBC’s progressive pledge in its National Financial Inclusion Strategy 2019–2025 to cut the percentage of women who are financially excluded by half, from 27% to 13%. 

Over 1,200 women entrepreneurs in the Philippines and Cambodia have benefited from The Visa Foundation’s cooperation with The Asia Foundation. Over 800 women entrepreneurs in 12 provinces in Cambodia were given access to cash, financial education, business training, and online markets through the project’s use of pre-existing e-commerce platforms. 

Manila, Philippines – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Mastercard have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote financial inclusion and digital transformation across Asia-Pacific. The agreement reflects both organisations’ common objective of improving financial inclusion by supporting micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and women-owned businesses. It seeks to use digital innovation to promote equitable growth and the adoption of climate-friendly behaviours. 

ADB and Mastercard have committed to working together on projects that will increase financial accessibility, encourage the use of digital payments, and improve digital literacy in marginalised populations. Their main goals include encouraging inclusive economic development and closing the digital divide. To make sure that their cooperative efforts are in line with the main goal of creating a safe and sustainable digital economy, the parties have set guiding principles.

ADB recently granted a US$300m loan to help the Philippines’ financial inclusion aspirations. The loan aims to increase Filipinos’ access to financial services, particularly among underprivileged parts of the community, while simultaneously encouraging economic growth. 

The strategic partnership is a step toward a more inclusive and resilient digital economy in the Asia-Pacific region. ADB and Mastercard aim to create new opportunities, promote long-term growth, and have a lasting impact on future generations by working closely together.

Speaking about the partnership, Simon Calasanz, country manager, Philippines, Mastercard, said, “Mastercard has an extensive history of supporting MSMEs, and is committed to further collaborating with ADB in the Philippines to drive greater financial inclusion, broaden credit access, and ensure a safe and secure digital ecosystem for the evolving landscape.” 

Meanwhile, Suzanne Gaboury, director general of ADB’s private sector operations department, stated, “Financial inclusion is at the heart of ADB’s mission to promote sustainable development. Through this partnership with Mastercard, we are increasing our efforts to expand access to financial services and unlock opportunities for marginalised communities in the Philippines, and across the region.” 

Philippines – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has formed a partnership with Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) and the Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) to promote the growth of Filipino micro, small, and medium-sized companies (MSMEs). 

The DTI stated that on April 17, a memorandum of agreement was signed with JFC and JGF, formalising the collaboration. Its objective is to provide MSMEs with the necessary expertise and abilities to improve their business operations. The Jollibee Plaza Building in Ortigas, Pasig City, is where the MSMEs-focused learning sessions are set to start on April 25. 

The partnership seeks to foster relationships between MSMEs and major firms in accordance with the principles delineated in Republic Act 9501, which is commonly referred to as the Magna Carta for MSMEs. Small and large firms are expected to develop synergistic ties as a result of this interaction. 

Speaking about the partnership, Alfredo Pascual, DTI Secretary, said, “This MOU symbolises a partnership built on shared values, mutual respect, and a common goal. It is a testament to our collective belief in the private and public sectors in the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the profound impact it can have on individuals, families, and communities.” 

Meanwhile, DTI said, “Echoing DTI’s goals, Jollibee expressed its dedication to sustainable business practices through its ‘Joy for Tomorrow’ agenda. Crucial to a flourishing MSMEs ecosystem, this program focuses on the pillars of Food, People, and Planet, with a particular emphasis on supporting farmers’ livelihoods and community welfare.” 

Manila, Philippines – Local telecommunications company PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications recently partnered with the Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA) to roll out a digital upskilling learning session for Filipino cooperatives (coops), MSMEs, and local entrepreneurs.

Under their digital upskilling-to-e-commerce program dubbed ‘eBiznovation’, PLDT, Smart, and PPSA provide local entrepreneurs, including those in the agriculture and fishery sector, with the right digital tools to help them grow their businesses online.

During the session, participating coops and MSMEs learned about effective strategies for boosting online presence, creating engaging content, and capturing an online market and turning them into loyal customers using basic social media platforms.

Apart from digital upskilling, PLDT and Smart also offer fundamental cybersecurity learning sessions for coops and MSMEs to ensure a safe and secure online business environment for all.

As part of these efforts, the group also recently supported the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and conducted a learning session among Laguna-based MSMEs on how to protect themselves and their businesses against fraud both offline and online.

Talking about these initiatives, Stephanie Orlino, AVP and head of stakeholder management team at PLDT and Smart, said, “In this rapidly evolving digital world, learning the fundamentals of digital marketing unlocks plenty of livelihood opportunities. Through eBiznovation, we aim to assist small-and medium-scale local enterprises in navigating the digital space efficiently and safely, and eventually help them boost their income.”

Meanwhile, Ma. Angela Primitiva Bautista, country director of PPSA, commented, “PPSA collaborates with a network of different stakeholders across the agricultural value chain to attain inclusive and sustainable agriculture in the Philippines. Through this particular initiative with PLDT and Smart, we aim to accelerate the adoption of digital innovations and ICT solutions and interventions across the agri-fisheries sector.”

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – The Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) and SME Corporation Malaysia (SME Corp) have partnered up, signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to create about 200 capital market ready micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) by 2026.

The three-year MoU paves the way for mutual cooperation in building a strong pipeline of capital market-ready MSMEs, which also includes enhancing their sustainability and corporate governance awareness and readiness.

Under the MoU, both the SC and SME Corp. Malaysia also agreed to embark on several joint developmental initiatives to strengthen market insights and data analytics on MSME access to the capital market, as well as expanding the capital market funding pool for MSMEs.

The MoU also looks to strengthen the familiarity of 300 MSMEs with sustainability disclosures and corporate governance best practices.

Commenting on the MoU, SC chairman Datuk Seri Dr. Awang Adek Hussin said, “This MoU aligns with our vision to foster a vibrant and resilient capital market that serves not only large corporations, but also the smaller enterprises. MSMEs are an integral part of the economy, contributing about 38% of Malaysia’s GDP and 48 per cent of total employment in 2022.”

Meanwhile, Rizal Nainy, chief executive officer of SME Corp. Malaysia, mentioned, “Both SME Corp. Malaysia and the SC are committed to ensure that the capital market is competitive and vibrant, while remaining accessible to MSMEs in Malaysia”.

“Hence, this collaboration paves the way towards capital market vibrancy and competitiveness. As the Central Coordinating Agency for MSME development, SME Corp. Malaysia is also committed to playing a key role in spearheading the sustainability agenda for MSMEs,” he added.

Singapore – GrabAds, the advertising arm of regional superapp Grab, has launched ‘Marketing Manager’ a web-based marketing platform which aims to aid micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Southeast Asia create marketing campaigns that drive sales.

With the newly launched ‘Marketing Manager’, merchants can access new features on any browser to get a full view of their campaigns, tailor how their budgets will get used, and get real-time detailed reports. This also includes the capability for merchants with multiple outlets to now concurrently run campaigns for all their stores and also schedule when their ads will run.

In addition to merchants being able to state how much budget should be allocated to each campaign and over what duration, now they can also set a cap on the number of times their ads can be shown to a user in a day.

Moreover, merchants can precisely configure which audience segments are targeted with their ads, whether by demographic, food choices, visits to places of interest, types of Grab services used such as GrabFood or Grab Unlimited subscribers. With the platform, merchants can leverage additional formats, such as video, to showcase their ads. 

Lastly, merchants can leverage the reporting dashboard to gather insights on real-time sales and performance, allowing them to accurately track returns on investment and find ways to improve and optimise campaigns. 

Margaret Y.C. Chang, regional head of SMB at GrabAds, said, “Guided by Grab’s mission to drive Southeast Asia forward by creating economic empowerment for everyone, we hope to provide our MSME merchants with effective digital tools on GrabAds so that they can easily reach millions of customers who eat, shop and commute using the Grab app. We have added Marketing Manager to our existing suite of digital tools to empower merchants with new ways to promote their products and grow their business with Grab’.”

Manila, Philippines Consumer finance app, BillEase, and in-app commerce platform ChatGenie have announced their partnership targeted at empowering micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) through integrating its buy now, pay later (BNPL) solution in the platform.

The partnership is expected to bring a new level of convenience to both consumers and merchants, with retailers now being able to offer shoppers three cardless instalment options at checkout with interest rates between 0% and 3.49%.

According to the release, the BNPL service will enable underserved consumers to enjoy a more flexible payment option, while merchants can increase their sales by offering a wider range of payment methods.

“We are excited to partner with BillEase to provide our merchants with a broader payment solution that will help them grow their businesses. ChatGenie is committed to providing our retailers with opportunities by maximizing the world’s biggest apps; this collaboration is a testament to that commitment,” said Ragde Falcis, chief executive officer of ChatGenie.

Georg Steiger, CEO and co-founder of BillEase, added, “This partnership is a significant step towards achieving our mission to provide financial services that are accessible and convenient for both retailers and consumers. By offering our BNPL service through ChatGenie’s innovative platform, we are providing a frictionless payment option that aligns with this shift toward digital transactions.”

Previously, BillEase has also partnered with tech company OpenFabric to launch an integration stack for large enterprise merchants and payment gateways looking for same-day integration of BNPL service.

Surakarta, Indonesia – Superapp Grab in Indonesia and the Indonesian Market Management Association (Asparindo) have confirmed a strategic partnership, in an aim to digitise traditional markets through the Pasar programme, an extension of GrabMart that brings local markets’ freshest produce, poultry, meat, and seafood to households.

Aside from Surakarta, the digitalisation program will also continue to traditional markets in and other cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Bogor, Bali, Palembang and Medan, targeting around 4,600 traditional market MSME players by the end of 2022.

The collaboration includes a number of initiatives like the ‘Digital Market Activation’, where MSME partners under Asparindo have the opportunity to join the Grab digital ecosystem as Grab merchants and take advantage of digital payment methods using OVO. It also includes ‘Training for MSMEs’, where Grab will be providing digital training programmes, webinars, and education for MSME players in order to improve digital market literacy and help empower digital businesses to increase the value of market competitiveness. 

Additionally, another initiative is ‘Event participation’, where Grab and Asparindo will be presenting various kinds of events held both offline and online.

Gibran Rakabuming Raka, mayor of Surakarta, said, “This collaboration is certainly in line with the mission that is being carried out by the Surakarta City Government in realizing the smart city program. I hope this program can provide education to business people that digitalization in every market is currently very necessary in order to encourage regional economic growth and create skilled and highly competitive resources.”

Meanwhile, Neneng Goenadi, country managing director of Grab Indonesia, conveyed the platform’s commitment to supporting the digitisation of market traders and MSME players in Indonesia. 

“We believe in the potential and superior competitiveness of Indonesian MSMEs. Therefore, we are excited to present the GrabMart Pasar program to facilitate market traders and MSMEs in adopting technology and entering the digital economy ecosystem. We hope that Grab’s support can help Indonesian MSMEs contribute to sustainable regional and national economic growth,” said Goenadi. 

Joko Setiyanto, chairman of the Indonesian Market Management Association (Asparindo), shared that the current pandemic has also encouraged a change in trends for people to shop and do business digitally, and the traditional market is one of the places of business for SMEs that must be maintained and its existence regulated. 

“Therefore, digital adoption is needed for traditional markets in order to adapt and improve services to meet the needs of the community. Through this collaboration with Grab Indonesia, it is hoped that it will accelerate the pace of digitalisation of traditional markets so that they can continue to exist and develop into modern traditional markets that are solid and globally competitive,” said Setiyanto.