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For small Pinoy businesses, on-line is the way to go

They say everything these days is just a click away.

This is becoming more true for Filipinos, especially those who use the web to search for products and services.

Kash Salvador, a 23 year-old self-confessed foodie, is among them. Salvador shares in a Facebook chat with this reporter that he uses search engines to look for places to eat.

"I check out reviews from others if these restaurants seem worth trying," he said.

Google Philippines country manager Narciso Reyes said Wednesday there are over 35 million Internet users in the Philippines, and the number is expected to grow.

But only 14 percent or a little over a hundred thousand of roughly 800,000 small- and medium-scale enterprises listed in the Department of Trade and Industry have accounts online.

"Digital isn't a future trend, it's happening today," Reyes said, noting that this is an opportunity for small businesses to tap the Internet and expand their reach.

"Most SMEs cannot compete in traditional advertising because of the high cost of ad space. In online, everyone is given the opportunity to advertise," he added.

On Wednesday, Google unveiled a partnership with Singapore-based search engine marketing firm Activa Media and Directories Philippines Corporation (DPC), marketer of Yellow Pages, for a program to help Pinoy SMEs go digital.

Half of SMEs to go online by 2015

Vincent Teo, Activa's Regional Business Development Director, told reporters Wednesday that he sees "the number of SME going online increasing rapidly."

For now, Teo observes that everyone is "putting up billboards or running ads in newspapers, and not focusing on online presence."

He explained it thus: "The education and budgeting is always a concern, but you guys are being more receptive to going on-line," and projected that half of SMEs could go online by 2015.

Web firms flocking to the PHL

Activa is set to formally open on Thursday its Philippine office, after setting up arms in Indonesia and Malaysia.

"We have a team of Filipino colleagues, and we're looking at slowly but steadily growing it. We decided to go here and find Filipino talent

Also on Wednesday, Singapore-based travel metasearch site in Asia Pacific and Middle East Wego unveiled plans on focusing in the Philippines.

Wego, who is participating at 24th Philippine Travel Mart to tap more Pinoy partners, said the Philippines is currently its sixth largest market in terms of search revenue and seventh in terms of traffic, the firms press release said.

This further cements the huge of Filipino Internet users who rely on the Web to search for travel details, among others.

Wego has appointed a Filipina market manager for the Philippines, as part of a localization strategy to further incorporate and serve travellers, hotels, airlines, and other travel industry businesses.

"Wego is currently welcoming more Philippine-based travel partners including hotels... and airlines who understand and value the reach that partnering through the Web can provide," said Joachim Holte, Chief Marketing Officer for Wego.

Even if Pinoy businesses' online presence is still wanting, Google's Reyes remains confident of growth.

"There's a lot of potential for growth, we think the upside is tremendous. And we're only scratching the surface," he said. — VC, GMA News