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Tag: The Philippines

Hello, This is Manila. How Can I Help You?

Hello, This is Manila. How Can I Help You?

Last week I tried to pay my credit card bill online.  Using a different computer, the site wanted to verify my identity with a security question – “what is the name of your elementary school?”  After three failed attempts, the system locked my account, forcing me to call to re-activate.  When I called Capital One, the girl on the other end of the line spoke perfect English, though she had a slight, almost unnoticeable accent that has become very familiar…

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Working Toward a Common Goal

Working Toward a Common Goal

A microfinance institution is a business.  Like any business, MFIs are competitive with one another.  While MFIs currently serve only a portion of the poverty pie, they compete for existing clients.  It is important to create a product that appeals to the client and offer high levels of service in order to keep your clients.  This is particularly true in the Philippines, where things are relationship-driven and the people are emotional.  For example, NWTF has an issue with client attrition…

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SMEs in the Philippines

SMEs in the Philippines

This is the second post in a three-part series on SMEs. In an earlier post, I discussed another area of development – SMEs – that is both important for creating sustained growth, and has recently attracted interest from investors.  The Philippines is also placing a lot of emphasis on this area of development. The Philippines is actually in good shape regarding SMEs, as it has an abundant labor pool.  The country has 800,000 registered businesses, of which ~7% are classified as…

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Scouting New Territory II

Scouting New Territory II

The other day I talked about how an MFI figures out the potential market for their services in an area.  A simple calculation using statistics provided by the government offers a high-level estimate of the number of women in the target profile.  But it is also important to understand the situation on the ground – who is there already and what are they doing?  On a recent market research trip with some NWTF staff, I learned how to get the…

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Scouting New Territory I

Scouting New Territory I

One misconception about microfinance institutions is that, because they are NGOs with a core social mission, they do not compete in the same way as traditional for-profit companies.  This is, of course, not the case.  Just like any other business, MFIs must strive to offer the best product, best service, and, ideally, serve communities with a sizable demand for microfinance.  This gives you a competitive edge over other MFIs in the area.  When considering expansion, an MFI needs to consider…

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Hapinoy

Hapinoy

Here in the Philippines, the most common use for a microloan is a sari-sari store – otherwise known as a general or convenience store.  There are an estimated 700,000 of them here, and you can find one on just about every block in the country.  In 2007, an organization called Microventures Incorporated introduced its Hapinoy program, which is a coop of sari sari stores across the country.  By joining together, these stores can get leverage economies of scale to get…

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Community Loans: Part II

Community Loans: Part II

The following was written for the Kiva Fellows blog.  See the original here. I spent all last week touring a province in the Philippines with a 7-person team in an effort to gather market intelligence about the region.  The purpose is to determine whether or not NWTF should open a branch here.  Much of our day is spent driving around a town (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) looking for the poorest neighborhoods.  The Dilapidated Housing Index…

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Primer on Mobile Banking

Primer on Mobile Banking

The Philippines is called the “texting capitol of the world.”  Everyone has a phone, mostly because they are a) inexpensive (starting at $20 USD), b) offer flexible plans (everything is prepaid), and c) texting makes life easier.  SMS messaging is the predominant mode of communication not only here, but in other parts of Southeast Asia.  Even business inquiries and scheduling a meeting might be done via text.   The mobile infrastructure of the Philippines is far more robust and pervasive than…

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Another Approach: Investing in SMEs

Another Approach: Investing in SMEs

This is the first in a three-part series about small- and medium-sized enterprises In March of 2008, James Surowiecki wrote an article for the New Yorker, titled “What Microloans Miss,” that suggests that the disproportionate amount of attention given to microfinance has steered funding away from other avenues for development.  A year and a half later, the Boston Globe included a piece on two recent studies on microfinance questioning its efficacy,  titled “Small Change.” Both articles revolve around the same…

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In The Field

In The Field

I spent the last three days in “the field,” a term used to describe the front lines of microfinance where the money is distributed to the clients of the banks.  Beginning early Tuesday morning, I set out for the town of Valladolid, a rural municipality about 50 km from Bacolod City.  The road snakes along the coast through increasingly less urban communities, until reaching Pontevedra, where the NWTF (Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation) Valladolid branch is located.  Linda, the branch…

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