Steve Sy, one of the country's top online merchants, is hiring more people to support the expansion of Great Deals E-Commerce Corp. despite the novel coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed the operations of other businesses and forced people to stay at home.
"As we prepare for the 'new normal' and the 'HomE-conomy', we at Great Deals are looking for talented individuals who would like to be part of our team—from commercial, key account managers, operations, to management trainee," Sy announces on his social media account.
The coronavirus pandemic described by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres as a “humanitarian crisis and development crisis” which forced people to stay at home under the enhanced community quarantine guidelines of the government became a tipping point for the surge of electronic commerce in the Philippines.
"The inflection point of e-commerce here in the Philippines happened during ECQ," Sy, the 46-year-old founder and CEO of Great Deals, says via a messaging app.
"We have built new channels and accounts and have grown our daily orders more than 200 percent without any campaign," he says.
Sy says Great Deals, which works with online shopping platforms such as Lazada, Shopee, Zalora, Zilingo, Shopify, Magento and GrabMart, is on an expansion mode to meet the rising demand among consumers who prefer to stay at home.
"We are opening more cloud stores in major cities in Metro Manila to be able to deliver in 30 minutes or less," he says.
Great Deals, established in 2014 in Quezon City and recognized by Lazada as the King of Online Revolution for Fashion in 2016, is now considered the leading e-distributor in the Philippines that provides end-to-end e-commerce services such as digital content, website design, online shop operations and management, pricing, digital campaign, analytics and business intelligence, warehousing, packing, inventory system, delivery last-mile delivery, returns and cancellation process.
While it initially became known for handling fashion brands and household items, Great Deals has diversified into consumer goods, pharmaceutical products and food. Among its recent clinets are NutriAsia and Century Pacific Food Inc.
"We're always finding ways to provide convenience, especially in these uncertain times. Now, you have one less reason to go out. Stock on your favorite condiments while staying at home," Sy says in a Facebook post.
Sy, who graduated from De La Salle University with a degree in Business Management, attended the e-founders fellowship course at Alibaba Business School in 2019. Early this year, Great Deals raised $12 million from Navegar--the largest private equity firm in the Philippines--to expand its IT infrastructure, warehouse capabilities and technology solutions.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development agrees that the coronavirus outbreak may have accelerated the growth of e-commerce globally this year. Data show that e-commerce sales reached $25.6 trillion globally in 2018, up 8 percent from 2017, according to the UN’s trade and development body.
It says the 2018 e-commerce sales value, which includes business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales, was equivalent to 30 percent of global gross domestic product that year.
“The coronavirus crisis has accelerated the uptake of digital solutions, tools and services, but the overall impact on the value of e-commerce in 2020 is still hard to predict,” Shamika Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics, says in a statement.
In the Philippines, online shopping platforms continue to operate amid the lockdown imposed by the government. Shopee, a leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, launched the P200-million Seller Support Package to help Filipino SMEs and sellers navigate the current economic climate during the ECQ and beyond.
The package aims to support sellers in terms of lowered commission and operational costs, increased sales and marketing support and assistance to new sellers online.
“During these challenging times, it is important for us to find ways to help our sellers and SMEs maintain long-term business sustainability. The launch of the Shopee Seller Support Package is part of our larger commitment to support our local communities through this Covid-19 period. We will continue to work closely with our extended network of partners, sellers, and shoppers to adapt our business and initiatives were required, as we remain united in getting through this together as one big community," says Martin Yu, associate director of Shopee Philippines.
Anchanto, a technology company that equips retailers with e-commerce capabilities, says nearly 30 percent of its more than 2,000 Filipino businesses onboard the platform were able to continue their operations during the ECQ.
Abhimanyu Kashikar, country head of Anchanto Philippines, however, admits that the pandemic has also substantially affected the e-commerce landscape in the country. “Indeed, the lockdown that has followed the pandemic has impacted all the businesses, and e-commerce is no exception. But the e-commerce businesses are relatively in a better position as compared to traditional retailers that are forced to shut shop completely, and are able to run operations with lower volumes,” he says.
Kashikar says among the challenges faced by the e-commerce sector during the Luzon-wide quarantine are in the areas of logistics and last-mile delivery as many villages restricted the movement of vehicles and individuals.
“For e-commerce, warehousing and logistics including last-mile delivery plays a very important role. With movements being restricted, running overall operations is becoming difficult for e-commerce businesses along with other industries,” he says.
Kashikar says while the overall e-commerce volumes have gone down, the demand for essential products has actually gone up. At the same time, he believes that many enterprises now see the greater value of e-commerce.
“Even though as we go through tough measures such as lockdowns and practice social distancing, life moves on and people continue to have needs. Businesses have realized this and hence they are trying to figure out ways to keep their operations running and serve their customers,” he says.
J&T Express, an e-commerce delivery company, recently resumed its operations nationwide. It says that in compliance with the memorandum from the Department of Trade and Industry, it is allowed to transport certain goods such as essential and hygiene products, vitamins and medicines and other dry goods.
“We are grateful that the Philippine government allowed us to continue our operations. Since the enhanced community quarantine was imposed, we have seen difficulties in the transportation of essential goods. In these challenging times, we make sure that important goods such as healthcare essentials and other dry goods safely arrive in areas where they are needed the most,” says Dean Ding, J&T Express chief executive officer.
J&T Express says while it has resumed operations, it still strictly follows and implements social distancing in all its branches.
“Since we resumed our operations, we make sure to strictly follow the guidelines provided by the authorities in securing the welfare of our employees. In line with this, regular temperature readings are conducted before the start of every shift. We also provide face masks, gloves, disinfectants and sanitizers because we value the safety of all our employees and customers,” says Ding.
Digital solutions also offer SMEs an opportunity to tap not only domestic consumers but also the export market. The Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, the export promotion arm of the Department Trade and Industry, advises SMES, exporters and other stakeholders to take advantage of available digital tools and online platforms towards greater business collaboration and learning amid the pandemic.
“Stronger digital synergy is the way forward in these trying times since events have been canceled or postponed across the world. Our exporters, particularly the micro-, small- and medium-enterprises, should tap strategic social media platforms and digital tools to widen their online reach and continue their working relations with their clients and stakeholders,” says CITEM Executive Director Pauline Suaco-Juan.
Sy, the founder and CEO of Great Deals, however, says the focus of the company's operations right now is the "HomeE-conomy" or the people who stay at home to prevent the spread of the disease.
"As the new normal 'HomE-conomy', the new consumer behavior is focused at home. This means we need to heighten health and hygienic awareness, focus on quality and safety assurance and maintain our desire to stay at home," he says.
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