Timely notes on managing crises and bracing for new periods

By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Assistant Editor

Earlier in the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, business owners, executives, and teams were in search of guidance for managing and surviving the massive impacts and disruptions brought or exacerbated by the said crisis. BusinessWorld, as it kept a close eye on the country’s economic narrative amid the pandemic, has endeavored to get insights from top executives and experts that will greatly help the business community at such a challenging time.

While the award-winning BusinessWorld Insights and BusinessWorld Virtual Economic Forum have primarily fulfilled these objectives, it was the media outfit’s one-on-one interviews with top movers in business where inspiring learnings on moving forward amid the pandemic were mined. And as the Philippines has opened a new chapter with a new administration taking over around a month ago, BusinessWorld also gleaned firsthand views of the potential makeup of the country’s economic policy.

Launched in July 2020 as part of its 33rd anniversary multimedia report, BusinessWorld One-on-One has served as an exclusive venue for top business people to be interviewed by BusinessWorld Editor-in-Chief Wilfredo G. Reyes.

Mr. Reyes noted how the interviews help audiences take notes from executives on what they have learned during the pandemic, which perhaps can be appended to their organizations’ respective playbooks.

“There’s been a wealth of information on best practices built in the past two years on crisis management, taking better care of talent, and developing new revenue streams,” Mr. Reyes shared.

“Every One-on-One interview is an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other sectors. Many times, you get great tips that can be adapted to one’s situation, so these interviews contribute to our continuing accumulation of knowledge,” he added.

The first iteration of the interview series was themed “A Time for Leadership and Resilience,” which featured business leaders sharing their defining moments in the midst of the global pandemic, as well as learnings on surviving and performing amid economic shocks.

First to be featured in the week-long series was Joo-Ok Lee, head of regional agenda, Asia-Pacific at the World Economic Forum. He shared that holistic and systematic approaches are much needed in dealing with challenges as complex as the pandemic. “Increasingly, challenges that we will see are going to be more interconnected. They will be more complicated, and unless there is a holistic approach, unless there is a systematic and systems-driven approach, these issues will be very, very difficult to resolve,” he was quoted as saying.

In the following episode, Emmanuel P. Maceda, worldwide managing partner at Bain & Company, talked about a “micro-battle” means of balancing companies’ investment strategies. “The idea of a micro-battle concept is to define units of strategic choice in smaller terms, in micro-terms so that you can see the results faster, then you can build the second micro-battle and the second micro-battle after that,” he said.

Looking after employees, meanwhile, was a highlight of the interview with Nina D. Aguas, executive chairman of Insular Life Assurance Co. Ltd. “Really look out for the people within your organization because they will carry it through the very difficult times,” Ms. Aguas advised.

MVP Group of Companies Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, in another episode, shared that the pandemic could bring out the “next big idea,” and the person with such an idea “will probably win.”

Completing the series, Globe Telecom President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ernest L. Cu shared that their company conditioned themselves on the notion that recovery will take time — something other businesses must have also kept in mind in the past months.

“We have to make this a working condition and the given that we have to get around with, just like any other business constraint that we are used to,” he said.

The following year, in conjunction with a joint special report with The Philippine STAR titled “Philippine Business Outlook 2021: Towards a More Resilient and Sustainable Economy,” BusinessWorld held a One-on-One interview with Benjamin E. Diokno, formerly Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor and now Department of Finance Secretary.

In that interview, Mr. Diokno expressed optimism regarding the recovery of the Philippine economy in terms of gross domestic product growth, remittances from overseas Filipino workers, and employment rate amid a “young population.” The previous BSP governor also noted there that the country’s push for a ‘cash-lite’ society is bound to continue, and it might go as far as going coinless by 2025.

Three months after, BusinessWorld’s motoring section Velocity, in celebration of its anniversary, held a two-part One-On-One interview with the country’s automotive industry leaders. Velocity editor, Kap Maceda Aguila, had virtual exchanges with Atty. Rommel Gutierrez, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc., on his perspectives about the Philippine automotive industry; and with Maria Fe Perez-Agudo, president of the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc., about future innovations paving the industry’s future track.

The following April, BusinessWorld One-on-One put the spotlight on Yasuyuki Sawada, then chief economist of the Asian Development Bank, as he and Mr. Reyes took a deep dive into the multilateral lender’s 202 1 Asian Development Outlook.

Five months later, as BusinessWorld marks its 34th anniversary in September, another weeklong One-on-One series was held, this time with four Philippine business tycoons. Each shared their experiences and realizations out of the pandemic, as well as their company’s resilience stories and updated visions.

Kevin L. Tan, chief executive officer of the Alliance Global Group, Inc., shared in the first episode that the township concept of the company’s real estate arm Megaworld Corp. became “ideal and quite compelling” amid the pandemic, and so he believes this concept “can be a catalyst for economic development in other cities.” Grounded on this belief, Megaworld announced its plans to launch three townships within Luzon that year.

Meanwhile, moving to a digital and omnichannel strategy is seen to drive a leading retail company forward even beyond the pandemic. Robina Y. Gokongwei-Pe, president and CEO of Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. (RRHI), shared in the second installment that as their company pivoted to e-commerce fast, “the percentage contribution of e-commerce to total sales is growing very fast.” So, while brick-and-mortar stores have made up for a big part of total sales, RRHI has planned on working on its presence both offline and online.

Health and sustainability were the highlight of the One-on-One with Monde Nissin Corp. President and Director Betty T. Ang as she shared that the company saw “significant progress” in several of its long-term growth plans in production capacity, new product developments, and brand awareness initiatives. “Our ramped-up research and development is focused on new product development that is aligned with our aspirations for sustainability and health for customers and for the planet,” she was quoted as saying.

Dennis Anthony H. Uy, founder & CEO of Converge ICT Solutions, Inc., completed the series by sharing his company’s target up to P26 billion in gross revenue by end-2021 and 55% nationwide household coverage by 2025 as demand for connectivity increases. He stressed that fiber broadband technology, which Converge delivers, can best deliver a minimum of 500 gigabytes for every individual home.

In line with its 35th anniversary celebration, another engaging BusinessWorld One-on-One series will be shown live and free in BusinessWorld’s Facebook page on Aug. 15 to 19. With the theme “Innovations Reshaping the Future of Key Industries,” Mr. Reyes will converse with some of the country’s top executives.

ROUNDTABLESThis year, a few weeks before the new administration started taking office, BusinessWorld brought to the online public two roundtables of BusinessWorld editors with some of the key people making up the administration’s economic team.

Themed “The View from the Starting Line,” BusinessWorld Roundtable featured BSP Governor Felipe M. Medalla and Socioeconmic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan last June 20 and June 27, respectively.

Mr. Medalla told BusinessWorld editors that the BSP is likely to raise its key interest rate at its next two meetings to curb inflation, while the pace of subsequent tightening will be gradual. He also shared that “2022 will be a high-growth year, simply because of the huge pent-up demand.”

Mr. Balisacan, meanwhile, shared that new taxes may have to be introduced to fund priority projects, but they should be carefully timed. “If you want more public services, if you want to invest a lot into our health and education, and social sector, and to our farmers, you must have sources of money for that. Obviously, you can only go so far with an improved tax administration,” he was quoted as saying.

The current National Economic and Development Authority chief also shared during the roundtable that he seeks better coordination with the 19th Congress on priority bills and the 2023 national budget, and so he considers frequent meetings with legislators through the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council.