By Mary Beatrice L. Umlas and James Paul R. Gomez
Lemi, an application where users can share about their experiences and recommendations on local shops, is now helping lift micro, small and medium enterprises in the Philippines despite the threat of the pandemic.
Cheryl Ng, chief executive of Lemi, said the application paved the way for small businesses to appear on the top results of Google search, enabling the brand to function as a website.
“So what Lemi’s hoping to do is that by supporting local businesses, by getting them into the limelight, by featuring them on our market, featuring them in our home page, we’re able to be a place for all the people interested to buy local to support local, to see where these local businesses are,” Ng told Manila Standard.
Ng, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, chose the Philippines as the first market of Lemi because of the country’s large, digitally literate, and entrepreneurial society.
As the health crisis left many Filipinos jobless, Ng highlighted the significance of supporting local businesses.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that unemployed Filipinos in May reached 3.73 million.
“Although there is really high unemployment, especially now due to COVID, what you see are people starting to build businesses on their own, and making their own opportunities, which I super applaud. I really think that that is the way you should do business,” she said.
The Hong Kong-based company recognizes MSMEs as key players in the Philippine economy, hence targeting them as their primary market.
“Lemi is very focused on supporting Filipinos and supporting the Philippine market. I’m trying to make sure that we’re able to support the Philippines’ certain small businesses,” Ng said.
The PSA said that in 2019, about 1,000,506 business enterprises were operating in the Philippines. Of these, 995,745 or 99.5 percent were MSMEs.
Lemi now has more active users in the country as more Filipinos shift to e-commerce. “We have more active users, and the reason why is because people are definitely buying online more. I think that the pandemic has made people more aware. Instead of buying from big brands, you buy from a local brand, it really makes a big difference,” Ng said.
Ng said supporting small businesses means providing them what they need to get started, such as an advanced customer relationship management system and a custom microsite optimized for search engines.
“We try to get them selling immediately, making a living, and our goal as a company is to help them make a life out of their passion, help them make money for something that they are passionate about doing. I believe that this is going to create a much happier world where everyone is doing what they love,” she said.
Established in 2016, Lemi once focused on travelers who blog their experiences from different business services on the platform, but it shifted to MSMEs amid the travel restrictions brought by the pandemic.
Lemi has more than 5,200 business partners, surpassing their goal of 1,000 business partners by mid-year.
“Our team right now is just focused on trying to make sure that we are providing the best products and the best experience to the businesses,” Ng said.
“We realized that especially with the digital age, ever-moving and ever-changing, we have to keep abreast of what exactly is it that will make the customer experience easier, simpler, so that they can really focus on what they do best,” she said.
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