At the first FEME Forum last October 8, about 50 people were gathered to listen to four personalities share their experiences and best practices on the topic ‘How to promote your business.’ Fifty percent of the guests were entrepreneurs, including the managing director and majority owner of the hosting venue, Itamae Japanese Restaurant in Deira.
Gil Herico led the panelists as the most senior person in terms of years living in the Gulf and scope of responsibilities as Philippine Agriculture Attache in the Middle East and African Region, including Iraq, Syria, Iran, CIS countries, Russia, India and Pakistan.
The Office of Agricultural Attache was established in July 2008 to promote export and investment of Philippine agricultural products. Herico disclosed that direct foreign investments in banana and pineapple farming in the Philippines by Kuwaiti and Bahraini groups have amounted to US$ 60 million.
“Destination of our bananas and pineapples are mostly to the Iranian market with a share of 50 percent of our total export of the said fresh fruits totaling US$ 650 million dollars last year,” he added.
Herico and Commercial Attache of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center, Eric Elnar, offered their offices to assist potential entrepreneurs.
“As Commercial Attache, we promote franchising of Philippine brands through seminars, business matching to bring together franchise owners and franchisees, due diligence advice for both Filipino franchisor and overseas franchisee, and promotional activities for franchise events both abroad and in the Philippines. We work with various stakeholders in the franchising sector, such as the industry associations, in promoting franchising to overseas Filipinos as part of the micro, small, and medium enterprise development in the country,” Elnar explained.
The slow and silent movement of Filipino professionals transforming into entrepreneurs will gradually be noticed in the mainstream UAE English media. That is if the entrepreneurs know how to promote their brands, products and services using publicity as a marketing tool.
Though there are now Filipino-centric newspapers, radio programs and TV news in the UAE, Filipino companies and entrepreneurs should aim to be covered by the UAE English media to be exposed to other expatriates as a way to expand their market reach.
Jay Hilotin, one of the web editors of Gulf News and an experienced newspaper journalist in Saudi Arabia and UAE encouraged the entrepreneurs to get involved in socially-relevant activities. “Every business is part of the community so one way to promote is to become a part of the community. It enhances your brand. It boosts your standing in the eyes of the customers. Be a part of a community campaign. Take part in things that are seen by society as important.”
This was echoed by freelance broadcast journalist Rachel Salinel of The Filipino Channel of ABS-CBN and Tag 91.1 FM radio of Arabia Radio Network. She said in order to be covered and reported a business story should have the elements of what comprise a compelling news item such as the presence of a prominent person, a human interest attraction and even an unusual or odd feature.
When asked about what they learned from the forum, these were some feedbacks:
JR Papel, founder of the Innovation Fund or I-Fund which supports aspiring entrepreneurs from the Ateneo School of Government’s Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Program:
“It was a great initiative catering and showcasing Pinoy businessmen in the UAE. The room was full and packed and engagement was so high. As mentioned and supported by Eric Elnar, we can create groups and investment circles to be able to pool resources and connections and set up businesses. With these, investment risks are lessened and business opportunities are optimized.”
Ken Peralta, Brand Manager, Little Manila:
“Media plays a big part in the success of a business whether it be radio, TV, newspaper and social media. It is creating the right approach and making the correct calendar in promoting your business.”
Malou Prado, Managing Director and CEO of MPQ Tourism:
“I like what Rachel Salinel said about protecting your business integrity and sharing your business story with the media.”
Gemmy Lontoc, Head – Corridor Marketing – Southeast Asia, UAE Exchange:
“From Rachel, I learned the importance of any business to have a story behind a news feature for it to have audience appeal. From Sir Gil, I learned that agriculture is one area where global Filipinos can invest in. From Sir Eric, I learned that global Filipinos can strive to have multiple income streams by having both active and passive income. From Jay, I learned the importance of social media in any business.”
“For Filipinos who want to set up a business in the UAE, we help them by sharing information on the registration process, giving them tips on how to do business in the Middle East, introducing them to reputable business partners, helping them in doing background checks on potential buyers or suppliers, and any other assistance they may require in starting their enterprise here,” said Elnar.
Herico added that they conduct OFW Investment Forum as part of the Reintegration Program for those based here and returning Filipinos to be involved in agricultural farming in closed cooperation with DOLE/OWWA and DTI.
It was a very good gathering because the three Filipino business groups were also present, namely Philippine Business Council-Dubai, Philippine Business Council-Abu Dhabi and Filipino Association of Middle East Entrepreneurs.
See you at the next FEME Forum to be hosted by Fiesta Pinoy and New Cabalen. FEME stands for Filipino Excellence in the Middle East which is an advocacy I started in September 2008 when I conducted a PR Seminar for Filipino professionals, entrepreneurs and community leaders. In October 2010, the FEME radio talk show commenced on Dubai Eye 103.8 FM with myself and Rachel Salinel as co-host.
This year the FEME Connect Directory was launched at the Philippine Independence Day celebrations on June 3 in Dubai. It is a free directory listing of Filipino professionals and entrepreneurs. In partnership with Dagaz HR Consultancy, the next edition will be launched in January 2017. You can register your name as a professional or entrepreneur via the websitewww.femeconnect.com.