The country’s oldest business house, the Ayala group, is embarking on a comprehensive hand-holding program for about 250,000 small and medium enterprise (SMEs) in its ecosystem, including shopping mall tenants, suppliers and banking clients grappling with business disruptions caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Ayala launched the Ayala Enterprise Circle (AEC), a synergistic initiative that is focused on helping the group’s SME partners continue their operations and recover from the pandemic.
“Today’s times are certainly unprecedented and very challenging for enterprises of all sizes, much especially for our SMEs who have always been critical players in our country’s economy. We realized that now, more than ever, we need to accelerate our efforts to proactively reach out to you,” Ayala Corp. chair and chief executive Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said during his welcome address at AEC’s first ever webinar attended by the group’s SME clients, suppliers and partners.
“We envision the Ayala Enterprise Circle as a network where you, our valued SME partners, can have access to exclusive Ayala Group solutions and offerings, expert mentorship from industry leaders, online dialogues and masterclasses and business-matching and co-marketing opportunities. We are very excited for what this program has to offer, and we hope that you would continue to join us in this journey as members of this exclusive network,” he added.
The Ayala group has been working since the onset of the pandemic to help meet SMEs’ critical needs such as financial support, business continuity and healthcare.
As of May 19, the Ayala group has extended P766 million worth of free services and waiver of business operations fees to SMEs, including rental condonation. Ayala Malls alone has waived P280 million covering more than 2,400 of SME tenants in the last two months.
Ayala’s banking arm, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) has also encouraged its SME clients to take advantage of its loan payment deferment program of up to 90 days to help manage cash flows that were disrupted by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). BPI also waived interbank transfer fees when transferring funds to other local banks for the duration of the ECQ.
BPI is now working with the state-owned Philippine Guarantee Corp. (Philguarantee) to refine its loan products for qualified clients. Philguarantee has opened a P120-billion micro-SME credit guarantee program to help businesses bounce back from the crisis.
Ayala is also helping SMEs cope with the disruptions brought by the ECQ through various business continuity solutions. Through Globe Telecom, the group is offering various connectivity solutions to keep businesses running from home or to support their online operations.
Similarly, Ayala Malls and Zalora are exploring new retail and e-commerce models to give SME tenants an alternative digital channel, with the physical shopping malls serving as community pick-up points for digital purchases.
Lastly, the Ayala group has been working to help protect the health of its workforce, including its SME network, by ensuring the continued availability of AC Health’s clinic, pharmaceutical and telemedicine services. AC Health’s HealthNow, a web-based online consultation platform, is free of charge until June.