According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the country's economy grew by 6.8 per cent in 2016, the fastest in three years. It also posted among the fastest GDP growths in Asia last year, right next to China (6.7 per cent) and Vietnam (6.2 per cent).
For start-ups considering expansion into the Philippines or starting a business there, the country presents several pluses.
Low cost of living
The Philippines is a relatively cheap place to live in. Manila constantly ranks lower than many cities including Bangkok and Jakarta in cost of living indexes (Mercer and ECA International). This translates to lower costs for all the things needed to start a business as well – office space, labour, overheads.
Highly educated population
Results from the National Statistics Office’s 2010 Census of Population and Housing (CPH) showed that 97.5 per cent of the 71.5 million individuals in the Philippines who were 10 years and older could read and write. Its English-speaking population is the fifth largest in the world. Having a common language as ubiquitous as English is important. Start-ups will have no problems hiring talents and certainly no language barrier.
Existing start-up culture
In Metro Manila, there is a cluster of start-ups known as Area 55. The majority of local start-ups are housed there. Tripid, a ride sharing app trying to solve Philippines’ notorious congestion; and Peekawoo, a dating website looking to make dating sane again, are all there.
The concentration of start-ups offers not only a hub where the innovation vibe is strong, it also provides a ready pool of resources and collaborative opportunities through close contact and networks, a bonus Kickstart President, Minette Navarrete, appreciates.
Space to grow
The Internet penetration in the Philippines is only 37 per cent compared to Singapore’s 73 per cent, according to the World Bank organisation. However, like many other third world countries, the Philippines skipped the computer age and went straight to the smartphone age thanks to the lower cost of phones and ease of use.
Considering how many start-ups are focused on the tech industry, the humble mobile app in the Philippines has plenty of potential. There are plenty of first-mover advantage to be had here.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the median age in the Philippines is 24 with local universities producing over 130,000 graduates in the information technology and engineering each year to add to this millennial population.
What this means is an abundance of skilled labour well-versed in programming languages and producing iOS and Android apps. Bringing job opportunities to them will halt or, at least, slow down the brain drain the country is experiencing because of the lack of well-paying jobs for skilled developers.