Marvin Agustin shares secrets to business survival during the pandemic

The digital entrepreneur highlights the value of listening to people and health investments




“Healthcare is expensive.”

A one-liner quote from Captain Raymond Holt from the comically epic Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which struck a chord to Gina Linetti as she decides to part with the precinct in season six.

In this era, healthcare is indeed expensive — passing off as an indispensable investment. For serial entrepreneurs, healthcare plans seemed like an extra expense. That’s what celebrity chef and digital entrepreneur Marvin Agustin thought of, like any other entrepreneur. Especially when your business doesn’t make enough profit during the pandemic.

But a dawning realization struck Agustin similar to how Gina Linetti had a light bulb moment the instance she realized that healthcare is indeed expensive. Agustin knows that well.

Having to follow safety protocols and being overly cautious about the threat of COVID are points that gave him an idea to provide healthcare plans to all his employees.

A people-first mindset

“We won’t be able to operate if people, your employees, and your staff would get sick, and also not safe for the customers,” said the celebrity chef.

People. Employees. Marvin Agustin understands that businesses won’t thrive without their people. Despite being an “extra cost,” health plans were a surefire investment to keep his people safe, functional, and happy. In the end, the cost won’t be as high as compared to when your employees get hospitalized.

What bugs entrepreneurs are the availability of quality healthcare at a reasonable price. Agustin had believed that only big companies get to provide health plans, not until he chanced upon Maxicare. Surprisingly, the celebrity chef found a credible company offering affordable and convenient health plans for both him and his employees.


Not all quality healthcare is unreachable as many people perceived

Maxicare’s reputation has put off Agustin like many other entrepreneurs. The company seemed expensive and an extra expense — being 33 years in the business with over 1.6 million members, and widely accepted over 1,000 hospitals and clinics around the country.

But Maxicare has an array of healthcare plans, particularly tailored to small-to-medium enterprises. There are plans that are a lot less than PhP 21,000 — which is the average of healthcare expenses that SMEs spend on employees per year — and even as low as PhP 4,600 to PhP 6,000 per employee per year.

The computation can wrack a nerve as your expenses pile up which pushed most enterprises to shy away from healthcare plans. But in return, employees don’t get access to quality healthcare and businesses don’t get protection from unplanned expenses caused by unforeseen circumstances — diseases, pandemics, accidents, and so on.

The best investment for a growing business

Marvin Agustin understood this well: healthcare plans are an investment for employees and the business itself. The digital entrepreneur realized that when his employees are in tiptop shape, his businesses are more profitable.

Jennifer Haw, Operations Manager of Yummyverse Group and one of Agustin’s employees, revealed how relieved and happy she feels knowing she’s taken care of. She has highlighted the importance of having peace of mind brought by Maxicare through their affordable plans.

“We won’t be able to operate if people, your employees, and your staff would get sick.”

Haw advises not to be frugal to people since they’re the foundation of businesses. Haw even applauded Agustin, touting the healthcare plans as the celebrity chef’s best investment for his business so far.

And it has been paying off, especially in this pandemic where the food business has been disrupted and has taken on too many challenges that the industry is still trying to overcome. From the threat of contracting the virus in numerous transactions to the struggles of making a profit, to taking a toll on our mental health.

Surviving entrepreneurship

Despite the struggles Agustin has faced, he was glowing with optimism; seemingly ready to brave the future and whatever it holds. At least during the roundtable. I was giddy looking at his ostensibly never-aging face until a question sparked in my head: What would be his advice to entrepreneurs struggling in this pandemic, too?

Agustin brazenly responded to my question, hinting about the uncertainty of the future. “We don’t know what works. What we thought are our advantages? We’re all back to square one.”

“What is important now is we listen to the new challenges, to the people that we work with, to our audience — old and new. So that we will be able to navigate this pandemic and get out of it alive,” he added.

The celebrity chef highlighted the importance of patience and even asked people to meet him at the finish line, encouraging people to be strong so everyone can attain their goals.

He further added, “We have to listen. This is the perfect time to step back and really figure out anong importante sa inyo.” (We have to listen. This is the perfect time to step back and really figure out what’s important to you.)

Finding the right plan

Maxicare offers a variety of healthcare plans. There’s Maxicare Plus, a comprehensive HMO program for small businesses with 10-99 employees. For micro-businesses, there’s a Maxicare Starter Plan apt for 3-9 employees.

For a different kind of premium, Maxicare BusinessEssential is Maxicare SME’s most affordable offer. The plan has options to have an Outpatient Care Program or an Outpatient Care + Confinement Care HMO program for companies with 3-99 employees.

Maxicare understands that businesses are wary of its piling expenses, which is why they put it into consideration when they offered affordable premiums.

Micro-businesses can get a plan for as low as PhP 4,651 per employee per year. Meanwhile, small businesses can go as low as PhP 6,260 if they have 10-19 employees or PhP 5,301 for those with 20-99 employees.


Google: Digitizing businesses key to P5 trillion value by 2030

Google to play big part in PH economy



Image by Genevieve Catapangan

The digital transformation of businesses could create up to PhP5 trillion in annual economic value by 2030, a new Google Philippines-commissioned report finds.

Of this value, PhP3.5 trillion could come from technologies that help businesses mitigate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and future similar events.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Businesses derive 363.4 billion pesos in annual benefits from Google tools and services, through increased revenues, millions of connections with customers and greater efficiencies, saving time and money;
  • App developers in the Philippines earn 384 million pesos in annual revenue through Google Play, reaching over one billion users globally;
  • Consumers receive 214.5 billion pesos in annual benefits by experiencing greater convenience, access to information, and enhanced productivity. Search saves users almost five days a year; and
  • By enabling businesses to unlock new revenue streams and expand their businesses through the use of Google Ads, AdSense, and YouTube, Google indirectly supports over 110,000 jobs in the Philippines

This could be a game-changer for the Philippine economy, as the country is still hard-struck by the global health situation and has lagged far behind other nations.

Prepared by economists at AlphaBeta, the report explores eight transformative technologies and the robust economic potential they bring to Philippine industries.

This includes Artificial Intelligence (AI) which can be used to drive data-based public health interventions, mobile internet to help digitize retail distribution channels, and the Internet of Things (IoT) for use in supply chain tracking.

Digitizing MSMEs

To fully realize and unlock the opportunities presented by digital transformation, the report has identified three main pillars of action the Philippines could take: enhancing digital skills training and education, accelerating digital adoption and innovation, and promoting digital trade opportunities.

There exists a huge potential for the Philippines, and a lot of positive work has already been done in this area within the last year.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its secretary Ramon Lopez is wary of the important role digital transformation plays when it comes to the country’s economic recovery post-pandemic.

Which is why Google and the DTI have been digitizing small businesses through its Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Caravan campaign for the past two years, being able to train more than 46,000 MSME business owners and employees.

In fact, Google’s tools and services are already helping the Philippine digital economy, as local business, consumers and the wider society derive over 578 billion pesos in annual benefits through increased revenues and millions of connections online.

Increasing sales

One of the businesses that benefited from the digital training workshop is Germano’s Chilli which continues to thrive until today.

Germano’s Chilli started in 2008 to recreate the experience of eating chili garlic from restaurants to people’s homes. The concept was fairly new at that time and the business struggled with brand awareness.

Owner Gerome Panlilio then took a Google Philippines-hosted seminar in 2018 to get himself acquainted with features such as Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) on Google Search and Maps, as well as vital knowledge and tools.

This enabled his products to be searchable online, which led to more revenue. Before the pandemic, Germano’s Chilli’s online sales only peaked at 3 percent, but in the past year and a half, it increased to 15 percent.

Digitizing is the way to go

Google Philippines is aiming to aid more businesses like Germano’s Chilli, creating a world that supports digital freelancing and accelerates the shift towards digital payments to let go of disruptions to business operations.

Providing business such access to global markets and equipping them with the necessary digital capabilities to expand reach, business will be able to manage the long-term economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Facebook reportedly planning to change its company name

To focus more on the metaverse



Facebook really doesn’t want to be Facebook right now. Amid the wave of situations plaguing the company now, Facebook is reportedly changing its company name later this month.

Reported by The Verge, Facebook is changing its company name to focus more on other products in its lineup. Currently, Facebook’s name comes from its huge social media network. Since the start of its network, the company already expanded into different industries including the virtual and augmented reality markets.

Facebook’s new name will reportedly focus on these new products which they have collectively named the metaverse. Even outside of its new peripherals, they also own other networks like WhatsApp and Instagram.

However, a paradigm shift might not be the only reason for a name change.

A tough whistleblower situation has recently revealed a lot of controversies going on behind the scenes of the social media platform. And it’s not their first controversy either. Prior to the ongoing situation, the company was already facing anti-competition controversies last year. A rebrand can potentially save the company from further damage.

Facebook isn’t the first among its contemporaries to create a new company outside of what it is known for. Google, arguably the most popular example of such, founded its current umbrella company called Alphabet. Though Google still exists, Alphabet deals with the brand’s other endeavors.

For its part, Facebook will reportedly announce its new name during its Connect conference on October 28.

SEE ALSO: Ray-Ban, Facebook team up to create Ray-Ban Stories

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Converge commits to 100% renewable energy

Its main office now runs in clean energy



Converge finally switches to 100 percent renewable energy to power its main office in Pasig City. The company committed to a total of 2.5 megawatts of geothermal energy up to 2023.

First Gen, a clean energy corporation, will be the energy provider for the Internet company. Converge is serious about reducing its carbon footprint and marching its sustainability commitment.

“The Philippines is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and this has direct implications on the future of our business too. We have chosen to take decisive action now. This is the first major step in our journey to becoming carbon neutral,” said Benjamin Azada, Converge’s Chief Strategy Officer.

The clean energy will be sourced from the Tongonan geothermal power plant in the province of Leyte. During the first year, the energy firm will provide a maximum of 1.5 megawatts, and will increase to 2.5 megawatts through its second year.

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