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By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Assistant Editor
The past 35 years have seen BusinessWorld evolving from solely a newspaper covering business developments to a platform for events where its intended audience get to hear discussions about the latest insights and outlooks. Among these events that the media outfit holds regularly, the BusinessWorld Economic Forum has established itself as one of the most-awaited annual gatherings for the Philippine business community.
The forum started in 2016, when BusinessWorld saw potential in mounting an annual on-ground large-scale event as an additional revenue stream and content platform. By that time, the newspaper industry started seeing a continuous decline in print revenue.
The inaugural Economic Forum was themed “Charting Progress to 2020,” with MVP Group of Companies Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, former Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, and former Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo as key speakers, alongside several panelists from both public and private sectors. The forum was attended by 850 top executives, business owners, and decision-makers from different sectors in the country.
Succeeding editions further made the Economic Forum an event that the business community cannot afford to miss since it highlights the latest key issues, developments, challenges, and opportunities shaping the economy.
Bringing these things to the fore has been the forum’s trademark, BusinessWorld Executive Vice-President Lucien C. Dy Tioco noted.
“The Economic Forum really speaks of BusinessWorld’s clout over the business community, and it has served as the brand’s premium that people have regarded as the benchmark for knowing the state of our economy,” he shared in an interview.
The annual BusinessWorld Economic Forum is also notable for bringing together government officials, executives, thought leaders, and industry experts from the country and even abroad in one place.
“It (the forum) helps bridge the gap between the private and public sector, and it gives them the opportunity to dialogue and eventually work together for the benefit and growth of the country as a whole,” BusinessWorld Sales and Marketing Director Jay R. Sarmiento shared.
“Even when we were doing a physical event (of the forum), you could really see the people who are the ‘Who’s Who’ of business in one place. That is remarkable, which you don’t see in other business conferences,” Mr. Dy Tioco added.
Year 2020 brought a long lockdown across the country due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but this did not stop BusinessWorld from holding the forum. Instead, it shifted from on-site to online in November that year as the BusinessWorld Virtual Economic Forum (BWVEF), with the theme “Forecasts 2021: Reboot. ReThink. ReShape.”
That edition had 43 local and international personalities, including Børge Brende of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Bernardo Mariano, Jr. of the World Health Organization, Ndiamé Diop of World Bank, and Kelly Bird of Asian Development Bank (ADB). The discussions focused on how businesses and the economy can move forward amid the pandemic, with topics like “The Great Reset,” COVID-19 vaccination, digital transformation, and “new normal” trends, among others.
As digitalization has accelerated during the pandemic — from businesses digitally upgrading their operations to consumers turning to digital tools for work and transactions — BusinessWorld put the digital economy in focus with a special edition of the BWVEF, themed “The Digital Economy PH: Towards a Faster Economic Recovery,” in May 2021.
Keynote addresses were delivered by Fernando Zobel De Ayala, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Ayala Corp.; Bernadette Nacario, country director of Google Philippines; and Kais Marzouki, chairman and CEO of Nestlé Philippines. Discussions centered on bridging the ‘digital divide,’ hybrid work, and omnichannel strategies, to name a few.
The following November, the virtual forum brought together almost 50 international and local experts to draw and form the “Recovery Roadmap PH: 2022 and Beyond.” This edition was highlighted by keynote presentations from Changyong Rhee of the International Monetary Fund and Francisco Betti of the WEF. Discussions tackled pandemic-led shifts, business resilience and sustainability, emerging industries, and connectivity, smart cities, climate change, and circular economy, among many others.
“It really showcases the Philippines’ resiliency… because we have provided several cases where there have been success stories and several innovations by the Filipino business community,” Mr. Dy Tioco said of the 2021 edition.
Conversations on moving forward in the new normal continued last May when the forum delved into the various accelerated and emerging changes that are set to influence businesses in the near future.
With the theme “Revolutions 2022: Navigating the Changed World,” the recent BWVEF featured presentations on four tracks characterizing the ‘revolutions’ that are set to define the global landscape, namely Sustainability, Industrial, Internet, and Human Revolutions.
An economic outlook and agenda for developing Asia, delivered by ADB Chief Economist Albert Park, set the tone for the forum’s track presentations and related discussions, which covered topics like transformations in corporate leadership, setting net-zero targets, shifting business game plans, the metaverse, and the “Great Resignation” trend, among others.
BWVEF has been hosted on an interactive platform featuring a 360-view degree, animated videos mimicking a physical venue; an open room for networking opportunities; exhibit hall; live polls; photo booth; and a comments and questions tab for interaction with the speakers.
With the insightful discussions it has held with top local and global minds, the BusinessWorld Virtual Economic Forum has become a valuable asset for BusinessWorld, making the brand further stand out among other media companies. Along with other digital-focused initiatives, the forum has helped the company ride the disruptive tides of the pandemic.
The BWVEF in 2020 is notable for having gathered 1,200 attendees, with 40% of attendees comprising C-level executives and department heads. Going beyond its target attendees by 108%, BWVEF 2021 had a total of 538 attendees, 66% of which are presidents, vice-presidents, C-level executives, directors, and regional heads. BWVEF 2022, on the other hand, garnered 651 registrants.
Complementing these numbers, feedback from attendees, speakers, and sponsors further shows the forum’s established relevance.
“The expressions of gratitude given to us by the attendees from the comments box, the positive feedback from speakers as well as their willingness to always accept our invitation, the influx of new sponsors, and the other sponsors’ continued patronage of our forum from physical to digital are clear proof of the success of the forum,” Ms. Sarmiento shared.
Further testifying to the Economic Forum’s solid relevance are recent recognitions BusinessWorld received from esteemed award-giving bodies.
The first BWVEF is among the winning entries in the 19th Philippine Quill Awards, which honors the best communication programs, tools, and research projects. That edition is also one of the top contenders under the Communication Skills division of the awards program. The top awardees of the 19th Philippine Quill Awards will be announced on Aug. 18.
BWVEF 2021, meanwhile, won a special award from the 21st Asian Media Awards (AMA) of the World Association of News Publishers, the global organization of the world’s press.
The said edition was given a special Silver award for the Best Revenue Diversification Project/Product/Service under small/medium news media companies with annual revenue of less than US$10 million. The category recognizes “new innovative news-related projects/products/services which engage audiences and increase media brand awareness while creating a new and sustainable revenue stream.”
For BusinessWorld Editor-in-Chief Wilfredo G. Reyes, this most recent award proves how BusinessWorld can effectively and productively transcend from the paper into a very different platform.
“This achievement acknowledged our ability to promptly seize opportunities to produce and deliver content, and at the same time earn from doing so. Meaningful revenue diversification has been newspapers’ elusive quest for decades,” Mr. Reyes said.
With the special award from AMA, BusinessWorld joins this year’s roster of reputable Asian publications, which include Japan’s Nikkei Asia, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Singapore’s SPH Media, and Indonesia’s Media Indonesia.
“I just feel that our win on the Asian stage is just one step over being recognized globally,” Mr. Dy Tioco shared.
The next BusinessWorld Economic Forum is planned to be held this November in a hybrid mode. Delegates can choose between attending online or on-site.
“We’re really excited because it’s a chance to be seeing face-to-face again. Fingers crossed, hopefully, there’s nothing untoward that will happen by that time,” Mr. Dy Tioco said.