Sentro from UBX means no business gets left behind

UBX Head of SME Ventures Bjorn Pardo says Sentro wants to help MSMEs build their brands. Image credit: UBX
UBX Head of SME Ventures Bjorn Pardo says Sentro wants to help MSMEs build their brands. Image credit: UBX

Launched last year just as the pandemic was wreaking havoc on Philippine businesses, Sentro, the free online shop builder from UBX, has been helping micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) survive and adapt to the new normal.

“We wanted to provide MSMEs the capability to set up their own online shop that they can call their own. We want Sentro to be accessible to everyone starting an online business, which is why we made sure that using our platform would require little to no knowledge in tech and make it easy for even the non-techiest of individuals. In just eight months, the team was able to launch Sentro to the public during the first few weeks of the pandemic and the launch could not have been more timely as it was made available to MSMEs when they needed it most,” UBX Head of SME Ventures Bjorn Pardo told Digital Life Asia.

Addressing pain points

Pardo cited the three biggest pain points of MSMEs that are trying to embrace digital in order to survive in this pandemic and beyond. These three pain points are:

  • fulfilling and accepting payments
  • logistics
  • having their own website/online shop and keeping track of orders

“These same pain points that our MSMEs are experiencing are what drove Sentro into fruition and into what the platform is today. We focused on making Sentro the go-to operating system for online sellers by addressing these pain points and providing our users with: an online shop builder which they can use to create their own ecommerce website where they can showcase their business and sell their products and services; a built-in payment gateway (Bux) so that they don’t have to worry about accepting payments from customers using different payment methods; and a built-in logistics service provider (Mr. Speedy) so that they can book deliveries for their customers without having to open up a separate app or website,” Pardo said.

The mission of UBX, which is the financial technology arm of Union Bank of the Philippines, is to develop digital platforms and actively support MSMEs in growing their businesses. Since its launch on April 27 last year, Sentro already has 30,000 signed-up users and more than 10,000 created and published shops. On average, it takes just 2-5 minutes to create and publish an online shop using the platform, according to Pardo.

Helping MSMEs build their brand

Asked what is the advantage of using Sentro instead of existing ecommerce platforms for online sellers, Pardo replied: “We want to give our users their own website/online shop. A website that they can customize so that anyone who visits their website can truly appreciate the owner’s brand and identity. In Sentro we do not collect any commission on our users’ sales and we provide our online shop builder feature for free so that our users can focus their funds on other essential business needs.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating digital transformation and changing consumer behavior, expect Filipinos to continue embracing online transactions in the post-pandemic world. In fact, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno said last year that at least 50 percent of retail payment transactions in the country will shift to digital by 2023.

“Shopping online has its pros and cons but we can’t deny that online shopping has become exponentially more convenient with the different online apps and platforms that are being used. We at Sentro believe that ecommerce and transacting through online payment methods have now become a staple because of the limitations of physical contact brought by the pandemic,” Pardo said.

Pardo also shared that MSMEs can expect to benefit from new features and partnerships that Sentro is set to introduce.

“For experienced merchants, coming next are features that will allow them to further customize their stores to match their brand. For beginners, we are working on automatically designing an entire store using AI and machine learning technology. On the partnerships side, we are looking at adding more logistics partners to be able to better serve the entire country,” he said.

How about your business? What is your MSME doing to survive?