Director of Projects and Programmes, Micro, Small And Medium Enterprise (MSME) Division, Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Clifford Spencer.
Photo: Michael Sloley

The Government has partnered with two international firms to deliver digital marketing solutions and e-commerce opportunities to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

The first partnership got under way in August 2019 with one entity, Kalou, a Google-affiliated small business online marketing solution.

This initiative has resulted in increased online presence and access to resources that MSMEs would not normally come across.

According to the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, the Kalou arrangement allows merchants to create their own webpage in fewer than five minutes at no cost and offers top placement in Google’s search results in the Google Map section free of cost to its clients.

In an interview with JIS News, Director of Projects and Programmes, MSME Division, in the Ministry, Clifford Spencer, says having MSMEs transact businesses electronically is more important now as the country deals with the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We found that when we launched initially, there was a first wave of persons who joined on, and the uptake was good. There was a little lull in-between and then we find that over the past six months or so, the traffic has been increasing again, probably [due to] more awareness or the need becoming more apparent,” Mr. Spencer adds.

So far, more than 1,000 MSMEs have created webpages and have increased their market visibility to customers locally and overseas.

Persons transacting business with merchants who use the Kalou platform are required to make payment using PayPal.

Mr. Spencer says that the Ministry, in partnership with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), is seeking to roll out a stronger promotional campaign within the next few months that will allow more business/persons to become aware of the initiative and utilise it.

The Director informs that, recently, the Ministry has gone into partnership with Fygaro, an e-commerce generator that provides options to assist MSMEs with basic e-commerce services, through the JBDC, the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and other members of the MSME ecosystem.

“We have incorporated a new partner which gives a more turnkey solution, in terms of getting the money from the electronic commerce directly to their local account, and this is in partnership with NCB. We have been having those discussions since September and we have cemented that arrangement this October, so now we are in full flight,” Mr. Spencer says.

According to the Ministry, the Fygaro partnership offers businesses the opportunity to create their own website, facilitate online stores, payment buttons, links for social media, WhatsApp, invoicing, order management, online accounting and logistics integration.

Merchants operating via this platform will incur no setup cost, but are required to pay a minimal monthly fee of US$15 for the integrated suite of services. Under the arrangement with the Government, merchants who sign up with Fygaro will benefit from a three-month free trial period.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Fygaro, Ariel Rochwerger, tells JIS News that as part of the partnership, business owners will receive training on how to use the software, as well as how to market their businesses online.

“As part of this cooperation, we will be providing different types of webinars and show people how easy it is to launch an online business, how to do it the right way, how to do marketing for their website and how to use their database and contacts to start promoting their business and getting the best experience out of it,” Mr. Rochwerger says.

Apart from the ease of use, Fygaro also helps business owners automate many of their data operations.

“The potential for an entrepreneur is that he can use a software like Fygaro to automate pretty much all their day to day business, such as accounting; managing their inventory automatically, coordinating shipping with local couriers, like DHL Express, with just a few clicks from within their account and at the same time, being able to take payments and have the system to remind them to follow up with customers,” Mr. Rochwerger explains.

The CEO says the automatic reminders will be beneficial to business owners who offer custom services and need to follow up with clients on a regular basis.

“This will create not only an ecosystem that you can send out an invoice and relax… it is going to reach your customer; your customer will receive reminders that there is an overdue invoice,” he notes.

“They will have the option to pay with their credit or debit card from wherever in the world they are. It doesn’t matter if they have a cell phone, tablet or computer, they will be able to access that email or payment link and be able to complete the payment to your company,” Mr. Rochweger adds.

Meanwhile, Mr. Spencer is encouraging small business owners to take advantage of the ecommerce solutions being made available to them through the Ministry.

“If they go to the MSME web page on our website, they will able to have access via a clickable banner that says Fygaro or Kalou. And then they will be able to sign on from there. It is very simple and it is very straightforward and there is a virtual assistant to help them throughout that process. They can also go on to the JDBC website (www.jbdc.net),” he informs.

Both platforms (Kolau and Fygaro) are being utilised to further the Government’s goal of digitalising 25,000 MSMEs by 2022.

For more information, persons can call the JBDC at (876) 928 5161-5 or contact the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce at (876) 968-7116.

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