NANOTECHNOLOGY

MANILA,
June 28, 2004  (STAR) MY TWO CENTS’ WORTH By Dickson Co DFNN.COM  - I am sure you have read articles in Businessweek, Fortune and Forbes all expounding on the merits of nanotechnology. New companies are now sprouting with names like Nanogram, NanoOpto, Nanophase, NanoProducts, Nanosphere (or was it Nanu-Nanu, Mork’s nano company).

Businessweek defines nanotech as things with dimension no bigger than 100 nanometers, or 100-billionths of a meter. (Hmmm…I wonder how big the brains of our politicians are?)

Current products include chemicals produced with microscopic catalytic particles, sun lotions with invisibly small zinc-oxide flakes to shield against ultraviolet rays, emulsifiers that keep paint from separating, and coatings that make eyeglass lenses more scratch-resistant or extend the life of industrial tools.

The US National Science Foundation pegs nanotech as a $1-trillion market by 2015. The venture capital community is now touting it as the Next Big Thing, an exciting convergence of biology, physics and IT.

My Two Cents: Wait and see. The Philippines is so far behind, we can’t even count our ballots in a timely manner.

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Nano-Entrepreneurship

A couple of months ago, my wife and I were invited to watch the Passion of the Christ. The Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) sponsored it to help raise funds for its micro-entrepreneur program under its BCBP Ecoreach Foundation Inc. (the "Foundation").

Curious about what the Brotherhood and the Foundation were all about, I contacted Bobby Lavina, the head of the Foundation whose day job is being the CFO of the PHINMA group, to get more details.

The BCBP started 25 years ago as a prayer group to instill Christian values into the marketplace. Its membership has grown to an army of 30,000 businessmen and professionals (in fields like banking, medicine, architecture and advertising, among others) in 110 chapters nationwide. In the last three years, instead of just looking in and meditating, they started to institutionalize reaching out to help their kababayans.

The Foundation was born two years ago. It was patterned after the famous micro lending groups like Grameen and the ASA banks of India and Bangladesh. They target housewives, apparently because househusbands tend to drink the loan down at the next watering hole. They target women who have at least two to three years experience in the business where they need funding like sari-sari store, BBQ or fishball stand or any other micro business.

They then organize these women into groups of four or five as the base cell to cross-guarantee each others’ Level 1 loan of P2,000 each. These Level 1 loans are outstanding for at most 25 weeks during which time group members meet once a week with a Foundation Development Officer to make installment payments and for business training. A BCBP member also attends for training on the spiritual side. During this period of loan payback, the borrowers are also required to remit a weekly saving of P7.50 per P1,000 they borrowed. Once they pay back the Level 1 loan and put aside savings, they qualify for a Level 2 loan of P4,000 each, and then Level 3 for P6,000 each. After about three years, assuming that they have been faithful in all their payments, they should have saved about P6,000, and they graduate because their accumulated savings should now be able to sustain them.

To date, the Foundation has lent out P1.2 million and count 450 housewives as customers, 200 of whom are already in their Level 2 or 3 cycles. Assuming an average Pinoy family size of six, if these 200 housewives graduate from the program, the Brotherhood has just removed 1,200 people from the poverty roll. Can you imagine what they can do if the Foundation has 120 million? And the program rolled out nationwide?…At least 450,000 beneficiaries and 120,000 people off the welfare roll.

In a related article, the ADB recently approved a few million dollars to support similar organizations, with the goal of reducing poverty.

My Two Cents: I know we can’t fix the world but we should at least stop complaining and start doing something about it. Remember the old saying "Teach them to fish and you feed them forever."

If you want to learn more about the Foundation or if you can help by sending money (maybe P2,000?), then you may contact Roberto Atendido, treasurer of the BCBP Ecoreach Foundation, 12th floor, Equitable Bank Tower, 8751, Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.

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Dickson Co is CFO (C is for Cheap) for Dfnn, Intelligent Wave Philippines and HatchAsia.com. For comments or suggestions, e-mail twocents88@yahoo.com.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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