TECHNOLOGY

This Philippine Start-up is Helping Migrant Workers Provide for their Families

BeamAndGo lets these modern heroes send money and digital gift certificates

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BY Adelle Chua - 10 Mar 2017

send money overseas

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There are millions of Filipinos working overseas, enduring hardship and loneliness so they could provide for the needs of their families back home.

The act of sending money in itself is problematic – and entails a lot of waiting.

“The OFWs spend hours waiting in line to remit cash, and on the other end, their families also wait to get the money before they can use it to go to buy their needs,” says Albert Christian Go, senior vice president of BeamAndGo.

Go should know. He and other members of the management team used to work in Singapore under different corporate and development organizations. They saw firsthand the struggles of those working abroad. As they spoke to more overseas workers, they also discovered that efficiency was not the only issue. “Sometimes, money meant for basic goods is used for luxury items, expensive gadgets, even alcohol, and gambling!” he says.

 

Flashing the sign

Two years ago the team acted on their idea by putting up BeamAndGo, patterned after a US company that helps migrants from the Dominican Republic buy groceries for their families left in the home country.

Through the site, OFWs can buy digital gift certificates from various stores; their families back home can use the certificates by flashing the codes. The start-up is now in partnership with over 20 establishments – supermarkets, department stores, pharmacies, mobile phone carriers, electronics, and personal care stores.

It has nearly 100,000 registered members, 20% of which are active and regular in their purchases. Just last year, BeamAndGo observed a sales growth of 900%. Migrant workers from Japan, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates are among the most active customers.

“Over 10,000 people talk about us on Facebook every day,” Go says.

 

Eyes on the underserved

Many overseas workers and their families course their transactions through banks. They are normally those who live in urban areas with many bank branches. But having a bank account entails submitting documents and maintaining a certain minimum amount, aside from having to physically travel to the branches–problematic when one lives in far-flung communities.

Being un-banked is not just about the lack of a bank account. It also carries other negative effects. Jonathan Chua, co-founder, says “without a bank, an OFW will not have the means to save, will always have to do cash transactions which are difficult to track and prone to misuse, and will not have access to credit.”

 

A variety of tools

The BeamAndGo team used their digital and marketing expertise to deliver a service for who are termed the “modern heroes” of the Philippine economy.

They created an application program interface for channel partners to connect to the platform. They use Facebook, YouTube, the BeamAndGo blog, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, events, and co-sponsorships to connect to existing and potential customers.

It also conducts financial and wellness education seminars for the families of migrant workers.

“We built everything from the ground up,” says Chua. “This gives us the flexibility to add and change features to our exact specifications. We now have a solid team of developers.”

 

A work in progress

Despite their quick success, the people behind BeamAndGo know a good product is never stagnant. “We are always looking to improve the features and functionalities. Every day we also talk to supermarkets and business owners around the Philippines and payment centers around the world,” Go says.

He expects their numbers to increase with higher smartphone and Internet penetration. For now, they are attuned to the needs and issues of migrants who provide for their families in the provinces. They are also looking at corporate employees because“they face similar issues. This is a market we are following and when the time is right, we will also offer our services to this segment.”