Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 13th 2017 Contents BG6 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt JULY 13 • 2017
With the price of oil hovering at US$40
per barrel and T&T continuing to be
in a recession, the T&T Chamber of
Industry and Commerce (TTCIC)
wants to provide support for small-
and medium-sized entrepreneurs as
well as the wider business community and has launched its
online platform called Business Insights.
The Business Insights platform is being launched at a time
when the external environment within which the business
community operates is riddled with challenges such as a
depreciating TT-dollar, decreased consumer spending and
several other factors.
Despite the challenging environment, the TTCIC wants to
form a deeper nexus between the business community and
tertiary education institutions which provide training so that
industry relevant training can occur.
The Business Guardian met with chief executive officer of
the TTCIC, Gabriel Faria, at its Westmoorings headquarters
to discuss the initiative and its importance to increasing rev-
enue for T&T.
Sponsored by Standard Distributors Ltd, the JMMB Group,
the Guardian Group and others, the initiative is made up of two
parts: a training portal and a presentation portal that provides
information and support on pertinent business topics such as
pension reform for example.
For 2017, consultants who are the chamber's members and
non-members would have free access to the online portal Faria
"So if you are searching as a consultant, only chamber mem-
bers would have access this year.
"In 2018, it would be opened to the entire business commu-
nity for a small fee. It might be $100, for instance," Faria said.
Explaining the search facility on the portal, Faria said the
search can be narrowed to the expertise needed, the sector or
industry needed, or by topic.
Another feature of the site is that the entrepreneur does not
necessarily have to physically visit the chamber to participate
in the event. They can be part of the online audience.
If they prefer to listen to the training session at a later time,
they can request a training session "on demand."
Gaining access to the online portal can be done using a com-
puter or via a smartphone.
Asked what the TTCIC has done differently when it comes to
this portal, Faria said: "Every tertiary education institution in
T&T: UTT, UWI, Costatt, Roytec, University of the Southern
Caribbean get access to all our sessions free of charge. The
reason we did that is really to create a nexus between busi-
ness and education. Too many times we hear universities talk,
students talk or businesses talk about the fact that what we
are getting out of the university isn't what they are looking
for (in the job market). What we are trying to do is create a
nexus between both organisations (education and business)."
What is clear, he said, is that the portal will not remain static.
It will change based on the feedback from the business
Business incubators such as UTT's business incubator, YBTT
would be partnered.
"All the business incubators would be given access to the
training and the portal. We had discussion with the World
Bank, with Inter-American Development Bank and the Eco-
nomic Development Advisory Board and they are helping us
to identify what we can help them build," Faria said.
He said one of the most important questions which he has
been asked is whether the chamber's online payment portal
Faria reassured that the business portal is a certified secured
socket one which means that the chamber is certified to handle
Support for entrepreneurs is not the only initiative on this
portal as talks with other members of the business community
continue in order to find investors for some of the businesses,
"Right now we are actually in discussions with other organ-
isations to create a framework for angel investing which would
allow some of our members to provide investment funds to
some of these business incubators."
Asked how inclined other businesses would be to invest in
the incubators, Faria said the chamber has had a number of
meetings with a couple of the angel investor groups and "they
were very happy to know the chamber was going to create a
framework to provide that structure.
"What's happening right now is that there isn't a formal
structure in place (for this kind of support). So the chamber
has decided to take up the initiative. We are going to become
a conduit to help the small start-ups to understand investors'
requirements," Faria added.
"When it comes to lending, the general complaint from
entrepreneurs has been that the banks tend to be hesitant to
lend, but when a financial institution sees that angel investors
have put their money behind a start-up they (the financial
institution) are more receptive to participate in that business
because they realise it is more than just an idea at stake.
"It shows there are credible businesspeople who have decided
to participate in this entrepreneurial activity and therefore they
feel more confident that the business has a stronger potential
Faria added that the role of the TTCIC is not to replace the
incubator but to provide support until the business comes
out of the incubator.
Speaking specifically about the relevance of social media
as a means of connecting with people, he added, "there are
different ways to connect with people and social media is one,
digital marketing is another and traditional media as well. There
are so many ways to connect. By offering the training to stu-
dents in university, the chamber becomes more relevant to the
next generation of leaders because up until now a student at
university student might not have engaged with the chamber
until he is working in a business, perhaps in a management
role. Students in the not-for-profit institutions such as UTT
are going to log onto the chamber site and get access to the
training," he said.
By offering the training
to students in university,
the chamber becomes
more relevant to the next
generation of leaders
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