Slow Internet kills business

Story by Irene C. Perez

Photos by Leo Sabangan II

Poor Internet connection in the Philippines is one issue we were hoping President Aquino would address in his recent State of the Nation address. It directly affects most Filipinos businesses, especially those operating online such as clothes supplier Rachell “Mimi” Elento-Gonzales.

Mimi established her online store Mimi’s Closet on 2011 with a P4,000 budget. She ordered 30 pieces of free-size dresses from a dress shop and sold it on her Facebook page, mostly to family and friends. From a simple shop, her network grew and she started supplying clothes to wholesalers in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. Over the years, orders from as far as Bahrain, Dubai and Canada started coming in. She now ships 200-500 items of clothing a week to several destinations.

Mimi’s Closet was a one-woman business, a side project to augment her salary from working as “virtual assistant” for online clients abroad. Having a svelte figure, Mimi served as the model for her wares. She took photos of herself wearing the dresses using a camera with timer. She edited the photos and uploaded them on Facebook in albums which served as her brochure. She took orders, packaged the items and shipped them via courier.

Sales has been good. She went full-time into her online business, and her husband Juriele Gonzalez eventually joined in managing. They were able to buy a car which serves as their delivery vehicle, and established themselves as a trusted and credible supplier of affordable woman’s clothes.

Mimi’s Closet gained over 8,000 likes on Facebook as of this writing, and has become a source of on-trend dresses. Bestsellers are maxi dresses, jumpsuits and basics such as little black dresses that can be had for as low as P250 a piece. New collections are uploaded on Facebook twice a week. The couple also supply exclusive designs such as Muslim clothes to clients in Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato.

‘No connection at all’

Juriele says selling online instead of having a physical store saves them operations costs, but having a reliable Internet connection, aside from quality products, is a must. “But there are days when there’s no connection at all.”

Mimi and Juriele have subscribed to several Internet providers over the years, and seem like none delivered services as promised.

“We have been a Smart subscriber for seven years but it set a bandwidth limit, so we switched to Globe, which hardly have signal in our place in Antipolo,” explained Mimi. “Now we are subscribed to a PLDT plan which we pay for P2,700 a month. It’s fast on good days, but every month, there would be two to five days with zero connection.

A couple of days with no Internet stunt the business.

“No Internet means no operations,” says Mimi. “Customers would be following up, and we either had to load up our prepaid Internet sticks or go to a coffee shop with Wi-Fi to get connected and check. It is additional expense, when we’re paying for monthly Internet plan that claims to provide up to 5 mbps speed.”

The couple is also subscribed to Globe mobile Internet on their cell phones, but experiences weak signal as well. It can be frustrating, Juriele says, since everything happens online: Clients pay online, they check payment online, they follow up with courier online. “If there’s a delay in the process because of disconnection, everything else is delayed.”

“We would follow up with all these networks’ hotlines. They usually say, there’s ‘major cable trouble,’ ‘cables got stolen,’ ‘cables got caught in a trailer truck.’ There’s hardly a solid explanation on why we get cut off—and we pay bills on time,” Juriele adds.

Selling clothes online allows the couple to work from home and spend more time with their baby Raffy, and they’re hoping the government can do something to provide fast and stable Internet connection in the Philippines.

Mimi says, “We have an Internet-dependent business. If connection is faster and more realiable, we have more income. If it doesn’t, me and my resellers, many of which are stay-at-home moms, too, all won’t make money. It’s a chain reaction. No Internet, no profit for all.”

Juriele adds, “there should be an initiative from the government to push telcos to provide the service that they promise. Many people pay for premium connection but still get slow—worse, no Internet connection.”

Mimi’s Closet is a promising online clothes store that has expanded into supplying women’s swimwear and accessories. Its sustainability, however, depends on the quality of Internet connection Mimi and Juriele can have access to.

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