Townships: Cities within Cities

Living in Metro Manila and other metro cities in the Philippines, with poor transport system and horrendous traffic, can make the average commuter go through hours of just being on the road. And commuters do not just mean employees who sometimes have to commute from one end of Manila to another. It also includes students whose places of residence are often far from their schools.

In the United States, decades ago, I already appreciated the concept of suburbs. They were self-contained communities that included small businesses, entertainment places, restaurants, schools and even churches and hospitals. But suburbs were located outside the city proper. Employees who lived in the suburbs still commuted to the business district (of course, their transport systems were often very good so there was no great inconvenience).

In recent years, we have seen the concept of suburbs taken to a higher level in the form of urban townships. And this time, the townships are located within city proper.

Concept of Township

A township revolves around several key components: Live, Work, Play, Learn, Eat (and should I add, Pray?). Designed by master urban planners, townships’ vision usually revolve around self-contained living and working environments where residents would not have to go far. This concept has been supported also by the mushrooming growth of IT-BPOs which locate within such townships. In addition, accreditation by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) of such cyberparks make the business of townships not just good business but convenient for residents.

One of the earliest townships I have seen is Eastwood City which is roughly 18.5 hectares. Located in Libis, it continues to evolve and expand as new buildings and shopping areas sprout.

Eastwood City Vicinity Map (taken from Eastwood City website)

In its beginnings, sometime in the early 2000s, I remember Citywalk (the part of the vicinity map above showing red roofed buildings) as comprising most of Eastwood City. It was the place where restaurants were found right beside each other with lots of inner walkways away from cars and traffic. The high-rise buildings there were mostly BPOs. Citibank was also one of the first high-rise corporate buildings in that area.

Walking around Citywalk was reminiscent of some places I loved abroad — quaint haunts where people could just walk around cobbled streets, surrounded by restaurants and trees that provided shade. It was a family place. The mall nearby provided the shopping convenience of a one-stop place.

Then as years went by, other high-rise condominiums began sprouting around. They became mixed-use condos — fancy restaurants, shops and convenience stores on the ground floor and upscale residences or offices on the upper floors. A new, more modern Eastwood mall was built on the other side of the road. The plaza facing the mall features fountains, bridges and lots of seating places where people (and their pets, too, because Eastwood City is pet friendly) can hang out and socialize. This is one place where I can go into a mall and not be surprised to see dog breeds of all sorts walking alongside their humans.

Living in a township is the best of all worlds — for professionals who work in companies located within the township area; young married couples who are raising kids and want to have enough family time rather than fighting traffic commuting from home to work and back; and are even ideal places for retired folks who want everything they need within walking distance. When most everything you need is self-contained in a township, life really does get so much easier and more relaxed. Work no longer becomes such a burden because the stress of the commute is eliminated. Play and Eat become so much more pleasant when one starts out already in a relaxed mood.

Eastwood City high-rise units (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Up to this date, Eastwood City is not yet totally developed, which is good urban planning. I like slow development. It gives residents and workers time to get used to the changing landscape as people and vehicle traffic implications are studied, tweaked and improved.

That reminds me. It’s nearing Christmas and I just love Christmas in the air! I should find some time to pay a visit again to Eastwood City and other townships in the metro and see what the Christmas atmosphere is like there now.


Alere: Bringing Careers in Health Care to the Philippines

A leading health care solutions company based in the United States, Alere, which focuses on servicing patients with chronic diseases by providing them with near-patient diagnostic care and managing their supplies reorders, has come to the Philippines.

Alere Philippines has set up office at the Fort after having acquired a company established in Manila and felt it was a perfect match. They wanted to establish their service center platform here. Our English-speaking labor force as well as access to many healthcare-related graduates makes Alere’s presence here logical, practical and forward-looking.

Alere Home Monitoring President, Jon Russell, says it all in this video:

At the moment, the services the Philippines will be providing is the backend, i.e., Alere Philippines will be processing the ordering of diagnostic supplies by its customers, mainly in the US. By having it done here, where the time difference is almost exactly opposite that of the US, customers can place orders even outside working hours there and still have people here processing their orders so that the shipping process continues all day round worldwide.

We did a tour of the Alere offices which can hold 200 seats per floor. They plan to get another floor in the building, bringing capacity up to a maximum of 400 seats eventually. They operate normal office hours right now but eventually may move into a 24/7 work hour operation.

For those who want a career with Alere, they are currently open to hiring. Having a healthcare background (nurses, therapists, medical technologists, pharmacists, etc) is an advantage although they are also getting peope from other backgrounds. I asked how their salary structure is and I was told that they are competitive and is around the 70% percentile. Jon Russell says they are trying to develop careers, not jobs, as they hope to bring in more services into the Philippines down the road.

Alere Philippines is located on the 11th Floor of W Building, 32nd Ave. corner 5th St in Bonifacio Global City.


Cognizant opens in Ortigas Center

When people hear the term “business process outsourcing” or BPO, they immediately think of call centers. While it’s true that the Philippine call center has now overtaken that of India, we can be proud of the fact that we have gone beyond these services alone.

Just recently, I attended the launch of the SECOND delivery center of Cognizant, a NASDAQ-listed company with headquarters in New Jersey, USA, and is one of the leading providers of IT, consulting and BPO services. The center, located in the IT-BPO services hub in Ortigas Center, was designed to house as many as 1,000 professionals. These professionals  will be providing applications, IT infrastructure and business processing services to global clients in different industries: financial industry, healthcare, manufacturing and logistics, retail, hospitality, telecommunications and consumer goods industries.

Cognizant executives include Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan (Vice Chairman), second from left,
and Mr. Prabhakar Bisen, Country Head, third from left

Cognizant started operations in December 2009 in McKinley Hill with 40 people. Their expansion into the Ortigas Center signifies a very positive outlook in the BPO industry. Asked why they chose to set up their second delivery center in Ortigas, Mr. Prabhakar Bisen, Country Head of Cognizant Philippines said, “We are pleased with our experience and growth in the Philippines and chose Pasig City to expand our footprint in the country because of its high-quality talent, sound infrastructure, good connectivity and a great business environment.”

During the Q&A portion, I asked Cognizant if all their work force were office-based. My rationale for the question was my firm belief that a good number of well-educated and experienced women (and possibly, men) have opted to leave the workforce to attend to family needs and this is an untapped market for BPOs, given the breadth of these people’s backgrounds. If this group of people can be tapped by BPOs and allowed to work from home, it could be a potential new asset for the sunrise industry.

Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan, Vice Chairman of Cognizant, acknowledged this fact and I was happy to note that he felt this was definitely something to consider in the future. Part of the issues preventing this from happening at the moment are the conditions of telecom infrastructure as well as ensuring that customer service quality is not affected or impaired from a work-from-home arrangement.

Cognizant is still on the lookout for people wanting to join their organization in Ortigas Center. If you’re interested in a future with Cognizant, check them out at their Ortigas location.

Hanston Square Bldg, San Miguel Avenue, Pasig City
Follow Cognizant on Twitter: @Cognizant