Featured Company: Prople Inc. – Process and People powered by Technology [Interview] [Transcript]

Malu Borja and Adrian Stephen Cabuhat

Presenter: Henry Acosta

Guest Bio: Malu Borja is a graduate of De La Salle University and is a Certified Public Accountant. She’s currently the President of Prople Inc. and has been through a lot of work mainly focusing on operations, technology, and business processing. Malu has 23 years of experience in banking focused on operations, technology, customer service and audit, of which 16 years were spent with foreign banks and 7 years with local banks. Adrian Stephen Cabuhat is a graduate of the University of the Philippines and he is currently the Manager of their Business Development Group.

Segment overview:  Prople Inc. started in 1996 as “Motivation Asia” and was relaunched as “Prople” in 2006, which stands for “process and people”. It is a business solutions provider  with offices in the Philippines with expertise and in-depth experience in the areas of Finance and Accounting, Tax Services, Human Resources/Payroll, and Data Management Services. They are rooted on key competencies which is being proactive, being industry specific, and being current as far as technology is concerned.


Address: 23rd Floor, Robinsons Cybergate 3, Pioneer Street, Mandaluyong City

Contact Number: LOCAL +632 772-7272

Website: www.propleinc.com


To know more about Prople Inc, listen to the podcast below.

The interview will start at the 41:15 of the podcast episode.


Henry Acosta:  Hi, I’m Henry Acosta and welcome to the Outsourcing and Offshoring in the Philippines podcast. We have two guests today with us, we have Malu Borja and Adrian Stephen Cabuhat of Prople Inc. Malu is a graduate of De La Salle University and is a CPA. She’s been through a lot of work mainly focusing on operations, technology, and business processing. She’s currently the President of Prople Inc. With her today is Adrian, he is a graduate of the University of the Philippines. He is currently the Manager of their Business Development group. Today we’re here to talk about Prople Inc. and what we can expect from them as a company if ever you want to work with them. Welcome on-board Malu and Adrian. Thanks for coming on the show today.


Malu Borja:  Thank you Henry. Good morning there.


Adrian Cabuhat:  Hi Henry (laughs).


Henry Acosta:  Yes. It’s morning here.  Good morning to you guys and good evening to you Malu. Where are you right now in the States?


Malu Borja:  I’m in L.A. We have an office in Woodland Hills in L.A.


Henry Acosta:  Sounds awesome. Adrian and Malu, can you give us some more background on who you guys are and how you guys got started with Prople Inc.?


Malu Borja:  Okay. I’m happy  to tell you that Prople has actually been in existence for the past 20 years. We are rooted on our key competencies which is being proactive, being industry specific, and being current as far as technology is concerned. We started in 1996 and it was founded as Motivation Asia, that’s the first name of Prople, until it became Prople as it is in 2006. It was re-launched as Prople and we had established finance in accounting services, as well as HR and payroll. We have been serving the market in these areas and some other services like knowledge process services and eventually, since 2006, it has evolved to bring in some developed technology support to enable us to do the outsourcing in a more efficient and productive way.


Henry Acosta:  You want to add anything to that Adrian?


Adrian Cabuhat:  Yes. I would like to highlight as well our technology because we have a Prople homegrown system and it is actually powered by technology tools that enhance efficiency. It’s called ‘PATHS’. The abbreviation of that is Payroll, Timekeeping, and HR System. We actually have applications that will actually suit the Philippine HR, finance and accounting people. It’s specifically designed for the Philippines. Under that, we actually have this what we call, “PEERS”. It’s Prople Employee Expense Reimbursement System. You can actually file reimbursement, cash advances, and liquidate cash advances anywhere. It is a system that is web-based. You can actually access it using your mobile phone as long as you have internet. It is something that you don’t need for us to install from our clients since they can actually access this anywhere. We also have “PIMS”. It’s People Information Management System. It’s a data integration and management workflow and document repository that will enable integration of BRP systems and perform data mining activities and analysis. We have actually got a couple of more in-line which is places, ports, and prisms. We would like to actually be processing of leasing accounts and collections of electronic services for those who actually have malls. Just imagine, you will have an automatic access for different kiosks. For example, you will know by one click who are paying, you will transfer from one store to another with just the use of our system. We also have this what we call, “PORTS”. People Ordering and Receivables Transaction System. It’s real-time monitoring of order and sales through proactive business decisions. This is being used by supermarkets as well here in the Philippines. We also have this what we call “PRISM”, Prople Project and Issue Management System. It’s an accurate recording of tracking of issues and work progress from anywhere. Most of the companies or our clients use this for their I.D ticketing. For example, they want to install a software in their computer, they can just simply file a request using this what we call “PRISM”. They can actually track as well which request has been granted and which are still on pending. We want to make sure that we actually make the life of our employees easier by accessing also their information online. That’s what we are proud about with Prople.


Henry Acosta:  That sounds really impressive. How did you guys come up with the idea of making all those systems?


Malu Borja:  Well, I guess it’s 20 years of continuous improvement. I think that’s also what I wanted to highlight earlier. All of the different applications that Adrian just mentioned, are actually designed to make things easier not only for our clients, but also for us who are taking on the bulk of the work from our clients. That’s outsourcing. We want to be as efficient as possible so that we should be able to do more work in a very timely manner and with less resources. I guess that’s the advantage of outsourcing tasks to companies like Prople, because we’ve been in the business for quite some time. A lot of improvements have gone over time. And this is where we are and we’re happy to tell you that our clients have been our clients from that start, still remained with us. And there are more clients exploring those that are just exploring to outsource. For instance, they try us out on one service. Let’s say in finance and accounting, they try us out on accounts payable because usually that’s a big headache for clients. They give us accounts payable and then the next thing, we would handle their accounts receivables and some other tasks, and then general accounting, and eventually, all of their accounting are already with us. That’s something good.


Henry Acosta:  Well, that’s really impressive and sounds like you guys really go for the service first or the client first rather than just thinking about business.


Malu Borja: Yes. Certainly.


Adrian Cabuhat:  That’s right.


Henry Acosta:  Can you explain to us the services that Prople offers to your clients?


Adrian Cabuhat:  We have finance and accounting services. We actually do accounts payable, accounts receivable, general accounting, and the strategic finance. We also have tax services, we actually do personal financial statements, tax returns preparations, and financial consulting for most of our clients. Aside from that, we also do data management services. Data capture, conversion, clean-up organizations, standardization, data mining and analysis, are a few of what we offer to our clients. As an HR services provider, as I’ve mentioned, I highlighted a while ago about the payroll and timekeeping system. We also do benefits management statutory compliance, HRIS, the system that we offer and of course, employee records administration, and HR reporting and analysis. Those are the services that we actually offer to our clients.


Henry Acosta:  Do you want to add anything to that Malu?


Malu Borja:  Well, yes. I mentioned that it’s a full cycle. Actually, if you give us let’s say, if a company gives us their payroll servicing that actually starts with timekeeping and as Adrian mentioned, we do payroll as well, and all the way to government reporting. Basically, the entire full cycle of HR is something that we do on a regular basis. As I mentioned earlier, we have improved overtime on the processes and the support systems that we are using.


Henry Acosta:  You guys have been in industry for so long, so you guys know a lot more compared to the other outsourcing firms out there.


Adrian Cabuhat:  Yes, I think that is our advantage because we know the main points of our clients, what they really are looking for with regard to the systems, specifically here in the Philippines. They have actually prepared us and making sure that we actually deliver with high quality standards, what they really wanted to have in their specific workflow or in their systems.


Henry Acosta:  Alright. With the current transfer today and we see more businesses outsourcing in the Philippines, why do you think clients tend to lean more in the Philippines and outsourcing here compared to other countries?


Malu Borja:  Well, outsourcing is actually not new but I believe, first of all, the Philippines is very near ASEAN countries. Within like 4 hours flying time from major Asian cities, they’re already here if they want to come and visit. But once everything has been settled, work can actually be left with us and we do regular calls with clients. You probably realized that the qualities of Filipinos, say like being very much adept to the English language, is an advantage. Plus, the fact that you know that Filipinos are generally very hardworking. They put the things that they do in their hearts, the output basically is very good. Filipinos are also known to be quite passionate. When they speak to clients, even just on the phone, clients will experience the warmth and the sincerity. That’s why it’s an advantage. I guess the other big advantage outsourcing to the Philippines is that the average age of the workforce in the Philippines is very young. Like in Prople, if you exclude me (laughs) about 5% of the rest of the population, the average age would probably be running at around 23 to 24 years old and that’s a very young group. I myself, I am impressed because while we have a very young workforce in Prople, you see the level of responsibility, you see their passion for work, you see their dedication, all of this are very good qualities that we are very proud of in Prople.


Adrian Cabuhat:  I definitely agree with Ms. Malu. To add on to that, we’re also proud to say that Prople is very active with Board of Investments and a group called, ‘IT and IB Path’, it’s IT and BPO group here in the Philippines. We would like to highlight as well the reason why Ms. Malu is in the U.S, is because she represented the Philippines not only our company in the recently HIMSS. Can you tell us more Ms. Malu about that.


Malu Borja:  Yes, okay. Well, first of all, HIMSS stands for Health Information Management Services Society. It’s a huge organization of healthcare providers in the U.S. Every year, they have a huge convention and this one was attended by about 40,000 delegates, companies, exhibitors, it’s really a huge group. Everybody is just so interested, overly eager to know what’s happening right now as far as technology is concerned. Information management is very important not only in the healthcare industry, but in all the industries. At the same time, that group which was a Philippine delegation composed of 17 company participants, Prople is one of them, had also gone through UN’s road shows promoting offshoring and outsourcing to the Philippines. It’s a very exciting road show because we realized that a lot of people are very interested in outsourcing and they are particularly interested to outsource in the Philippines. One of the questions that was raised during one of investment forums was, when you say manufacturing, people tend to think of China right away. When you talk about, let’s say call centers, people would normally just think of India right away. What is actually happening right now is that, Philippines has become number one on voice. In business process outsourcing, Philippines has also become a preferred location for workforce for outsourcing. That’s something that I’m personally I’m very proud of. I mentioned to you earlier about the general culture of Filipino and the culture in Prople, these are the things that we are really happy about working with the young workforce.


Henry Acosta:  Well, congratulations on representing us. I’m sure we are all well-represented.


Malu Borja:  Yes. 17 companies from the Philippines offering outsourcing services in different areas, technology for Prople’s part, it’s really more highlighting how we can be of help in the fields of finance and accounting services as well as payroll and in HR.


Adrian Cabuhat:  I would like to add that as far as I remember as well, since we represented the Philippines for Board of Investment, I would just like to highlight that I remember in one of the analysis that IBPAP and Everest Group did last 2010, they mentioned that the Philippines is well-positioned among global IT-BPM services providers in four key human resource indicators that this is scalability, experienced talent pool, quality of English accent, and cultural affinity with the U.S, and the size of the graduate pool. We are proud to say that we are catering to those who would like to have an impact not only in the Philippines but also would like to represent our country in different countries as well, as we actually have higher scores implying greater competitiveness as our country which is the Philippines.


Henry Acosta:  That’s actually a really good news for everyone in our country right now.


Adrian Cabuhat:  That’s right.


Maly Borja:  Right. We can actually do a lot of collaboration. Singapore is very close, as far as distance is concerned, to the Philippines. We will be very happy to take on work that the Singapore companies have in their workload because there’s a lot of business that’s happening, that’s going on in Singapore. I think the advantage in Singapore is that the internet facilities are very much advanced. Some work can the offloaded from Singapore to the Philippines. Actually, we have a Singaporean client who’s also been with us for quite a while and just recently, we were talking about expanding the scope of the services that we’re doing which is actually very good.


Henry Acosta:  With regards to that, what do you think since we know that you guys have the advantage of experience and longevity, can you guys tell us more about what the advantages are working with you guys compared to other outsourcing firms right now in the Philippines?


Adrian Cabuhat:  There’s a lot of new companies that actually offers HR, or timekeeping, or payroll services here in the Philippines. Compared to them, what actually sets us apart is that we are not only providing an actual system for them to use, but we actually provide people who are very experienced with regards to payroll and timekeeping. As a company, we believe there’s no perfect system, but that as an advantage since there is human intervention on our part. We can actually avoid such problems that they might encounter because we can actually assist them right away as we have a 24/7 customer service. If ever there’s a need for them to be assisted in any of our services, we can actually assist them right away. Not unlike with other companies, they actually just provide the system and they just make use of the actual payroll and timekeeping. There’s no actual human intervention which will actually be a cause of problem if there will be a downtime.    


Henry Acosta:  Do you want add anything to that Malu?


Malu Borja:  As Adrian mentioned, technology support is very important. We don’t stop with what we have. We continue to develop and enhance our applications. When a client asks for something, we are very flexible. We analyze how it can be incorporated in our current system. If it looks good for a good number of our clients, then we go for it. Continuous improvement is something that’s part of our culture. We don’t stop at what we have we continue to develop, we continue to listen to our clients, we continue to try to provide the best service we can. Our objective is always to make sure our clients are happy with the service that we provide them.


Adrian Cabuhat:  Yes, that’s right.


Henry Acosta:  Alright. What’s the best advice that you can give people who want to do outsourcing here?


Malu Borja:  Well first of all, it’s very important that clients are open to outsource some of the work that they do. Primarily because, time is always of the essence and people are always the best assets. For companies who are not yet into outsourcing, it would be good to try to have a look at how an outsourcing could be benefit them. They can actually use their resources who focus on their core business. For example, let’s say you’re in a manufacturing company. Accounting is not something that you do in your business, it’s part of your operations. You don’t have to worry about accounting because you need to focus on your core business, on manufacturing. You don’t worry about people not being able to produce the reports, people not being able to come to work.


Henry Acosta:  What’s your advice to new interested clients who are planning to do some offshore board here in the Philippines?


Malu Borja:  I think I’d like to answer that question first before Adrian. Well, first of all, the companies who are exploring or who are thinking of going into outsourcing should consider at least three important things. The first one is that, they need to find the best outsourcing company to fit their requirements. What I’m saying is that, if they are looking out outsourcing for their accounting department, then they should find a good outsourcing company that offers finance and accounting services. In the same way as when they want to explore let’s say, outsourcing their payroll, they should go and find the right company, the best company that is offering payroll services. When we talk about payroll services, it’s got to be something end to end, like from the start, which is the the timekeeping part, all the way up to the end which is the reporting part or the remittances to government agencies and all the reports that are needed by them. That’s the first advice. The second one is to consider the number of years in business by the outsourcing company. The number of years in business of those companies that they’d like to look at. Probably, we would be looking at a lot of companies and then they will shortlist that, let’s say about 3 names of companies and then consider the number of years in business that these companies have been. That’s also very important. I guess the third one is they should also consider the people behind the company, behind the outsourcing company. If they see that these are people who are very reputable, these are people who are experienced in the business, then that should be something significant to be considered. For me, just those 3 things. I’m sure Adrian would also had something else in his mind.


Adrian Cabuhat:  Alright. I would like to agree with Ms. Malu. The people in the Philippines are very competitive. They are abreast with the latest technology and we actually update ourselves not only as a company, but also all of our employees read the latest news and what is happening around globe. We are very competitive with regards to our technology. We would like to highlight that the Philippines is very much inclined with dealing with different cultures, different countries, different companies. As a company, we actually tailor-fit our services to those companies that we’re partnering with because we understand their business and we would like to help them out, streamline their processes, and make sure that we help them out grow their business, and be a valuable partner with regards to timekeeping, accounting, and finance services, not only here in the Philippines but across the globe. We would like to make sure that we actually promote not only our employees, but also the culture of the Philippines that we are very welcoming with regards to partnering with the different companies and whatever country they are actually part of. Aside from that, we would like to highlight as well that the Philippines as a hub is very much reasonable because they can actually partner with us and of course, keep them up to date as well. With regards to the pricing, it’s very much cost-effective for any company who would like to partner with us. I am proud to say that the Philippines is being considered as one of the best English proficient country in the whole world. We can actually be a best partner for them or we are the better partner if they will actually partner with us.


Henry Acosta:  Awesome. For interested clients, I’m sure that you guys sound great to work with. For anyone who’s interested in outsourcing or offshoring with Prople Inc, what can they expect from you guys?


Malu Borja:  Our assets are our people and our technology. They can expect for instance, first that we treat each of our clients with regards to their specific requirements. I guess one good thing that we do is that, we take time to find out what are clients’ requirements actually are. It’s important for us that we understand what they need, for us to understand what their current challenges are, what their main points are as far as operations are concerned. We spend time with clients to understand what they need specifically and sometimes along the way, we are able to give them some advices on how to improve their processes if we see or we spot something right away in the course of our discussion. Secondly, I mentioned that in every business, technology is always necessary and continuous improvement is something that’s within Prople. We listen to what our clients are requesting or requiring and we look at how we can improve from there. Either processes or technology support, that’s a continuing improvement process for us. That’s our number one, our top of mind in Prople. That’s why process and people, that’s actually the short for Prople, process and people. When we say process of course, that includes technology. The other thing is that, as I mentioned we are continuously improving the way we do things. In 2017, in fact our objective is increasing quality awareness. Not only quality in the work output, but also quality in our people. 2017 is a year that we have set for training our people improving the quality not only of their output but also in the way they relate with clients, in the way they communicate our processes. There’s a lot of things that are happening right now in Prople in 2017. I should say this is an exciting year for us. If they come in and join us now, I mean like in 2017, there’s a lot of things in store for them, for our prospective clients.


Henry Acosta:  Awesome. Do you want to add anything to that Adrian?


Adrian Cabuhat:  I think Ms. Malu have mentioned everything because we are actually updating everything not only our people but also the technology that we offer our clients. We want to excite all those people who would like to sign up with us and be a partner, because we are making sure that we actually give them the latest technology as well.


Malu Borja:  Right.


Henry Acosta:  Awesome. For our last question, how can people get in touch with you guys? Or how can they reach out to you guys?


Malu Borja:  Okay, Adrian?


Adrian Cabuhat:  Alright. They can actually go to our website, that’s www.propleinc.com. They can also send me an e-mail, that’s [email protected]. We are more than happy to assist them in all of their inquiries and if they are curious to know how to we can actually better their business and how we can be a better partner for them.


Malu Borja:  Okay. Also to answer that, if they have offices in the Philippines already, they can contact our direct line, 772-7272. We’d be very happy to receive calls from them if they have offices in the Philippines so they can just quickly call our direct line, our trunk line I mean.


Henry Acosta:  Awesome. Well, that’s our questions for today. Thank you for coming on the show.


Malu Borja:  Thank you Henry.


Adrian Cabuhat:  Thank you so much Henry. We were very delighted.


Henry Acosta:  And that was Malu Borja and Adrian Cabuhat of Prople Inc. Malu is the President of Prople and Adrian is the Manager of their Business Development Group. We just finished talking about Prople Inc. and the outsourcing industry here in the Philippines. If you want to listen to more podcasts, you can find us on www.offshoring.com.ph. We’re also on SoundCloud and iTunes. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google + for additional updates. I’m Henry Acosta and this is the Outsourcing and Offshoring Philippines podcast.

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