Yahoo seeks wider Philippine footprint

Seemingly unaffected by company's planned job cuts, Yahoo's Philippine office unveils branding initiative with cyber cafés in bid to increase local presence.

PHILIPPINES--Internet giant Yahoo is aiming to increase its footprint in the country by establishing brand partnerships with thousands of Internet cafés scattered across the archipelago.

Yahoo Philippines, which recently established its local office, unveiled plans to set up "Yahoo-powered" cybercafés here.

In a recent interview with ZDNet Asia, Jojo Anonuevo, Yahoo Philippines' country manager, said the company is "aiming to increase its presence, and in the process, increase the Internet user population of the country".

The Philippine Internet market is unique, Anonuevo said, noting that current industry numbers estimate about 70 percent of "netizens" in the nation get their access via cybercafés.

Early this year, Yahoo piloted its branding initiative with 11 cybercafés. Due to the success of the pilot, Anonuevo said, the Internet company will now implement "phase 2" of the initiative, which essentially means Yahoo will now be more active in seeking Internet cafés as partners.

"[Following] the 11 cybercafes we piloted, will be targeting at least 1,000 for the second phase of the plan," he said, disclosing that by Yahoo's own estimate, there are now some 10,000 to 15,000 cybercafés in the Philippines.

The executive explained that Yahoo will be inviting any local cybercafé, regardless of size, to join the program. Yahoo has also signed a partnership deal with local games company Level Up, aimed primarily at tapping the latter's vast network of cybercafés.

He said the program allows an Internet café to market and offer additional Internet-related services, such as Yahoo's instant messaging, Flickr, Web-based mail, and others. Anonuevo said a majority of Philippine cybercafés typically offer either network games or basic Internet access services.

The executive added that cybercafés can join the program for free, and would need to install a Yahoo-licensed software application. The software will allow Yahoo to monitor traffic coming to and from these Internet cafés.

Anonuevo said Yahoo will also conduct a "physical makeover" for cybercafés that join the program.

Targeting emerging markets
Called Yahoo Advantage, the cybercafé program in the Philippines is part of the company's plan to target Asia's emerging markets, said Gerald See, Yahoo's director for emerging markets.

See said a similar initiative will also be implemented in Indonesia and Vietnam, among others. He added that this is the first time Yahoo is focusing its efforts on these merging markets in Asia.

The campaign comes amid the company's announcement last week to reduce its workforce by 10 percent--or 1,400 employees--by the end of 2008, after reporting a 64 percent dip in net income for the third quarter.

A local spokesperson said Yahoo's Philippine operations will not be affected by the job cuts. According to Charley Braga, communications manager at Yahoo Philippines, the local branch will, in fact, be adding new headcount by the end of 2008.

Braga added that the manpower cut seems geared toward Yahoo's U.S. offices.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

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