Michael Alimurung wants business to be ‘an everyday conversation’ among Filipinos

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CNN Philippines newest show, "Business Roundup" is hosted by entrepreneur and business personality Michael Alimurung. The show helps viewers make sense of the news with insights and analysis together with interviews with the movers and shakers of the business world. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Though the business news is mostly covered in numbers and jargon, the core of it is an essential part of our daily living, whether it’s about the state of the economy or how the new company merger will affect market prices. The host of CNN Philippines’ new business show, Michael Alimurung, recognizes this and is excited to put it at the core of “Business Roundup.”

Alimurung has had over two decades of experience in the business industry, having worked in companies such as Citibank, Procter & Gamble, Philex, and Union Bank. He’s also worked in several government agencies such as Development Academy of the Philippines, SSS, and even the Office of the President itself from 2010 to 2012. He also has an MBA from the Stanford School of Business.

“I think the advantage of having experience in both aspects, [with both private and public agencies], is you’re less biased,” says Alimurung. “Because at this point I’d say that, prior to entering government, it was very easy to make assumptions about ‘Oh, that’s the reason why that doesn’t work’ or ‘This thing is not effective because of so and so’ or it’s easy to put blame. Now that I’ve been on the other side, I’d say ‘wait a minute, not everything is as easy as they would say’ or what you may see from the outside is not necessarily what’s happening.”

Photo-2.jpg "Business Roundup" host Michael Alimurung has had over two decades of experience in public and private business industry, such as in Citibank, Procter & Gamble, Development Academy of the Philippines, SSS, and even the Office of the President itself from 2010 to 2012. Photo by JL JAVIER

He’s hoping that his knowledge of the ins and outs of business, partnered with his understanding of how it all impacts the everyday Filipino, will make “Business Roundup” a relatable business show, giving audiences top business stories of the week, from market recaps to international business updates and reports on economic developments.

“It’s the same thing when I have conversations with people these days and they say ‘Oh bakit wala pa yan, ang dali-dali lang nun,’” he says. “I tell them that actually, it sounds simple, there’s a lot of loopholes, you know, things that you need to jump over to get it done, and I have a better appreciation of how each of those actually works now because of having been on both sides.”

He adds, “I think it’s not enough ... for the everyday person to receive the news. It’s equally important that they can form opinions about it. So part of what we do is say ‘everybody provides the everyday news’ but part of the added value of ‘Business Roundup’ is ‘here’s the news but here are some thoughts on it.’ So now [when] we bring in things like that then it elevates the level of discourse because now they can form opinions as well that are more well-rounded, so to speak.”

Prior to the premiere of the show, CNN Philippines Life talks to Alimurung about making business news ‘sexy,’ and what he hopes the show will bring to the audience.

Business always involves numbers and numbers are not ‘sexy’ for a general audience. How do you make something like business digestible to the general audience?

I think you have to make it relevant, so something that impacts them and their everyday lives, whether its cost of foods, food can impact that or their necessities or inflation. Whatever it is, I think the most important [thing] is to make sure you make it relevant to them so that you know the everyday person becomes interested. And when you are interested in something there’s a higher likelihood that you will stay attuned to it.

How different is the business roundup compared to the shows that you’ve done before?

The main difference I think is that, “Business Roundup” is, by its name, because it’s a round up, it’s more of what’s happening for the week and looking at different aspects, maybe different industries, different types of businesses, different things that impacted business or the environment for the week. And the prior shows I’ve done usually is a very targeted single-topic [show] that you’re really looking at a specific business. How did they grow? How did they achieve whatever it is that they need to achieve? This one, it can really come from anywhere, so it’s a bit different in that regard.

You’ve done a lot of private and public works, so how do you think that experience can transcribe into a show like the Business Roundup”?

I think the benefit of having worked both in private and public sector, actually even foreign and [local], is I now had the opportunity of having experience in different areas such that any sort of business impact or anything that may influence something, I can draw from many different aspects to see how it impacts. So it’s not just say, how this impacts the private sector, you can also say ‘well, this is what the government regulations [are] that may [have] impacted how government may view it.’ What does it look like from the non-profit side? By being in all of those different aspects of having, you know, set a foot in each of those aspects, I’m able to draw from all of that and bring it all together.

I think it’s not enough ... for the everyday person to receive the news. It’s equally important that they can form opinions about it.

From the name itself the show is a roundup of business events that happened for the week. And one of the dangers for that is that it can just be an assemblage of news bits, VTRs, so how do you plan with your producers to make it more cohesive and something that is more relatable to the general audience?

[There are] general aspects to that. One is to make that the relevant business-related news you cover. That’s the first one, and by that I mean the major business news that will impact everybody. And many times we know what those are, GDP numbers, inflation numbers, job numbers ... you know, import-export, maybe the exchange rate and things like that.

You could sort of plan that set, so there’s one aspect that people need to know certain things, and you can predict when they come out because you know maybe DOLE will report something and [the Department of] Finance will report something etc. so that’s one aspect.

The second part is to then look for what are the major business-related events that happened during the week that impact the everyday person. And that one, you sort of have to distill everything. Not everything is relevant for everybody. So and so company will report income, you don’t need every single piece. But there are things that will impact everyone, [like] with the Boracay closure. We’re talking about tourism, everything will get impacted. Even the person who’s driving the taxi from the airport will have less people to pick up. It could be as simple as that right.

So what do you hope the show will be to your viewers?

I’m hoping that the show is something that viewers tune into to be able to elevate the conversation. And it’s also often, it’s easy for us to always say, “Oh, most Filipinos don’t know business.” It’s like “Oh, it’s just about personalities and all that,” I think that the hope is to be able to gradually elevate the discussion.

The more people you make aware, the more people you make interested in these topics, the conversations start to happen. And so if you look at it in that perspective, the objective then is to increase the level of conversation, the frequency of conversation such that business becomes something that’s less alien, less foreign. That becomes an everyday conversation which would help, hopefully, elevate, sort of, all boats or raise all boats or really just elevate the level of discourse in the country such that the everyday person can participate in it.

And in many cases they are beginning to participate, right, we just need a little more notch. I always have a conversation with somebody, [like cab drivers] about asking them what’s the business news or something. Usually I try to throw something in it just to see whether they have an opinion or something. Then if we can begin to fuel that, it’s like adding fuel to the flame. People are beginning to talk, and so to think that if we can add fuel and give them more things to talk about, the level of discourse and the whole business consciousness of the country gets elevated.

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“Business Roundup” airs every Friday, 4:30 p.m. with replays on Friday, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 4:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Tune in to CNN Philippines on Facebook, via live streaming at cnnphilippines.com, and on free TV Channel 9.