The digital age has changed the way we communicate and, in many areas, the way we live. In business, start-ups and conglomerates alike are under constant pressure to grow their enterprises, while developing better ways to comply with evolving regulations for consumer protection. With the speed of technological innovation, this is proving to be a challenging task for companies, whether they are big names or novices. 

Enter Unawa, a pioneering startup in regulatory tech (“regtech”) that aims to help SMEs and large enterprises navigate the often-intimidating and yet always-critical compliance processes and requirements for doing business.

“Unawa aims to make regulatory compliance as pain-free as possible for enterprises and SMEs so they can focus on their core businesses and become real engines of economic growth. We all move closer to this goal with the combined power of technology and legal expertise at our fingertips,” said Atty. Monalisa Dimalanta, Chief Executive Officer of Unawa and Partner at PJS Law.

Unawa is a collaboration between Talino Venture Labs, the first inclusiontech venture builder in the Philippines, and PJS Law, a highly acclaimed firm with key expertise in infrastructure, energy, mergers and acquisitions, and banking and finance in the Asia Pacific. 

“With Unawa, we are demystifying the barriers in doing business here in the Philippines as we seek to make entrepreneurship an opportunity not just for the big names but for the small entrepreneur as well,” said Winston Damarillo, Talino Venture Labs Chief Executive Officer and Chief Strategy Officer of Unawa.

Unawa is the third in a string of inclusiontech startups that Talino launched in 2019, at the heels of Asenso (fintech, agritech, retailtech launched in August) and Saphron (insurtech launched in April).

 

Legally attuned to thrive in the digital age

The name Unawa is derived from the Filipino word for understanding or comprehension, and  enables the local business community to thrive amid the regulatory requirements of the country. The platform is set to leverage Talino’s expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, to make it easier for startups and enterprises alike to comply with laws and implementing rules and regulations—which often is a stumbling block for businesses to start or scale.

The founding team expects two flagship products to be online by the first quarter of 2020. 

Its main product, Unawa Privacy Guard, will aid companies to navigate the legalese behind Republic Act No. 10173, or the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (DPA) as they offer products and services for the digital consumer. 

Meanwhile, Unawa RapidStart will offer a true one-stop shop for entrepreneurs to start a business—from name filing all the way to local government permits. 

“We’re reducing the friction for companies to serve the urgent needs of a digital economy, so more and more companies can better serve their always-online customers while staying compliant with changing regulations. Digital is the new imperative, and both the private and public sectors are figuring out how to best navigate this world. Unawa will give them the capability to do that,” explained Damarillo.

 

The worldwide costs of compliance

Around the world, businesses spend an astounding $436 billion on compliance, not including some $26 billion in fines to financial institutions for failing anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) requirements. In Asia Pacific, regulators have already handed out 79 fines amounting to $609 million since 2011.

“There are inefficiencies inherent in paper-intensive and highly manual types of work, and the compliance costs arise mostly from these,” pointed out Unawa’s Dimalanta.  

“When we help companies deal with the legal complexities of operating in a more digital world, we enable them to focus on their core businesses, and unlock greater value for their companies,” concluded Dimalanta.