(Updated 11:20 a.m.) Technology is now taking over the neighborhood sundry shops scene, as more and more sari-sari store owners utilize technology to manage their business efficiently.
Inspired by the frequent stops they made at sari-sari stores on their motorcycle trips, three rider friends Hubert Yap, Bing Tan and Ibba Bernardo developed a technology-based solution to the traditional way of managing sari-sari stores. Together, they created an application called “Packworks” that seeks to digitize small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and ditch the old-fashioned pen and paper way of doing business.
“We have always seen the strength these sari-sari store entrepreneurs have shown in their households and with their sari-sari stores. That is why we wanted to tap their potential to grow because we believe they deserve to be given equal opportunities such as the right tools to help them and their business flourish,” one of the co-founders Bernardo said.
Packworks has a B2B platform that automates and centralize the business processes of an enterprise from inventory, bookkeeping and data collection. It also provides them with access to cheaper suppliers and financial products.
Enhanced with mobile ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), this app is user-friendly and has a low-bandwidth and light footprint, making it an efficient tool for sari-sari store entrepreneurs’ daily operations.
But the road to the development of the fintech platform was not without its bumps.
“The startup failed many many times. We weren’t taking salaries for 4 years, we could barely make rent if at all and pre-pandemic, the Philippines remained a technological laggard,” Bernardo said.
But their goal of providing inclusive technology among sari-sari store owners outweighed the hardships. For the founders, working with the right partners such as Unilever has contributed to bringing their plans to fruition.
“What was magical really was that you had all founders who were very mature. We weren’t naive 20-year-olds. We are all hyper-entrepreneurial because we always were willing to see things in a different light,” Packworks co-founder Tan said.
By providing digital and accessible opportunities to sari-sari stores, the fintech platform has taken another step in leveling the playing field among business owners. To date, there are more than 150,000 sari-sari stores nationwide that are using the app in their daily operations, and taking a step closer to financial freedom.
“We saw the power of networks and the power of distributed commerce and shared services. We wanted this for all of the families who took the courage to open their doors to become an entrepreneur,” Yap, one of the co-founders of Packworks said.