The PANDEMIC season has ushered in the upsurge of sari-sari (variety) stores and other neighborhood businesses like convenience stores. The trend would most likely continue and could even become part of the new normal. Statistics released in 2022 by data analytics firm Kantar Philippines showed that many consumers were still buying their daily necessities from a nearby sari-sari store rather than heading to major supermarkets. Mobility restrictions due to Covid-19 had made sari-sari stores a preferred choice for shopping, as they are accessible in the area where shoppers live. Expenditure per trip on fast-moving consumer goods such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste and hand sanitizer, ready-to-drink beverages, snacks, sandwich ingredients, baby powder, water cologne and laundry detergent, fell from 66 to 71 last year to 66 in 2020. Even Century Pacific Food Inc. cited 140,000 new sari-sari stores opened in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. This excludes home-based businesses that have opened online stores.
Packworks, a Filipino startup, recently launched “The Pack: Superstore” digital platform that empowers 150,000 sari-sari stores. With The Pack: SuperStore app, store owners can handle inventory, accounting, and data collection for their business. They could also benefit from financial products and order supplies at a cheaper price without having to coordinate and purchase new inventory. Currently, the app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store since their niche is Android users. Registration requires a company code or being affiliated with Unilever or Nestlé. I could not register because I am not a sari-sari store owner. However, Packworks says the app is easy to use with low bandwidth and a light footprint that would allow users to process their business more efficiently in a bid to address the high cost of poverty, where store owners pay the highest interest rates and pay more. for consumer goods. Reducing interest charges is a goal, as well as managing money through access to electronic payments.
Apart from “The Pack: Superstore” platform, it is wonderful to know about other sari-sari store apps. For example, Puregold’s Aling Puring app aims to help sari-sari shops and small business owners and promote entrepreneurship in the country. Tindahang Tapat for Sari Sari Store is currently available in Naga City, Camaligan, Canaman, Gainza, Magarao, Pili, Iriga City and Milaor, Camarines Sur, Philippines. Another application is GrowSari, a technological B2B platform. Peddlr, a point-of-sale app, caters not only to sari-sari stores, but almost every small business in the Philippines.
Micro and small businesses like sari-sari shops need support. The challenges posed by limited access to sari-sari shop owners, especially in remote locations, inspired founders Hubert Yap, Bing Tan and Ibba Bernardo to share their technical know-how and move from analog to digital processes. use of technology. “We have observed that these stores are struggling to keep track of their inventory and stock up for their stores, especially those in the provinces. That’s when the idea of creating a one-stop app for everything came up,” Tan said. .
Founded in 2018 with five initial sari-sari store partners, Packworks has worked its way to having a network of 150,000 nationwide and aiming to have 220,000 stores by the end of 2022 and 500,000 to by the end of 2023. Packworks aims to become a platform for other institutions who would like to help the base of the pyramid by addressing the challenge of the sari-sari store by enabling the value chain and cutting out the middlemen. “We see ourselves as the rail or highway infrastructure and not as the operator of a gas station or a fast food restaurant. We develop partnerships to provide these services to our stores, such as the financing of inventory, electronic payments and microinsurance,” Bernardo said.
After a successful $2 million (112 million pesos) seed round, the fund would develop The Pack: SuperStore App to expand the range of offerings and improve its user journey. Plans are in place to create a department that directly engages sari-sari stores and implement additional services with partners, and create an open platform for financial institutions and brands to connect directly with shop owners. stores.
By bringing technology solutions to one million Filipino sari-sari stores, Packworks is moving towards a more progressive, connected and inclusive Philippines.