Former Eagle enters a whole new ball game
After years of displaying his athletic skill on the hard court, former professional basketball player Jai Reyes is diving into a different ball game—one that will test his entrepreneurial whiz when it comes to managing an online marketplace.
Reyes, who won back-to-back University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) championships for the Ateneo de Manila University in 2008 and 2009, now heads the business implementation of Little Grocers, a new online grocery platform which supports sari-sari (variety) stores and tricycle drivers.
Its main service is to provide on-demand delivery of grocery items, which one can conveniently order through a website or mobile app.
Little Grocers is the brainchild of Jun Ynion, the company’s president and CEO, and captain of Brgy. San Antonio, San Pedro, Laguna—and Reyes’ uncle.
“I’ve always loved tech businesses, so I asked my uncle if I could help out,” says the 30-year-old BS Technology Communications Management, who started working on the platform last year.
Reyes isn’t entirely a newbie businessman.
“I’ve always been interested in running a business, having studied in Ateneo’s School of Management. Chris Tiu and I used to have food stalls [in school],” he recalls.
The lessons in basketball and business, in fact, go hand-in-hand, Reyes says. “In basketball, if something isn’t working, you learn to move on to the next play. The same goes in business: Not everything will be successful, so you have to know when to move on.”
He adds that both basketball and business are difficult, “but doable, if you know how to focus.”
His plan for Little Grocers, he says, is to work with sari-sari store owners, who will provide the groceries, and a fleet of tricycle drivers, who will be in charge of delivering the items.
“We plan on identifying sari-sari stores in strategic areas,” he explains. “For a particular area, we can have multiple partner sari-sari stores to fulfill orders.”
Customers will be able to use the website’s grocery list feature to consolidate their products. Household members can also link their individual grocery lists to create a shared online “grocery basket.” After one user sets up the basket, he or she can invite others to share that basket so they can place their desired items.
“This addresses the problem of forgetting to buy what each individual needs in a particular group,” says Reyes.
And since sari-sari stores basically dot the country’s streets, Reyes says it won’t be an issue should one store not have all the items one requests. “The delivery vehicle will just pick up from multiple sari-sari stores,” he says.
Customers also won’t have to wait too long for their items, as Little Grocers’ delivery time will take a maximum of one hour. There is a minimal delivery fee, which will cost around P40 to P50. Payment can be done online or upon delivery.
The development of Little Grocers was initiated by Ynion about three years ago, with the idea of “spreading the wealth” among small, community-based entrepreneurs. It currently has a concept store in Brgy. San Antonio in San Pedro, Laguna, where the company first plans to soon roll out the platform. Also in the works are the new version of its website (littlegrocers.com) and a mobile application.
In the meantime, Reyes and his team are busy recruiting Little Grocers’ partner sari-sari store owners and tricycle drivers. After an initial assessment, those who are accepted will be trained on how to use the online platform, as well as back-office management. Sign-up is free for interested entrepreneurs, says Reyes.
Ultimately, the plan is for Little Grocers to compete with the larger grocery players, which do not offer online shopping services. He believes the online platform will find success by providing quality service and better prices.
“We will be consistent with our advocacy to empower entrepreneurs, especially the smaller players,” he says.
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