Alliance builds tech-enabled future for ‘sari-sari’ stores | Inquirer Business

Alliance builds tech-enabled future for ‘sari-sari’ stores

IN THE HOOD There are 1.3 million “sari-sari” stores across the country serving 94 percent of Filipinos. —Contributed photo

IN THE HOOD There are 1.3 million “sari-sari” stores across the country serving 94 percent of Filipinos. —Contributed photo

Sari-sari stores serve as the very fabric of the country’s retail landscape. They’re as embedded in our culture as finding a store run by a local family on practically every street corner and even squeezed into skinny alleyways. If you’re lucky (or maybe not if you’re over it), you might see some kids gathering around and playing with the TikTok-popular clacking lato-lato.

Around 1.3 million sari-sari stores are operating across the country, serving as the primary source of daily essentials for around 94 percent of Filipinos.


At a time when technology is ever-evolving, even with “amusing” developments like those pizza delivery drones, one must not get left behind, and that includes our beloved sari-sari store owners. It should come naturally that we address the technological gap among micro retailers and lend a hand to our “saripreneurs” for a better chance at success.


I had a chance to sit coolly with the finest minds from the fintech, logistics, transport, solutions, tourism and marketplace industries at the Digital Alliance meeting hosted by Go Negosyo, led by their visionary founder Joey Concepcion III, in May 2023. We’re like the Filipino version of The Avengers but just fiercer (I’m biased).

The Angat Lahat sa Digital Alliance, a collaboration between Go Negosyo and the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship, unites the best of the local digital platform industry, sharing a common goal of promoting and educating Filipinos about digitalization and its significant impact, particularly on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

The MSMEs are considered the backbone of many economies in the world, including the Philippines. They make up an overwhelming 99.5 percent of all business establishments nationwide. Of those, around 500,000 are in the wholesale and retail industry.

During the meeting, we discussed how digital technology can help small businesses in the Philippines. Among the partners present were Grab, Angkas, Shopee, Lalamove, Maya, Maya Bank, GCash, LaunchGarage, Peddlr, Gentree Fund, Sarisuki, Kickstart Ventures, Ideaspace, and agri-focused digital platforms Mayani, Agrabah Ventures and Farm Konek.

It was a privilege to be seated at a roundtable surrounded by these influential individuals ready to roll up their sleeves and work together to uplift the millions of micro retailers in the country. The passion was infectious.

To ensure that our kababayans stay ahead in this era of technological advancement, the alliance will help boost the government’s efforts in developing a digitalization road map for enterprise development and adoption. The initiative targets to bring about 70 to 80 million Filipinos to be part of the growing digital economy.


To make it a bit less serious, let’s put it this way—we aim to give power to small businesses with tech, turn them into superheroes and create an economic groove that’s for all to reap from and enjoy. Sounds cool?

What Joey said during the meeting resonates with me—digital technology will play an important role in making the economy more inclusive. We at Packworks have always believed creating true inclusion and strengthening the hyperlocal retail industry will lead to a more vibrant and active economy for all. By supporting everyone in the supply chain, we create an open ecosystem of growth and success. This mindset is what I, alongside my cofounders Bing Tan and Hubert Yap, have been carrying since we started in 2018. Through genuine grassroots efforts, over 270,000 sari-sari stores, mostly nanays (mothers), are now able to digitize their day-to-day operations and reap more income through discounts from our partner FMCG (fast-moving consumer good) brands and companies. And we hope to tap more.

We dream of seeing more Filipinos get out of poverty and thrive in entrepreneurship, a vision we share with Go Negosyo. As we continue working through this alliance, we carry the stories of our saripreneurs toward amplifying conversations on championing our neighborhood heroes and helping them unlock endless pathways to triumph with a few taps on their devices.

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Ibba Bernardo is the chief marketing officer and one of the founders of Packworks, a startup sari-sari store technology provider. He is a social entrepreneur and motorcycle journalist. He has six years of experience in video game animation, 10 years in retail and distribution, 15 years as contributing writer/editor focused on innovation and technology, and 20 years in web, app and software development.

TAGS: Culture, Retail, Sari-sari Stores

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