Start-up firm shifts to making face masks, online grocery delivery service
CEBU CITY, Philippines — While the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak adversely affected many businesses, a Cebu-based firm recognized the opportunities available as most people stayed home due to the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.
FRL Trading, a start-up company selling agri-based products, diversified by producing washable face masks and by running an online grocery delivery service, according to a news release of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Central Visayas regional office.
The company was earning well from its turmeric and ginger tea business but proprietor Felita Lubon saw that there was a high demand for washable masks.
Lubon looked for good needleworkers and sewers in Cebu’s mountain barangays who would produce the face masks.
“I bring the fabric to their homes and collect the finished products from them,” she said. “These needleworkers are happy that they earn income from their work and are able to support their family despite the lockdown.”
FRL Trading now produces 6,000 to 10,000 masks daily, which are supplied to local and international buyers, DTI-7 disclosed.
Then in late April, Lubon noticed the huge volume of people who have been forced to stay home and were unable to do groceries as well as drivers who were jobless.
She then started an online grocery delivery service, which not only brought supermarket items to customers but also provided livelihood to drivers. Her grocery delivery service now receives an average of 100,000 online orders daily.
The DTI plays an important role in preparing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) thrive in a new reality that includes social distancing and self-isolation.
“COVID-19 pandemic has already changed life and commerce,” said Assistant Secretary Asteria Caberte of DTI.
According to Caberte, MSMEs must learn to embrace the new normal, accept new business concepts and get past the so called old “brick and mortar” mindset in order to survive.
“If there’s anything good about the Covid pandemic it is the realization by many of the benefits of digitization,” DTI assistant regional director Maria Elena Arbon pointed out.
Arbon recalled that she had been promoting digital transformation but had experienced ‘hurdles’ in convincing MSMEs and people in general to adopt and adapt digital.
“Perversely, Covid-19 has effectively forced everyone to accept more digitization into their lives, work and businesses,” she said.
The DTI regional office has been conducting trainings, workshops and other interventions for business start-ups, which aimed to developing this mindset of seeing opportunity in obstacles, Caberte disclosed.
“DTI also assists MSMEs in product development, design, packaging, standards compliance, marketability, production capability, brand development, among others,” she added.
Lubon is a beneficiary of DTI’s One Town, One Product (OTOP) and the Kapatid Mentor Micro Entrepreneurs (KMME) programs./rcg
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