An organization of young entrepreneurs has created an online platform to link startup micro and small entrepreneurs and producers from Panay Island to interested buyers in response to the coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
With a grant-in-aid from the Department of Science and Technology in Western Visayas (DOST 6), “Bakal Lokal” (Buy Local) was introduced by the Youth First Initiatives Inc. (YFI PH Inc), a transformation from its previous “Produkto Lokal Program” which used to be a weekend fair for local entrepreneurs.
“Since we cannot hold fairs to support MSMEs (micro, small and medium entrepreneurs), we thought of transforming it into Bakal Lokal. Bakal Lokal is an e-commerce platform that features locally made products from Western Visayas and fresh produce from our local farmers,” said Katherine April Gonzales, head of the design and creative and vice-president of the YFI PH, in an interview Monday.
The initiative was first introduced through a Facebook page in May and went live through bakal-lokal.com only last Sept 15. Currently, it has 40 merchants from all over Panay.
Their offering ranges from fresh produce; food, beverage, and preserve; lifestyle, crafts, and interests; body and beauty products; and even services.
“For those who are interested to put their products on our website, their products have to be locally made or sourced. We want to prioritize startup micro and small entrepreneurs because they are the ones who are in need of help,” she said.
They partnered with Lambu-Fresh, a brand of quality agricultural products of champion farmers from Lambunao, Iloilo.
For services, YFI PH partnered with startup photographers and videographers whose income were also affected due to Covid-19.
“Since the economy is slowly starting to pick up and events are now allowed at 75-percent capacity, so we also wanted to give them a platform that they could reach other people who are looking for services like that,” she added.
The local “Lihog” delivery service was tapped to deliver the ordered products right at the doorstep of the buyer. They only charge PHP49 for the first four kilometers and additional PHP9 for every kilometer thereafter, she said.
Since they are new, the coverage is limited to Iloilo City and neighboring municipalities.
“While new, we are happy that this week we have been receiving orders. We are surprised that there are more people who ordered fresh produce right when we started. We are hoping that it continues and we can help other merchants,” she added.
Rates for their products are competitive. Prices that are uploaded on the website also make sure that farmers are getting the correct price for their products.
A “very minimal” markup is being charged for transaction fees to cover the cost of receiving and delivery to customers, she added.
Gonzales said with the available platform, the movement of people going out of their houses and getting exposed to the Covid-19 is minimized.
Also, since everybody is online utilizing Facebook and the internet, the initiative helped “small businesses reach more people”.
“Even though they have a customer base of their own, what we are trying to provide for them is a wider reach so they will have income during this time,” she added.
She said the platform operates Monday until Saturday during office hours. Proper health protocols are observed and they ensure that products are sanitized before they are delivered.
Gonzales said that for the Phase 2 of their project next year, they intend to develop a user-friendly application to make access to products easier.
“We want to expand on our delivery and not just Iloilo city or province but outside. We can bring our goods from Western Visayas nationwide,” she said. (PNA)
Photo Credit: Facebook/Produkto Lokal