Unilever is one of the foremost global names in the food and personal, household care categories with annual global revenues numbering in the billions of euros.
In the Philippines, it is a market leader in practically all of the categories it is involved in, with brands such as Surf, Dove, Cream Silk, and Knorr. This would not have been possible without the patronage of the mass market, the same market that it seeks to help through its various livelihood projects.
These projects form part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which is anchored on the belief that sustainable growth and progressing with society are part of its responsibility as an ideal corporate citizen, especially so in the Philippines where the bulk of its business is accounted for by SMMEs.
Thus it felt that it was just right to focus one of its major programs – the Kabisig Summit Program – on helping the sari-sari store owners run their business better.
“A lot of what we do for inclusive business focuses on the livelihood of small retailers or sari-sari stores. These stores comprise the biggest number of our customer base and is a huge driver of growth,” shared Ed Sunico, Unilever’s Vice President for Sustainable Business and Communications.
“The brands that we have are mostly sold in sachets that are widely distributed in sari-sari stores which cater to the relatively lower income markets.
The bulk of the home and personal care business relies on the general trade—mostly sari-sari stores, and small and medium- sized groceries and supermarkets,” added Sunico.
Kabisig Summit aims to improve the entrepreneurial skills of sari- sari store owners by increasing their knowledge on handling small businesses, sustainability, and empowerment. The group executed this program by going directly to more than 60,000 sari- sari stores nationwide, targeting to cover 100,000 stores by 2020.
Unilever provides training on business resiliency for small holder farmers and small and medium-sized retailers and links to their supply chain
The team reaches out and teaches in barangays the basics of handling money, customer service, and sustainability principles as it engages the store owners on the best way to manage their business.
“For this to scale up and become effective, you have to go to them rather than them going to you. Sari-sari stores cannot afford a single day to be out of their shop, so we do it right there in front of the lead or “Superstore”, where the small stores usually get their inventory—that’s where we conduct our training program,” Sunico added.
There is normally an average of 60 – 70 smaller stores for every lead store in the community. For more than four years now, “Kabisig Summit” has been going around the country providing training for the community sari-sari stores on a weekly basis.
Jessabel Mainot, a Kabisig Program beneficiary, shared that she learned a lot from the program.
“Dati, hindi ako marunong ng costing. Hindi ko pa alam noon kung paano ihihiwalay ang kita sa benta at yung sa puhunan.” (“I did not know how to do costing. I didn’t know how to separate profit from sales and from capital,”) she said.
Mainot has been running her small sari-sari store for more than seven years now. Through the Kabisig Summit, she was able to boost her sales and income.
“Mahina po yung benta ko noon. Nung naging Kabisig po ako, ginawa ko ang lahat ng itinuro ng Unilever. Kailangan pahalagahan mo ang bawat piso at centavo, ipunin ang resibo kada buwan, at maglista ng benta araw,” (“I had low sales before. When I became Kabisig, I did everything that Unilever taught. Each peso and centavo is important, receipts need to be collected monthly and daily sales have to be recorded,”) she added.
Today, her sari-sari store yields an average monthly income of P10,000.
Another beneficiary of the program is Vanessa Naza. She has been running her sari- sari store for more than six years.
“The idea for inclusive business is for the company effort to be socially responsible and at the same time be a driver or contributor of business growth. Both should go hand in hand. If you go back to the starting point of why we do the things that we do, it starts with sustainable business growth.”
“Malaki ang naitulong sa amin ng Kabisig Summit dahil nakilala ko ang mga customers ko at lumago ang negosyo namin,” (“Kabisig Summit helped us a lot because I was able to meet customers and our business grew,”) she said.
Naza added, “Natulungan ang pamilya namin para ang mga kapatid ko ay makapagtapos
sa kanilang pag-aaral.” (It helped my family ensure that my siblings will finish their studies.)
Their advice to those who want to put up a sari- sari store business is “Lakasan ang loob, tiwala, tiyaga. Kung ikaw mismo ang tatao sa negosyo mo, marunong ka dapat makisama. When it comes to pricing dapat sa presyo di masyadong mataas para mas mabilis maubos at mabili at mabilis umikot ang pera.” (“Be strong, trust, and hard work. If you yourself will man your business, you should know how to get along. When it comes to pricing, the price should not be too high so that your supplies will be sold fast and the money grows faster.”)
Part also of Unilever’s inclusive business growth programs are Sustainable Sourcing Livelihood Program, Selecta Ice Cream Mobiling, and SMME Resiliency (Business Continuity Planning Program thru the Humanitarian Leadership Academy).
“The SME Business Continuity Planning Program is an initiative in partnership with the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. It provides training on business resiliency for small holder farmers and small and medium-sized retailers which can prepare them to plan ahead and be more resilient in times of calamities – very relevant during these times,” Sunico noted.
Sustainable Sourcing Livelihood Programs, meanwhile link smallholder farmers to its supply chain to provide income and farming best practices to them. Currently, Unilever Philippines is sustainably sourcing crops such as tamarind, ube (purple yam), coconut, mango, and pineapple for Knorr, Lady’s Choice and Selecta.
Selecta Mobiling provides livelihood to the community by empowering people to become Selecta ice cream mobiles. It aims to create micro-entrepreneurs through the stock point dealer program by providing the proper skill set and training to potential dealers and mobiles.
Making products available everywhere is the goal of Unilever. Unilever invests and reaches out to the people when others do not. Every Kabisig training is an opportunity to inspire the people to learn and have the courage to start or manage a small business. Unilever invests in the community and that inspires the citizens to participate.
The key is sustainability and inclusivity.
He added, “The idea for inclusive business is for the company effort to be socially responsible and at the same time be a driver or contributor of business growth. Both should go hand in hand. If you go back to the starting point of why we do the things that we do, it starts with sustainable business growth.”
This story is part of a series of articles written by GO NEGOSYO writers being published by GoodNewsPilipinas.com every Tuesday as part of our support to Philippine businesses.