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Power to the people

Four techpreneurs set out to empower sari-sari storeowners through apps.
By Rocel Ann Junio |

Why create products and services and then give them away for free? For the guys behind Sari Software Solutions—Ibba Bernardo, Jake Estrada, Doy Roque and Ed Geronia—helping people is reason enough.

They are doing precisely that with Sari Load, designed to help sari-sari storeownersdo business better.Sari Load is but the start of the group’s mission to develop platforms and mobile apps that “empower the largest but underserved socio-economic sector of the society: the bottom of the pyramid.” Since it started operations in October 2011, Sari has deployed more than 20 prototypes of an Android smartphone installed with Sari Load.

Noting that technology has become a “great equalizer,” Sari chief information officer Geronia says technology must be adjusted to suit people’s needs. “Kung ano ang kailangan nila, ’yung app na ’yun ang kailangang lumabas, and not what’s in [the developer’s] head,” he says.

Geronia recalls how their initial notions about developing Sari Load proved to be wrong when they fi nally tested the app among storeowners in Cubao, Quezon City. “Our biggest assumption was that nanay, who typically runs the store, might resist technology. Turns out, it’s the opposite,” he says. “She loves technology.”

“Our biggest metric is really ‘Will they use the app? Will they love it?’” says Bernardo, chief executive officer.

 

Sari wants to retain a free distribution model, even as it aims to become profi table in the future. “We started with this idealistic vision of helping people out,” says Roque, chief of strategy and planning, adding that they intend to emulate the way Google does business. The Internet giant allows the general public to use its services and tools for free, while earning from it SEO, advertising and software technologies, among others.

 

“Imagine people who make P300 a day gaining access to a mini-computer, and doing business with it,” adds Roque. “That’s 80 percent of the world.”

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Estrada, whose mom’s sari-sari store put him through school, believes engineers must think of ways of giving back. “It’s a shame really to see people working for companies abroad or making products for the elite… we have to do something for the base of the pyramid where we can provide change."

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