How Peddler convinced Tiny Stores to Digitalize their Business in The Philippines


In the Philippines, the sari-sari stores are your one-stop shops on just about every street, shining like a beacon of hope in the dead of night and wee hours of the morning when everything else is closed. Actually, sari-sari are the humble version of better known Japanese konbini.

So what’s the difference? Sari-sari stores tend to be family-run and privately owned, operating within the shopkeeper's residence. Today, they have become an integral part of Filipinos’ everyday life. However, many of these stores fail to stay in business for long due to many factors such as the inaccurate monitoring of stocks and profits. And the situation got worse after the pandemic outbreak.

This is what inspired Aiko Reyes and Nel Laygo to launch Peddlr, a digital and financial fintech startup company based in Catbalogan, Samar. Peddlr got its name from the word “peddler,” a person who goes from one place to another selling small items. The company logo features a bicycle pedal to represent sari-sari commitment to supporting MSMEs as they move forward in their business ventures, explained the company. But let’s start from the beginning.

Why Are sari-sari Essential to Life in the Philippines?

A sari-sari store is a small neighborhood retail shop that caters to members of that community. The store usually carries basic goods such as canned food, instant noodles, coffee, soda, and other things that Filipinos get on a daily basis. They can have literally anything commodity the community needs. Sari-sari stores nowadays also become your go-to prepaid mobile loading station, thanks to the popularity of smartphones.

The name comes from the Filipino term for variety (sari). Those stores are typically owned and operated by a mother whose sole purpose for putting up the store is to augment their family income. Most sari-sari stores become a small family business, with other members of the family pitching in. It’s this combination of convenience and community service that separates sari-sari stores from convenience stores like 7-11 and Ministop.

The Mission: Provide Digitalize The Inventories and Operations

The company aims to help micro, small, and medium enterprises in managing inventories and doing automated bookkeeping, among other manual processes, all in one app. “Our mission is to provide micro and small business owners the necessary tools to embrace the digital world, manage their operations more effectively, and increase profitability. We firmly believe that technology should be accessible to all businesses regardless of size,” said Aiko Reyes to local media.

In just seven weeks of roll out from app stores, the App reported more than 5,000 users. After a few months from the beginning of operations, Peddlr helped more than 50,000 small businessmen in Eastern Visayas. Currently, the App has around 1 million registered merchants on the platform: 55% of those are sari-sari stores, 30% are small local restaurants, canteens, cafeterias, food stalls, milk-tea shops, and the like; 10% are home-based online sellers, and 5% are other small and micro-type services and businesses.

How Peddlr works

The app is free to download and its core product is inventory management. In fact, Peddlr features a POS system that allows business owners to record their sales in one go, as well as inventory management that lets them trace the status of their products in real-time. The app works online and even without an Internet connection, so entrepreneurs need not worry about poor signal and slow internet.

Moreover, it creates a multiple revenue system for MSMEs as it houses a B2B e-commerce function, allowing businesses to purchase fast-moving consumer goods, POS devices, and consumer-packaged goods straight from the app, and digital products where they can use e-load, bills payment, and gaming pins as an extra source of income.

Encourage Each Other to Embrace Technology by Giving Insights

Peddlr aims to digitalize the inventories and operations of the Philippines’ 1.3 million tiny corner shops, along with the country’s roughly 20 million micro and small enterprises. Inanc Balci, Co-Founder of Crestone Venture Capital, an Emerging Markets Fintech Venture Capital Fund, said the MSMEs ability to grow in the Philippines was hampered by a lack of digitalization, data, and credit. Thus, Peddlr perfectly suits those realities that want to surf up the digitalization wave.

However, despite being fully aware of their target market and the potential of their business, Peddlr faced different challenges, including their market having little to no knowledge about what they have to offer. “To overcome this hurdle, we pursued an organic approach by conducting online farming activities to increase user acquisition and build brand awareness,” said Laygo.

Learning that the problem stems from trust issues in different online tools and software due to rampant fraudulent activities such as scams and phishing, the Peddlr team created a Facebook group that gathered early app users and served as a platform where they could air their concerns. Currently, Peddler's Facebook Group, which encourages each other to embrace technology by giving insights and building a support structure that keeps everyone in the group motivated, has over 119k active users.