Bam Aquino and Mark Ruiz are two young Filipino entrepreneurs with a passion for using business to tackle the continuous cycle of poverty faced by many in their country. Bam is the Former Chairman of the National Youth Commission, the youth policy-making arm of the Philippine government, and has hosted two TV shows: Breakfast, a youth-oriented morning talk show, and Start-Up, a business magazine show. Mark has seven years of experience with Unilever in the Philippines handling modern trade channels. Both of them are also founding partners of another social venture Rags2Riches (a community-based enterprise that upcycles scrap cloth into high-end designer handbags and accessories). As testament to their achievements to date, Bam and Mark were finalists for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Philippines last year.
In the Philippines, where the ‘base of the pyramid’ population (those earning less than USD$2/day) largely reside in rural and remote locations, traditional distribution systems have neglected the poorest of the poor, resulting in lack of access to essential goods such as medicine, nutritious foods, affordable lighting and energy and communications technology. Low income Filipinos depend on sari-sari stores, small individually-owned and operated convenience stores, to obtain everyday goods. Due to the inefficiencies in the supply chain before goods reach the sari-sari stores, the poor often pay up to 20% more for staple goods than the those that can easily afford them. Furthermore, sari-sari stores, owned and operated by women, are excluded from business opportunities that their larger counterparts regular receive.
The name Hapinoy is a play on the words ‘happy’ and ‘pinoy’, the colloquial word for Filipinos. The founders of Hapinoy chose this word to epitomize their vision to spur prosperity and happiness to all Filipinos across the Philippines. Partnering with the largest microfinance institution in the Philippines, CARD-MRI, they created an innovative and inclusive distribution system that brings together independently operated sari-sari stores, aggregating their purchasing power into a single strong voice representing the poor.
Hapinoy’s ability to reach the “last mile” through its distribution network significantly impacts the lives of multiple stakeholders, including sari-sari storeowners, small producers and consumers. Sari-sari storeowners can now access better business opportunities due to diverse product offerings, thereby improving their businesses and increasing their income. They are better able to support their children’s education, afford healthcare for their families, and in some cases, earn sufficient income to eliminate the need to work overseas.
The distribution platform Hapinoy has created through its expansive network of sari-sari stores allows for a two-way flow of goods enabling small producers to access a much larger market than they would on their own. This is one of the only opportunities rural entrepreneurs have to scale their businesses and ensure sustainable income for their families. In addition, Hapinoy assists these small producers with product development, quality control, packaging and operational support needed to scale up their production.
For the rural poor in the Philippines, Hapinoy’s distribution system facilitates access to more affordable everyday goods. In addition to basic goods, Hapinoy also enables access to other products that improve quality of life, such as affordable medicines and technology, anti-dengue mosquito nets and solar-powered lanterns.
This level of impact is just the beginning for Hapinoy. Having created a network that reaches the poor in the country, they are continuously working to develop other ways to leverage this network, contributing to rural economic development, transforming mindsets regarding poverty and improving the lives of their fellow Pinoys.