RCBC’s DiskarTech super app partners with social enterprise Hapinoy to help micro-retailers and SMEs stay afloat despite lockdowns

For Roma Tejero, a sari-sari store owner from Quezon City, the recent reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila is a necessary measure that the national government has to take in order to contain the rising cases of Delta variant infections in the country.

But this, she admits, has also proven to be a challenge for micro-retailers like her. 

STAYING AFLOAT. The series of lockdowns have helped in curbing the rise of COVID-19 infections in Metro Manila. But for micro-retailers like Roma Tejero, reinstating enhanced community quarantine protocols also meant looking for better opportunities that will keep her small business alive.

“It’s definitely extra difficult to run even a small business at this time of the pandemic. Our store barely makes any money,” Roma says in Filipino. “The series of lockdowns and curfews dealt a huge blow to us micro-retailers. Because of limited operations, shortened store hours, and liquor bans during the ECQ, our sales and income significantly went down.”

“We definitely need help,” she adds.

FinTech meets social enterprise

This is where the collaboration between Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation’s (RCBC) financial inclusion super app DiskarTech and mutli-awarded social enterprise Hapinoy comes in.

Working to aid thousands of sari-sari store owners in the country amid the pandemic, the partnership seeks to onboard Hapinoy members across the archipelago like Roma to the digital finance ecosystem through DiskarTech.

“This partnership of helping them onboard to DiskarTech will certainly create many benefits for them that are especially relevant during the pandemic. Digitized access to financial services such as digital savings, free fund transfers, and access to loans and insurance that are tailor-built for them will certainly help them become more resilient through these challenging times,” says Hapinoy president Mark Ruiz.

“We truly believe that DiskarTech is a game-changer in terms of digital financial inclusion – making much-needed financial services widely accessible to more Filipinos, especially sari-sari store owners. This is a purpose and a mission that truly aligns with our own in Hapinoy, and as such, it was very easy for us to engage in this partnership,” he adds.

For DiskarTech’s part, supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (mSMEs) has always been at the core of its mission.

Since its initial roll out last year, DiskarTech has given small business owners an option to earn extra income through the PAKIsuyo Services,which allows small business partners to charge a minimal convenience fee for every pakisuyo transaction such as payments, cash in and cash out services, purchase of micro insurance and telemedicine, and e-loading, among others.

“The PAKIsuyo Services program is just the tip of the iceberg. As we continue to aid our mSMEs and fellow Filipinos during these trying times, we in DiskarTech have leveled up our programs to create an enabling environment for our mSMEs, especially with our five-pronged innovations for mSME inclusion. Through this, we can assure that every madiskarteng Pilipino, including sari-sari store owners, will remain resilient, insured and empowered,” says Lito Villanueva, RCBC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Inclusion Officer.    

Innovations for mSMEs

DiskarTech’s five-pronged digital finance innovation for mSME inclusion is a holistic, grassroots approach that introduces digital sachet banking to ordinary Filipinos. This empowers micro-retailers and small entrepreneurs by providing them with efficient and accessible digital finance service options which will help them grow their businesses while at the same time promote inclusive digital finance solutions to consumers. This innovation for mSMEs includes the following:

  • Sari-sari Savings: Through DiskarTech, micro-retailers and other SMEs can open their first basic deposit accounts (BDAs) which formally onboard them to the digital finance ecosystem. Using their DiskarTech accounts, small business owners can keep their profits and savings in a more secured platform. Moreover, their savings in DiskarTech can even earn with a 3.25-percent interest annually with no required initial deposit, no maintaining balance, and no dormancy fees.
  • Sari-sari Score: DiskarTech also allows our mSMEs to build a good-standing credit profile through an alternative credit scoring algorithm. This will be highly beneficial for them especially when they apply for loans that will help them finance and further grow their businesses.
  • Sari-sari Insurance: With the support and recognition of the Insurance Commission (IC), DiskarTech also enables micro-businesses to be covered by affordable microinsurance services which will help protect entrepreneurs and their business from massive financial loss due to certain risks such as accidents, illnesses, and death. Through the sari-sari store insurance offered by DiskarTech in partnership with Malayan Insurance, micro-retailers can now enjoy the benefits of up to 25,000-peso worth of coverage for three months at an initial cost of only 35 pesos.
  • Sari-sari Payments: Through the app, sari-sari stores become easy access points to everyday Filipino consumers when it comes to digital payment transactions such as free fund transfers via Instapay, bills payment and e-loading services. Leveraging on the interoperability of these features, micro-business eventually become effective partners in normalizing digital payments among the mass market especially through the use of QRph, the country’s QR code standard.    
  • Sari-sari Credit: With the recent launch of DiskarTech’s Digital Loans Marketplace, mSMEs can now enjoy services that will give them alternative financing options for their businesses through various microloan products that can help them increase their inventories for enhanced sales opportunities. Business owners are given a set of options to customize their loan terms in a way that suits their financial capability.

“DiskarTech has always been a reliable partner of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) when it comes to inclusive finance and offering sustainable business solutions for our micro, small, and medium enterprises (mSMEs). That’s why we are glad that DiskarTech has partnered with Hapinoy, with their network of over 20,000 sari-sari store owners throughout the countryside,” remarks DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez during the DiskarTeck-Hapinoy partnership virtual launch last August 2 which also coincided with this year’s National mSME Week.

FINANCIAL INCLUSION HUBS. The partnership between RCBC’s DiskarTech and Hapinoy is geared not only in helping sari-sari store owners like Roma Tejero survive the pandemic but also in transforming their small businesses into “hubs for financial inclusion and education.

“With this collaboration, Hapinoy members can benefit from DiskarTech’s 5-pillar strategy which includes sari-sari insurance, sari-sari score, sari-sari payment, sari-sari credit, and sar-sari savings. More importantly, this program can offer much-needed aid for mSMEs as we continue to cope and recover from the disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he adds.

‘Hubs for financial inclusion and education’

But for RCBC’s DiskarTech and Hapinoy, this partnership goes way beyond helping our mSMEs recover and endure during the pandemic. In the larger context, this collaboration also aims to convert micro-retailers as active partners in promoting inclusive digital finance to the rest of the population.

“Ultimately, our goal is to enable sari-sari stores and other SMEs to become community hubs for financial inclusion and education. We in RCBC believe that micro-retailers and small entrepreneurs are an important backbone of our economy especially during these times. We recognize that small as they are, they truly have tremendous transformative power in helping ordinary Filipinos understand, appreciate and use inclusive digital finance solutions,” says Eugene S. Acevedo, RCBC’s President and Chief Executive Officer.   

By supporting mSMEs through programs that will ensure their business continuity, they also become effective agents of the financial sector in imparting financial education to the masses.

For example, sari-sari store owners can leverage on their own experiences in promoting the value of sachet risk protection products and thus help the general public in appreciating better the benefits of availing microinsurance services.

Moreover, this partnership also promotes easier access to microinsurance products in the countryside by means of digitalization. As a form of insurance technology (insurtech), the DiskarTech app serves as an effective tool in deepening insurance penetration in geographically isolated and difficult areas (GIDAS), considering that most DiskarTech users reside in the provinces. This is amplified even more by the wide network of Hapinoy micro-retailers operating outside Metro Manila.

“Though seemingly small in their capacity, the sari-sari store industry plays an integral part as the grassroots of our country’s economy… In order for our country to recover in a larger scale, our efforts in creating positive impact should start in the smallest unit of our economy and society. With this, it is therefore a delight to learn that our dear sari-sari store owners are the ones who will particularly benefit from RCBC’s DiskarTech program,” says Insurance Commissioner Atty. Dennis B. Funa.

Towards a digital Philippines

Because of the convenience that DiskarTech services bring to the mass market, plus the opportunity it gives to small business owners to earn more, RCBC’s first Taglish and Cebuano super app has booked an exponential eight-fold growth both in transaction volume and value since it was first launched last year.

Recent year-to-date figures as of June 2021 show that all transaction metrics are on uptrend: bills payment transaction count grew by 970 percent, with a value growth of 949 percent; Instapay incoming transactions grew by 156 percent, with a value growth of 403 percent; Instapay outgoing transactions increased by 446 percent, with a value growth of 2562 percent; and partner deposits hiked by 1618 percent, with a transaction amount growth of 5558 percent.

As of July 2021, cash in partner transaction volume also grew by 28 percent month-on-month, with a 29-percent increase in transaction value.

These figures only show how ordinary Filipinos nationwide have changed their outlook towards digital finance solutions, and have started to embrace financial technology as their main transaction platform especially during this pandemic.  

In the end, the DiskarTech and Hapinoy partnership is another forward step in achieving what the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) envisioned as the twin national goals of financial inclusion and digital acceleration.

“Today, digitalization is no longer an option. It is an imperative. And so to help our mSMEs’ digital transformation, and flourish in the new economy, the public and private sectors must work hand-in-hand to develop creative and sustainable solutions,” says BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno.

“This partnership [between DiskarTech and Hapinoy] aligns well and supports the vision we have laid out in the Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap 2020-2023… This new partnership with RCBC’s DiskarTech and Hapinoy will now serve as a lever that will propel the micro-retailers they help towards digital migration and inclusive digital finance,” he adds.

For Hapinoy president Mark Ruiz, their partnership with RCBC’s DiskarTech is only the beginning of an exciting journey towards a financially inclusive and digitally accelerated Philippines.

“RCBC’s overall push for financial inclusion and education resonates with Hapinoy as an organization and even for me personally, as somebody who believes that equitable access to these services can truly help uplift the lives of so many micro-retailers and SMEs,” he says.

And this is true not only for sari-sari store owners like Roma, but for the rest of the Filipinos.

“Having a savings account through DiskarTech could be a life-saver especially during the pandemic. We need to learn how to save for emergencies. For us small business owners, this partnership boosts our moral to continue looking for opportunities that will help our ventures stay afloat,” Roma says.

“It is in programs like this that micro-retailers like me, and Filipinos in general, find hope in the midst of the current crisis,” she adds.

“We have found an ally. We just need to keep on fighting.”

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