When stores open, more or less, the economy in that area benefits. That’s what one humble warehouse that turned into a fast-growing social enterprise has proven for four decades.
Julius Foronda, chief information officer of Prince Retail Group (PRG), shared that every time they open a new store the surrounding economy thrives as a result.
“We often hear ‘Salamat sa Prince, may kutson na ako, may paninda na ako (Thanks to Prince, I now have beddings, I now have merchandise to sell),’” Mr. Foronda said during the PH Digicon event last year.
Since its humble beginnings in 1990 in Cebu, the passion for “serving the underserved” continues to inspire PRG in its goals of expanding and reaching more customers around the Philippines. Beyond building mere physical stores, the mission now includes ensuring that every store is able to deliver better and uninterrupted services, even in times of crises.
It is for this reason that the group has partnered with ePLDT to employ holistic digital solutions — ranging from connectivity improvements, digital systems such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) and cloud-based solutions — that will help fully realize its potential as a social enterprise.
“ePLDT has been a forerunner in bringing in new technologies to our country. It is a reliable partner in providing holistic solutions, whether in increasing connectivity through reliable Internet connections, all the way down to cloud solutions, enabling productivity and integration system solutions,” Mr. Foronda said.
Ultimately, all these innovations were put to the test in the past two years, as the country went through the COVID-19 pandemic and typhoon Odette.
More than online selling
One of the hypermarts of the Prince Retail Group in Cebu City continued to serve its customers despite the onslaught of Typhoon Odette and the COVID-19 pandemic with the help of ePLDT’s cloud and data center services.
While many retail business migrated to online selling during nationwide lockdowns, PRG had to take a bolder and innovative approach. After all, many of its stores — some of which are in far-flung areas in the CARAGA region, Negros, Samar, and Mindanao to name a few — served underdeveloped communities whose access to the Internet is still quite limited.
Staying true to its “sabay sa buhay” tagline, PRG also put its money where its mouth is. Rather than simply shifting to online selling, the company invested in several digital solutions that could help increase productivity and provide uninterrupted service to its customers.
“ePLDT enabled our data warehouse and visualization requirements and designed solutions that covered various tech points, touching on connectivity, application integration via API platform management, among other things,” Mr. Foronda explained.
PRG rolled out Microsoft 365 across all stores and platforms, enabling frontliners in its stores to exchange e-mails and communicate easily during the pandemic. More importantly, PRG automated formerly manual business processes through the creation of a series of mini-apps, automated workflows, and extensive use of SharePoint as its document collaborative platform.
With Microsoft 365 and Azure API in place, PRG successfully integrated majority of its systems and is able to efficiently track data and develop intelligence at a store level. This empowered frontliners to deliver “strong operational unified commerce” to its customers — even in the midst of lockdowns or immediately after any calamities. These tools also helped productivity among employees to increase by 73%, which is even higher than Microsoft’s benchmark of 53%.
PRG also benefitted from its earlier decision to move its mission-critical servers to ePLDT Vitro Data Center in late 2018.
“The need for better and reliable Internet connectivity remains to be a struggle, especially in many of the areas that we serve. As the cost to sustain operations continue to increase, moving our mission-critical servers to ePLDT Vitro Data Center in later part of 2018 proved to be the right decision and solution to continue our operations without disruption,” Mr. Foronda explained.
One of the hypermarts of the Prince Retail Group in Cebu City continued to serve its customers despite the onslaught of Typhoon Odette with the help of ePLDT’s cloud and data center services.
True enough, PRG employees were able to complete their tasks and serve customers consistently and continuously, even when Typhoon Odette inflicted structural damage to some of the group’s stores in the Visayas in late 2021. Its servers, on the other hand, continued to run its merchandising, financial, and other operational applications, as a result of its earlier migration to ePLDT Vitro Data Center.
As it moves toward hitting its target of reaching 100 stores in the next three years, PRG looks forward to extending its partnership with the PLDT Group by engaging in more collaborations in the areas of marketing, product promotion, and even environmental and social initiatives.
“On top of our continuous store renovations, commitment to providing customers with affordable merchandise and providing them with means to apply in our loan facility to help them fund their sari-sari stores, we also expect to accelerate our digital transformation to cater to more customers through online shopping — all these as we continue to evolve into a seamlessly integrated business that remains connected through technology,” Mr. Foronda said.
And while many might find the costs and complexity of embarking on a digital transformation daunting, PRG’s chief information officer encourages other business owners and enterprises to be bold and to invest in digital solutions as soon as they can.
“In the beginning, we asked, how could we afford this investment as a social enterprise that only puts a very low percent markup on our goods compared to our competitors? And eventually, we found out that once the systems are in place, and productivity begins to pick up, the tech ultimately pays for itself,” he concluded.
For more on ePLDT’s multi-cloud and data center solutions, contact your Relationship Manager or visit www.ePLDT.com.
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