Rural firm ventures online to cope with current crisis

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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its Regional Operations Group (ROG), said it is assisting small businesses to shift online in order to thrive in a new reality brought about by the coronavirus contagion.

“If there’s anything good about the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the realization by many of the benefits of digitization,” said DTI assistant regional director Maria Elena Arbon.

“As an advocate for digital transformation, I have experienced the hurdles of convincing our MSMEs and people in general to adopt and adapt digital. Perversely, Covid-19 has effectively forced everyone to accept more digitization into their lives, work and businesses.”

Amid the crisis, there is one Cebu-based company that has successfully translated its business online.

FRL Trading, a start-up company selling agri-based products, diversified to producing washable face masks and running a grocery delivery service online.

Felita Lubon, its proprietor, said that although her company earns well producing turmeric and ginger tea, she saw the high demand for washable facemasks and decided to look for good needle-workers in the mountain barangays of Cebu.

“I bring the fabric to their homes and collect the finished products from them. These needle-workers are happy that they earn income from their work and are able to support their family despite the lockdown,” Lubon narrated.

Currently, FRL Trading produces 6,000 to 10,000 facemasks a day for local and international buyers.

In late April, Lubon noticed the huge volume of people who have been forced to stay home and were unable to do groceries, as well as drivers who were suddenly rendered jobless.

This crisis gave Lubon the idea of establishing an online grocery delivery service that brings supermarket items to those compelled to stay home and give jobs to drivers who are out of work as well.

Since two weeks ago, Lubon’s grocery delivery service receives an average of 100,000 online orders a day.

“In the coming months, DTI may hold most of its trainings via video conferencing to comply with the new normal restrictions,” Arbon stated.

She added that for remote barangays where technology may not be accessible, DTI may hold seminars in gymnasiums, multipurpose buildings but with limited number of participants as to comply with the social distancing protocol.

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