From the heat at the polls, an online tool for PH small biz emerges

Micro and small businesses such as sarisari stores, carinderiastaho vendors, home-based bakers and chefs, and crochet artisans, among others, can now market their products and services online through a new and innovative platform called KBFinder.

These small businesses are normally not accommodated and may not be qualified to be listed in popular food delivery apps or online shopping apps. However, the KBFinder is making them more visible to customers on social media and providing them a chance to have a wider market reach.

KBFinder stands for Kakampink Business Finder. Kakampink refers to supporters of former vice president Leni Robredo while Pink generally refers to her political color. 

Kakampink Business Finder is the brainchild of Charlemagne Losaria, a digital map maker and data visualization professional. He wanted to show the location of local businesses supporting Robredo, who was then running as president in the 2022 elections, and make it accessible to all. 

During the campaign season, several social media posts promoting lists of “Pink” or “Kakampink” businesses were circulating. Seeing these lists, Losaria noticed that they did not include the businesses’ addresses. 

As a geographer specializing in digital map-making as a profession, having a list alone does not make much sense because the location context is missing. Business location is “a very important consideration or factor in buying a product or availing a service,” he said.

For instance, he noticed several people posted and were asking which “pink” businesses are there to support in specific areas like Iloilo, Cebu, and Manila. 

Thus, the idea of having a map-based business locator, aptly named Kakampink Business Finder, was conceptualized. 

Creativity from disappointment 

Much of the development time of the KBFinder coincided with the counting of election returns for the national positions. Upon seeing the initial results, Losaria “was Kakampissed,” a term he coined because he was not happy with the results of the early election returns. One could argue that he was politically motivated when he started developing the app. 

Later, his motivation evolved into wanting to create a platform for micro and small businesses to be “showcased” to Kakampinks looking for products or services. Improving the lists approach was a good opportunity. 

For Losaria, these businesses need that extra hand as the owners risked their reputations, as well as customer base, by expressing their support for a candidate who was advocating good and honest governance. He wants these businesses to be more visible to potential customers.

In particular, Losaria was concerned that these businesses might not survive given the current economic climate because they are considered micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

A surge in e-commerce transactions was seen, particularly during the early period of the Covid-19 pandemic when lockdown restrictions were imposed, as wary consumers prefer to stay at home to avoid potential exposure to the virus. People resorted to online shopping and food delivery.

But because the majority will not qualify to be listed in popular food delivery or online shopping apps, most MSMEs cannot participate in the digital market.

“I badly wanted to promote businesses supporting Vice President Robredo and help them weather the bad economic tide,” Losaria said. 

Ease in transaction

In the KBFinder, businesses are not required to submit business permit and other paperwork. “It is the owner’s discretion to be listed, I just provide them the platform,” he explained. 

Losaria started working on developing the KBFinder app on May 7, two days before the elections. Unhappy with the results, he reworked the concept and interface until he was satisfied with what he was able to achieve. He completed it within two to three days before officially launching the KBFinder. 

However, he is continuously working on improving the KBFinder as it is currently still in beta stage. Small feature updates are introduced along the way. More notable improvements were the integration of Google maps and Waze for easy navigation to restaurants and cafes and recently, he integrated Facebook Messenger for faster communication between business owners and customers. 

Losaria conceptualized and developed the KBFinder all by himself while juggling a full-time job. Currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam, he is also the one who manages KBFinder’s Facebook page, as well as performs quality assurance and quality control of data. This is in addition to promoting the app on social media Facebook. As it is, it can be considered a “one-man show.”

Developing the KBFinder was therapeutic for him. Not only did it help him overcome his disappointment with the outcome of the elections, but it also gave him some sort of fulfillment knowing that he has somehow helped small business owners by providing a digital platform to drive up business transactions. 

“I am also able to interact with other Kakampinks and able to share election opinions and life stories,” Losaria added. 

KBFinder creator Charlemagne Losaria
Photo from his Facebook page

While supporters of other presidential candidates are not prohibited from messaging and registering their businesses on KBFinder, Losaria wanted it, as much as possible, to remain exclusively for businesses who supported Robredo.

However, he wants to make it clear though that the KBFinder does not promote cancel culture or boycotting of businesses, but merely as a platform to showcase Pink businesses to fellow Kakampinks

“If I wanted to promote boycotting or cancel culture, I could have easily created a Web map to showcase businesses to boycott instead,” he pointed out. 

“Business owners have the discretion if they want to be listed in the KBFinder. People are free to spend their hard-earned money the way they want to,” Losaria further clarified. 

At present, the KBFinder boasts 1,851 registered MSMEs and large businesses. This number is dominated by food-related businesses.

To be listed in the KBFinder, a business owner can simply send a message to the KBFinder page to express interest. Losaria manually reviews the profile of the business and the owner is requested to show proof of support to Robredo during the campaign period. 

Proof could be photos of participation during house-to-house campaigns, campaign rallies or miting de avance, or just an expression of support on the owner’s page. The KBFinder community (users and business owners) helps in ensuring all registered businesses are Pink businesses.

Once validated, business owners are then provided the registration link to sign up. They are explicitly advised not to share the link with anyone, even with Kakampink friends or family, as part of security measures. While this stringent process results in the slow addition of Pink businesses in the platform, at least the community is assured all businesses showcased in the KBFinder app are verified Pink businesses. 

What if a Kakampink based abroad wants to register a business on the KBFinder or simply wants to avail of a service or a product from the app?

Losaria explains that one can access the KBFinder anywhere around the globe. It is possible for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) interested to transact with a registered business in the Philippines provided the latter accepts payment through PayPal. Overseas Kakampink business owners can likewise register their business on the platform. In fact, one can find businesses in Viet Nam, the United States, and Canada that are registered on the KBFinder. 

Focus on the true goal 

In just more than two months since the KBFinder was launched, Losaria is delighted to receive positive feedback and stories from business owners. They are thankful because, through the platform, they received new and repeat customers. The KBFinder has been instrumental in helping their small business be seen by fellow Kakampinks in their area, something they cannot easily achieve through their traditional digital marketing strategy.

However, it is not spared from negative comments. 

At least a handful of posts have criticized the KBFinder labeling it as an app that promotes divisiveness or that it enables Kakampinks to make their very own micro-economy. One post blamed the discriminating attitude of Kakampinks as a reason why Robredo lost the elections, explicitly citing the KBFinder as an example. 

Losaria is unbothered by the negative comments and chose to see the positive aspects of the KBFinder. 

He pointed out that “no matter what Kakampinks do, people on the other side of the political spectrum seem to always have something negative to say about Robredo supporters.”

Meanwhile, he remained focused on the true goal of the KBFinder, which is to be able to map out all the “Pink” businesses as much as possible. 

Android version now available

On July 3, Losaria finally launched the mobile version of the KBFinder, which can be downloaded and installed through an Android phone. The mobile app retains all of the features of the Web version, with some small improvements.

At present, Losaria is actively talking with a few Kakampink individuals who had expressed their intention to help further improve the KBFinder. As a group, they are planning new features and hoping to release these improvements soon. 

With the current inflation and economic crisis, it is hard to think that all businesses can survive. Kakampinks have shown they will support each other even in the toughest times.

“The country is confronted with insurmountable debt, indecisiveness, incompetence, and high prices. For us Kakampinks, we will support and help each other overcome this economic meltdown. Everyone is welcome to join the fold. We hope they will realize and learn from this,” Losaria concluded.

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