Actress-comedienne Melai Cantiveros partners with multi-million dollar startup, GrowSari to empower sari-sari stores in PH

Published April 28, 2022, 3:05 PM

by Manila Bulletin Entertainment

Melai for GrowSari

When actress-comedian and Pinoy Big Brother 2009 winner, Melai Cantiveros-Francisco was asked at her PBB audition what business she had dreamed to start at her hometown GenSan, she immediately answered sari-sari store.

Three years later, Melai has fulfilled an even bigger dream—instead of building her own sari-sari store, she is now empowering these MSMEs as the ambassador of GrowSari.

GrowSari, a tech-enabled B2B platform that supports small physical retail stores in the Philippines, including sari-sari stores, carinderias, pharmacies, and other roadside and market shops, provides these MSMEs access to a wide range of products at distributor prices and equips them with convenient tools to grow and maximize their earnings.

The company has completed its Series C funding with global marquee investors, bringing the total funding to USD 110 million to extend its lead in the B2B and MSME space in the Philippines and improve the financial services of the application.

“I had no hesitations at all because maganda ang vision and mission ng GrowSari—to help Filipinos start or improve their businesses in an easy way with extensive digital support. I am proud and honored to be their representative kasi pwede itong maging stepping stone for a lot of Filipinos na magkaroon ng magandang buhay,” Melai enthuses when asked about her partnership with GrowSari.

Growing up in the province, Melai recalls the time she and her family had to resort to buying ingredients for their daily meals from the neighborhood sari-sari store, having nothing to spare beyond the basic necessities at that time.

“Kung ano lang ang kakainin namin sa araw o sa meal na ‘yon, ‘yon lang ang bibilhin namin—pa-isa-isang kilo ng bigas, isang takal ng tuyo, suka, at iba pa,” Melai reveals.

If you walk through the residential streets of the Philippines, you are likely to spot a sari-sari store on almost every corner. The family-run small convenience store is often an extension of the house, situated near the road. Sari-sari means variety in Filipino and in this store, everything from basic food necessities to cleaning supplies is literally within your hand’s reach. It has become a cultural icon where neighbors often spend time catching up and children playing piko or hopscotch take breaks sipping soda from plastic bags. It is a place that brings together the community.

“Malaking tulong ang mga sari-sari store sa mga pamilyang sakto lang ang kinikita para sa pagkain, kasi hindi makakabili ng bultuhan dahil wala namang pambili. Kaya kung may sari-sari store sa community, it really helps sa mga nakatira doon,” Melai adds.

Melai believes that through GrowSari, many sari-sari store owners, as well as other MSMEs all around the Philippines can benefit from the its services. “GrowSari has made it easier para sa mga tindera na makasabay sa innovation. Whether may sari-sari store na kayo or maguumpisa pa lang, pinu-push ko kayo na mag-download ng GrowSari app. Hindi porket app siya ay pang-mayaman or mahal siya—that’s a big no. The GrowSari app is free at malaki ang maitutulong niya sa pag-grow ng business,” she stresses.

Through the GrowSari app, not only can users easily place their orders, but also broaden their community offerings such as telco loading and bills payment. It also offers the MSMEs support in the form of a credit facility that provides extra capital to expand their assortment and keep inventory levels healthy.

After completing its Series C funding, GrowSari was able to raise around USD 77.5 million more to further drive expansion geographically and include more services, as well as broaden the marketplace. The partnership of Melai and GrowSari hopes to accelerate this progression and grow its service to more than 100,000 MSMEs nationwide.