October 10, 2022 By Rosalind Fan
Shaneika Lim
5 min read

How IBM Cloud PaaS provides Packworks with a faster time to market, affordable access to a wider variety of resources, easy/cost-effective scalability and lower costs.

There is no doubt that cloud technology has revolutionized the business landscape today and changed the way businesses operate in this digital age. Besides being able to cut down on costs significantly, organizations using cloud can scale up rapidly because they are more flexible, efficient, agile and innovative. Moreover, the changing consumer shopping behavior is driving growth in e-commerce platforms. Cloud technology is fueling this growth by allowing retailers to quickly build their online presence and scale out more rapidly, with considerable business success.

However, the digital divide remains a grim reality, especially for the home-based micro-businesses in most parts of developing nations. The absence of technology-led solutions represents a lost opportunity for them to scale out.

One such example is the unorganized and primarily home-based, women-led micro-entrepreneurs of the Philippines (sari-sari stores) who usually depend on the traditional ways of managing their businesses. Without access to technology-based solutions, they are completely unaware of how technology-led solutions can impact their lives and change how they do business.

Packworks is bridging the digital divide and creating a more progressive, connected and inclusive Philippines

Packworks is a young Philippines-based mobile ERP start-up that recognized the plight of the sari-sari store owners, saw the opportunity and jumped into the business with a focus on organizing the unorganized — a reality that exists in most developing countries around the world. Today, Packworks — with a simplified mobile ERP solution built on the IBM Cloud platform — has set out with a mission to create a more progressive, connected and inclusive Philippines. It is completely driven by their vision of making technology accessible to the micro-entrepreneurs of the Philippines.

With the widest nationwide network of 200,000 sari-sari stores (also known as the mom-and-pop stores in the US, kiranas in India or warungs in Indonesia), Packworks is the fastest growing B2B platform for the community-based micro-retailers in the country for managing inventory, bookkeeping and data collection. In addition, Packworks is skilling up and empowering the store owners through connected commerce and helping them scale up and transform their way out of poverty.

Packworks eventually finds the right cloud platform to scale out operations

Sari-sari stores are managed mainly by the women of the house, who run about 75% of the 200,000 stores in the Packworks network today. Since the store purchases are also mostly made by these women, they memorize the sale price of each product. However, this situation doesn’t often work in favor of the store owners. For example, when the owner falls sick or is unavailable for some reason, there is no price list available for the other family members to fall back on, which hits the store sale for that day. It’s almost like the entrepreneur has become a prisoner of her own business. Packworks understood the constraints of these sari-sari store owners and wanted to help them make it easier to do business by bringing technology-enabled solutions into their lives.

At the outset, Packworks used other cloud service providers (CSPs), including one of the top cloud providers, for their workloads. However, they soon realized the platforms were not as flexible as they wanted them to be. Bing Tan, CEO of Packworks, recalls the pain they had to go through adding just another instance or provisioning a new cloud catalog service whenever they had to scale up during peak season.

Recognizing the platform limitations of other cloud providers, Packworks made an informed and well-thought-out decision to choose IBM Cloud Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). IBM Cloud gave them the flexibility they needed with complete administrative control of the environment and seamless access to the IBM Cloud catalog of services. It also made the server management administration very easy for them. “With IBM Cloud, adding a new instance when scaling up became a lot easier — all managed with the single click of a button,” said Bing.

Packworks also leverages the IBM Identity and Access Management (IAM) services, which helps them improve security and meet all regulatory compliance across the organization while driving down costs.

The connected ecosystem on the IBM Cloud platform is creating immense value and unleashing many opportunities for all the players

Packworks is a digital layer over the supply chain creating value for everyone within the ecosystem network — the principals, the distributors, and the stores. Packworks’ efficient structure and digital platform can provide cleaner and faster transactions across different levels, cost reduction and embedded financial solutions.

“Our approach may not be original, but I know it’s uncommon. We created the market first before we built out all the capabilities of the platform. We want to be the platform that enables and creates more commerce in the network that we’re serving,” says the CEO of Packworks, Bing Tan. He further adds, “By creating a platform that’s really open, I can imagine a world where in just by the right KYC, the right platform, we could provide services that are unavailable to them before.”

The following are some of the additional opportunities the platform is capable of unleashing through this connected ecosystem:

  • Enabling digital money: Packworks is working with the Central bank to enable access to digital money to the sari-sari store owners. With the right KYC to these stores, the MDRs of digital money is 0%.
  • Financing capabilities at a lower rate: 95% of Packworks store owners are unbanked, per the CEO of Packworks, Bing Tan. The connected ecosystem can create financing solutions with third-party partners.
  • Creating drop-off points: Micro-retailers can act as drop-off points alongside regular work, generating additional income opportunities

“Choosing the right platform was key to us. IBM Cloud Platform-as-a-Service provided the right environment for our developers to build, run and manage applications without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. It provides us the flexibility to scale up the resources during peak times when the orders come in and scale down resources when not needed — all done at the push of a button,” says Bing Tan.

Packworks is currently in a very promising position. Some of the global principals that they work with see them as a partner and not as just another distributor, and they are planning to replicate the model outside of the Philippines. The day that happens, it won’t take Packworks to execute the model with similar speed and success. You can learn more about Packworks by visiting their website.

What is IBM Cloud Code Engine?

IBM Cloud PaaS, a serverless infrastructure, provides Packworks with a faster time to market, affordable access to a wider variety of resources, flexibility, easy and cost-effective scalability and lower costs, overall.

IBM Cloud is now offering the next generation of a fully managed serverless platform — IBM Cloud Code Engine — that manages and secures the underlying infrastructure so that developers can focus on what matters most to them: the source code. IBM Cloud Code Engine abstracts the operational burden of building, deploying, and managing workloads in Kubernetes.

Built on open-source technologies like Kubernetes, Knative and Tekton, IBM Cloud Code Engine is a fully managed runtime that allows you to go live in seconds without having to size, deploy, secure, manage or decommission any underlying infrastructure.

Some of the key capabilities of the IBM Cloud Code Engine include the following:

  • Provides a managed multi-tenant hosting environment with a pay-per-use model that removes the need to manage the infrastructure needed to host their applications.
  • Delivers on the promise of an abstracted developer experience by hiding the complexity of Kubernetes, thus allowing developers to focus on writing code instead of managing infrastructure.
  • Offers a combined set of features often only found across different hosting platforms. Users will no longer need to be restricted to a subset of features based on their hosting environment.
  • Looking beyond the traditional HTTP-based application, users will be able to integrate batch processing into their application design within the same hosting environment.
  • All built on open-source technologies such as Kubernetes, Knative, Istio and Tekton.

Is IBM Code Engine right for you? With pay-as-you-go pricing, built-in security and private networking between your apps and jobs, you can learn more about it here.

Try IBM Cloud Code Engine at no charge.

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