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Enterprise Resource Management

Philippines' Rags2Riches Offers Way Out of Poverty via Cloud

One of the less well-known advantages of cloud computing is the ability to set up systems quickly to help disadvantaged people stand on their own feet and create sustainable businesses.

Rags2Riches started in 2007 in Payatas, one of the Philippines’ largest dumpsites where 12,000 families are resident and many of the women weaved rugs to earn a living by recycling scrap fabric while caring for their children. However, even this modest cottage industry was prey to middlemen skimming off money so Rags2Riches was created to give women access to fair trade, financial training and other counsel. It sums up its stance with four tenets: People, Profit, Planet and Positive Influence. Projects have included partnering with local fashion designers like Rajo Laurel, Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Oliver Tolentino to transform remnants into fashion handbags.

Today, Rags2Riches is an established social enterprise, providing about 900 citizens, mostly women, with a sustainable livelihood by providing support and distribution for makers of purses, bags and accessories.

“We provide community artisans with access to a market,” says Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, the 28-year-old Rags2Riches founder and CEO, speaking by phone from Manila. “The whole goal is to help people and make products from organic indigenous materials.”

The group sells through about 25 distribution outlets locally, and recently set up a deal to sell in the UK via Anthropologie which has franchises that include the famous Selfridges department store in London.

“The internet is extremely important to us,” says Fernandez-Ruiz. “Our products need to be updated often to stay relevant and we’re one click away from information as to what’s new, what’s trendy. As an island nation, we’re quite isolated from Asia and the world and the internet lets us reach customers even if they are very far away.”

Rags2Riches opened its online store in February and is just ramping up.

“Sales today online are not very significant yet but we see the potential to have the same sales online as in five outlets.”

All this is supported by NetSuite’s cloud-based financials, eCommerce and ERP system and the relationship came about through an odd coincidence. Fernandez-Ruiz was part of a global fellowship that gave her a two-week scholarship to Santa Clara University in California. At the end of that period she gave a presentation and a NetSuite executive was in the audience. Afterwards they chatted about NetSuite’s company’s corporate citizenship programme, NetSuite.org, which provides pro bono and discounted services for deserving organisations.

“We were already looking at it so it seemed a very serendipitous meeting. Before, we ran mostly on spreadsheets but now we can be centralised and have one system covering the whole supply chain. We can monitor inventory and raw materials being passed from one community to another and in the workshop. The system is always improving and NetSuite’s people have been like family to us, answering all our questions.”

NetSuite was deployed in 2012 and being on the cloud isn’t an issue.

“Broadband speeds are not as fast as some other countries, I’m sure, but they’re actually pretty decent. If you look at things like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Filipinos are very active on those, so it’s not a problem to have everything cloud-based.”

The next task for Rags2Riches is to grow online sales internationally as part of its broader growth trajectory that has seen it add staff and artisan producers at a rapid clip. It will deploy the NetSuite Light Manufacturing module to help track work across the artisan community and improve quality assurance processes and institute best practice processes from raw materials to distribution.

And throughout it will stay close to its vision of, if not quite creating riches, then providing an equitable version of the rag trade for Filipinos.

 

Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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