Startups in the Philippines

WATCH: GrowSari CEO’s story of how Robina Gokongwei reacted on launch day hiccups

Ralf Rivas
WATCH: GrowSari CEO’s story of how Robina Gokongwei reacted on launch day hiccups
GrowSari CEO ER Rollan had to message investor Robina Gokongwei at five in the morning to report that there were hiccups on launch day

MANILA, Philippines – GrowSari is among the exciting startups expanding its hold on the micro enterprises space. 

Their app basically addresses the logistical nightmare of getting items delivered to sari-sari stores. With just a few taps, small business owners can buy items from stores and have them delivered the next day. The best part is it’s free of charge on the part of sari-sari stores.

GrowSari also provides analytics for sari-sari store owners to help them grow their business.

Since its launch in 2016, it has helped over one million sari-sari stores nationwide.

But this growth did not come without hiccups.

In an event organized by Endeavor Philippines, GrowSari CEO and co-founder ER Rollan recalled how things didn’t go as planned on launch day, as well as how their major funder, Robina Gokongwei, was with them every step of the way.

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“The first warehouse that we opened, we were borrowing the back room of Robina’s store. It was launch day. I woke up at four in the morning just to make sure things are gonna run,” Rollan said.

But just hours before their supposed launch, his team encountered six issues. They were able to resolve four of these issues.

“Out of courtesy, I messaged Robina. I didn’t know if she was up, but texted her anyway and said, ‘We have some glitch, might be 30 minutes more delay, some issues,’ and her reply to me was, ‘Yes, there are two issues left being solved.’”

“For such a small business at that time, and for her to be up at 5 in the morning and reply to the same level of knowledge that we had, I felt, was extraordinary,” Rollan added.

The Gokongwei group, through Robinsons Retail Holdings Incorporated, led the online platform’s Series A in 2018, along with JG Digital Equity Ventures, and Wavemaker Partners LLC.

“I’m not sure if this is true for all ‘big fishes,’ but I think we’ve been blessed with the ‘fish’ that was given to us,” Rollan said. –

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.