Getting The Whole Picture

Social Enterprise Matcha5 is looking to implement a low-cost ERP system from start-up BiTS to consolidate their fragmented systems on one common platform.

e store

When Rachel Lin visited the town of Tala in the Philippines on a trip in 2008 to study impoverished communities, she discovered a workshop where female relatives of lepers were making dolls for a living. While the dolls were beautiful, the ladies lacked a regular income due to low demand for their product.

That experience sparked the idea for Matcha5, a marketplace exclusive to rural and underprivileged artisans to give them the opportunity to set-up and manage their own e-store. The social enterprise also provides training to the artisans.

Matcha5's social mission is to showcase these unique items to global consumers, while empowering artisans to build sustainable businesses and expand their income by leveraging technology.

"We realised the same situation was playing out in other rural and underprivileged communities. Bounded by technological limitations, artisans could only sell their crafts to neighboring villages. More fortunate artisans were discovered by wholesalers, who purchased the items at a low cost and were not able to ensure a constant demand," says Ms Lin.

She adds: "At Matcha5, consumers will be able to discover beautiful items, and experience life through the artisans’ stories by engaging with them through interactive discussion boards. We believe that beauty and doing good goes hand in hand."

While Matcha5 was using technology to help the artisans, the company, ironically, was conducting many of its business operations - from inventory management to accounting - manually.

This started to cause problems as the business grew and products were being sold both online and through brick and mortar platforms such as pop-up stores. Ms Lin cited the example of pursebooks (a combination of a purse and a note-book) made in the Philippines that they were trying to sell.

"If we put 50 pursebooks for sale online, some of it may have been sold through other channels but we may forget to update the website. So when a customer wants to buy it, it is out of stock," she says.

With her records in a mess, Ms Lin is also unable to analyse her past performance to make better decisions to grow the business. "We wanted to look back at the last two years sales to see which products had the best profit margins, but we can't do that. That's not how a business should operate, so we looked for a way to innovate in order to work better."

That search led her to the DBS Techmatch programme, which linked her up to a tech start-up called BiTS. The firm provides solutions that integrates and automates processes so that small businesses can grow and improve productivity by eliminating the burden of complex administration.

BiTS offers a host of low-cost, cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems from human resources management, inventory management and accounting.

"Our customers are busy trying to grow the business. It is difficult from them to integrate their systems because of the manual interface," explains BiTS CEO and founder Jonathan Lee. He cited the example of business owners cutting and pasting information from spreadsheets in an attempt to consolidate their data.

 When implemented, BiTS' solution aims to allow all of Matcha5's fragmented sales channels and backend functions to be integrated on one platform so that they can operate in a far more efficient manner in order to expand their business.

 Says Mr Lee: "What we do is help them improve their productivity through data consolidation."

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