OTOP Visayas Island Fair: Marketing Visayan Creativity
It is amazing how Filipino manufacturers make use of indigenous materials to come up with world class ingenious designs that delight our aesthetic sensibilities despite economic constraints.
Still, in the vicious commercial arena, "world class" creativity counts for nothing unless it earns money.
This is the reason why product development and marketing are crucial. And for micro, small and medium enterprises, participation in trade fairs is important for business survival and growth.
At the One Town One Product Visayas Island Fair (OVIF) organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) every November, Visayan manufacturers show the world that they could compete with the best of the best products with unique propositions that please the eye or palate and win over the most discriminating buyers.
Shoemaking is part of the heritage of Carcar. The town’s artisans based mainly in barangays Poblacion 3, Liburon and Villadolid have been churning out shoes and sandals for generations. However, it was only with the organization of the Carcar United Footwear Manufacturer’s Association, Inc. (CUFMAI) that shoemaking became a major industry in the town.
Today, Cufmai’s footwear artisans have expanded their market to include exporters and large retailers.
Elias Tecson, DTI-Cebu Division Chief, said that it is easier and faster for manufacturers who are organized to get assistance from government. Being members of an organization provides the manufacturers learning benefits and lends them a bigger voice in an advocacy to develop the industry and their business.
Today, there are around 16 active members of Cufmai majority of whom are from Barangay Valladolid and are employing an average of 15 shoe workers per member.
There are around 1,500 footwear manufacturers in Carcar, but only 16 are currently members of Cufmai, Tecson explained. “This is because the DTI wants to limit the members only to those legitimate manufacturers who have registered their business names with the DTI, pay taxes to the local government and are able to follow the by-laws of the association.”
At its permanent exhibit area or OTOP Center, shoemakers in Carcar have already received several orders from institutional buyers and exporters. There is a long line of shoe stores like Footfit (Ruth del Rosario), Jefferson (Hene Fernandez), Ariel (Elsie Sandoy), Kring’s Footwear (Melencio Lausa), Lesvie (Leslie Empasis), Jan Rey (L. Liadas), Beht (E. Wamar), Mellenol (M. Aldaya), RJE (F. Inanuria), Lear McGlear (G. Apura), Mary Grace (Perlas awardee M. Tangkay), Ryan (H. Retillosa),among others. The monthly average sales of the center is around Php 1.5 Millon.
Imelda Aldaya, manager of Melenoll’s, a member of Cufmai, said that through the efforts of DTI Cebu Provincial Office, the association was able to join prestigious Trade Fairs and has respectable turn out of sales generated and booked orders. “The DTI has also sponsored a pattern-making seminar for the shoemakers and provided assistance in credit management, delinquency control and technical assistance.”
Tecson said that through President Arroyo’s Isang Bayan, Isang Produkto, Isang Milyong Piso program, Cufmai got a P1 million loan which the group used to buy raw materials in bulk and shoe components.
In response to the perennial problem of lack of capital, the DTI has introduced the shoemakers to government financing institutions.
Currently, Carcar now supplies shoes to the Visayas and Mindanao, particularly big malls in Mindanao, Tecson revealed. He added that some colleges, like the Southwestern University and the University of Cebu, now buy nursing shoes from Carcar.
Bohol, a favourite tourist haven, with its ubiquitous peanut kisses, banana chips and calamay, has also enjoyed DTI assistance.
The Boholano Processed Food Business Association, Inc. (BPFPAI), the first organization of food processors in the province which employs 1,200 direct workers, benefited from the creation of the Integrated Technology, Systems and Support Amenities for Food Enterprises (ITS SAFE) Center.
Members of this association further improved the quality of their food products with the establishment of the first Boholano Food Safety Team and Designers Pool for Product Packaging.
Nannette Arbon, DTI Bohol provincial director, said this introduction of food safety measures, food sanitation, good manufacturing practices, introduction and adoption of appropriate product packaging and labelling have contributed to the expansion of local food producers’ market penetration.
Bucarez Food Processing Corporation has seen the importance of high quality “pasalubong” products particularly with their Peanut Kisses.
“We used to have difficulty with increasing product shelf life until we decided to change part of the ingredients and switched to a more appropriate packaging with the help of government”, Manager Francis Serenas of Bucarez said.
Director Arbon said, “aside from the usual pasalubong products, we are also trying to increase the shelf life of the traditional calamay and ube food products. Also, we have facilitated the Bohol food producers’ participation in the trade fairs so they can network with food processors, exporters and consolidators.”
The pandan bags of La Libertad, Negros Oriental has only been in business for the last six years, but this all-women group of weavers at the grassroots, which comprise mothers, housewives, local dynamic and forward-looking women members of the La Libertad Weavers Association, has improved the living conditions of some 18 families or more.
The LALIWA regularly produces mats, bags, baskets and various accessories, with its members developing into entrepreneurs and businesswomen.
The association which began producing hand-made bags out of the raw material “pandan”, has empowered at least 18 women of two barangays in this Northern town of the province, DTI Negros Oriental provincial director Javier Fortunato said.
He added that close coordination with the DTI-Negros Oriental Office has greatly improved the group’s business through the agency’s product development initiatives and marketing assistance. “Their bags have now crossed borders and continents with their improved designs and quality.”
From the start of their operations in 2004, the group has been assisted and closely monitored by then Mayor and now 1st district Congresswoman Josy S. Limkaichong. With an initial capital of only P13,000.00 the group now has some P150,000.00 in assets, excluding the sales that they got from past and recent fair participations.
Today, the good congresswoman still provides assistance to the group through her livelihood projects, while DTI continues to expose them to business opportunities like the agency’s various marketing programs, such as the One Visayas Island Fair and other regional trade venues.
Trade Fair Participation
For these business organizations and many like them in Central Visayas, undergoing product development and joining trade fairs were keys to their success. They all agreed that such activities opened doors for them and allowed them to break into their target markets.
Helping MSMEs enlarge their market reach and sustain business has always been a major concern of the DTI.
Various DTI agencies have been tasked to design marketing programmes to increase the exposure of MSMEs in domestic and foreign markets, and to improve the distribution of MSME products between local manufacturing and trade sectors.
As part of the agency’s assistance to manufacturers and producers in the Visayas, the DTI annually sets up OVIF, a five-day, order-taking and retail selling fair. It showcases the best producers from Central, Eastern and Western regions of the Visayas in one venue... the atrium of SM City Cebu, an area chosen mainly because of its high visitor traffic. Here, the finest products of the Visayas are exhibited for the convenience of institutional buyers, exporters and export traders.
To enthusiastic buyers who visit the OVIF each year, exhibitors seem a bit practised or adept at what they do.
“Preparing manufacturers for a trade fair actually starts months ahead, Arbon said. Manufacturers and producers are provided with DTI assistance with regards to raw material identification to trainings in product design, market knowledge, among others. Prospective trade fair participants also undergo a screening process to determine readiness. Most first timers start with trade fairs at the provincial level and later graduate to the regional stage, before moving on to the national and international arena.”
To gauge the impact of trade fairs on exhibitors, DTI designed a monitoring system to document sales generated during a fair.
“DTI provincial offices also monitor movements of post-fair sales. Intensive monitoring and follow-up support is provided to ensure conversion into actual sales of booked orders and orders under negotiation during the fair, Arbon explained.
OVIF will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in November this year. And because it is the last fair under the OTOP project’s five-year run, the showcase promises a more exciting array of items: souvenirs, gift and novelty items, furniture and furnishings, natural fiber, and fashion accessories such as bags, shawls, headgears, processed food and footwear.
DTI-Cebu provincial director Nelia Navarro said that trade shows has always been an opportunity for producers to enhance brand and product visibility, promote new and existing products, generate leads and drive incremental sales.
“Also, trade show participation enables the entrepreneurs to stay on top of the latest industry trends, gain competitor insights, make key industry contacts and further solidify relations with current customers,” Navarro added.
DTI regional director Asteria Caberte pointed out that attention to logistical details and coordination with the three participating Visayan regions have been vital to the success of OVIF.
For businesses that lack high level of marketing, an intra-regional exhibit like the OVIF is a good opportunity to showcase the best of Philippine made products, Caberte said.
OVIF is an ideal marketing event for OTOP products of various municipalities in the Visayas highlighting the tourism and market potentials of Central Philippines which attracts more than half of foreign tourists in the country.
This activity has generated significant sales, trained exhibitors in dealing and negotiating with local and foreign buyers and exporters, and developed new exporters from among the participants.
Success of any trade fair is always determined by sales and tangible interest from buyers. And I am proud to say that in the last four years, OVIF has served its purpose. With each year’s holding of OVIF, our local manufacturers and producers have continued to increase their market reach,” Caberte concluded.