10 micro cooperates have been assigned to me, Charlie, Willie and Charles, which is kind of a challenge. It turns out to be really rewarding, however, after the five visits we have done till this Wednesday. Here I choose two of the experiences to share with all.
The first business we visited is a workshop that produces the local food calamay, which has been the product that identifies Jagna and even Bohol. Calamay is basically made of coconut, milk and sugar. Some other ingredients like chocolate powder and ginger are added to achieve various flavors. The final product is some sweet elastic jam with a special taste of coconut which can either be packed into plastic packs or coconut shells.
One important step during the production is to stir the liquid of raw materials while heating in order to make it sticky. The producer we visited is quite advanced in the sense that two electronic machines are applied in this process. The 10 micro cooperates are supported by the government through a well-organized campaign started since 2005. The government has been making use of its resources to help the micro cooperates in aspects like application of funding and introduction of technologies, including the two stirring machines. Accounting training was also provided.
The lady that guided us, Anna Ria Baja Araneta, is a civil servant from the agriculture department of local government. Araneta cares a lot about the development of the micro cooperates and is quite aware of the problems faced with the calamay production business, which includes the short life of products and lack of marketing strategies. The final products keep for two weeks only and unfortunately, refrigerator storage cannot be adopted because the texture and taste of calamay will change after freezing, which may not be elastic any more. This fact causes huge obstacle for shipping and also the expansion of the business. The preliminary solution we have come up with is to apply and sell franchise, so that dealers in big cities like Manila will be able to exploit local raw materials and save the massive storage and shipping cost. Further research on the local regulations about license and franchises are needed.
Although small in size, the calamay producing factory is relatively mature compared to other micro cooperates, in the sense that they have their own branding named “Clamarates”, machines, and well-recorded accounting books. As comparison, we visited a relatively humble cookie workshop on Wed morning. The production is even conducted outdoor and the hygiene is obviously not qualified. Besides working environment, the branding problem should also be regarded as a priority for them. They do not even have a brand, with only “Jagna Cookies” on the package. The owner insists on the traditional ingredients and flavor, however the brand differentiation problem may rise under the conventional practices. So we suggest adding new ingredients like Ubi powder, which is also a specialty made of local crops, to differentiate this cookie from its competitors.
Another thing to mention is the label. The fact is there is only one printing press in Bohol, and one piece of label shown in the picture below takes 3 pesos, which is quite expensive so most of the owners choose to print their labels in Cebu, which gives discounts for large quantities. So we are considering printing all the labels for 10 cooperates collectively in order to save the shipping cost. However, the timing needs for every micro cooperate to print labels may be different, which affects the feasibility of collective printing.
My team is preparing the accounting training materials for Friday. Still five cooperates to go!