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My girlfriend has always been interested in art. She’s been following illustrators and painters on social media, and we’ve gone to a handful of exhibits, but not enough, I’ll admit.

 

Three years ago she decided to pursue it as a hobby. She’s been doing some sketches up to that point and wanted to go beyond pen and paper. She wanted to try watercolor painting, and she didn’t want to begin with the materials you’d find at your typical bookstore – the materials you usually get for pre-schoolers. “There’s student-grade and there’s artist-grade,” she explained to me.

 

However, it was a little difficult being able to get these materials. Three years ago you either had to go to a specialist art supplies store, which were few and far between in Manila. Luckily for us there was one at SM Megamall – not surprising, in hindsight, because it was alongside the art galleries – which offered a good spread of brushes, papers and palettes. But it didn’t always have what she wanted, so she’d have to go hunting at some bookstores – if she’s lucky, there’s some good supplies there – or she’d order from local resellers online, which didn’t always prove reliable. At one point I even got her some supplies from a store in Hong Kong, which happened to be a short walk from my hotel – she wanted to try Copic brush markers, supposedly used by manga artists, and the store sold them individually rather than just in a (pretty expensive) set of 24 or 36.

 

It took her a while to have a decent arsenal of brushes, pens, paints and other supplies. It’s not just a matter of having the things you need, but also knowing which combination of them works for you. In the case of watercolors, sometimes it boils down to chemistry: certain papers don’t work with certain paints, and it all depends on your own technique. This trial and error phase is difficult considering supplies were hard to get by.

 

But that was three years ago. In the years since, we have seen both existing bookstores and new art supply stores step up to the plate, appearing in more accessible locations. We began seeing more brands, both student-grade and professional-grade, allowing my girlfriend to consider more options when replenishing her supplies. (There’s a particular pencil she swears by, Palomino, that I only saw in Singapore years ago.) Now, it seems, the problem is whether she still has the time to do some sketching and painting.

 

Last week the fourth branch of this art supply store called Artbar (it’s run by National Bookstore) opened in Alabang. I saw three ladies enter the store and literally gasp in delight upon discovering it sold Copic markers.

 

This is the liberating power of supply chain. When we do our job right, we allow people to venture beyond what they thought was possible. What was previously out of reach is now within batting distance. This does wonders for quality of life: apart from the obvious concerns of having the items you need to survive day-to-day, the feeling of being able to get something you’ve always had your eyes on has an impact on one’s psyche. Getting someone in a good mood goes a long way.

 

I know this all sounds lofty – and my example of art supplies makes it sound a bit upper-class – so I’ll present another example: the recently-concluded Christmas season. Across the years I have seen supermarkets step up to the plate not just by extending opening hours (with some going 24 hours) but also by offering more items. The recent trend of specialization has led to smaller groceries offering the basics, supplemented by bigger stores that sell more, say, imported and specialized items. For New Year’s eve my family, inspired by someone gifting us with a cheese board, decided to serve various cheeses and wines. In one trip we had all we needed: a box of brie, a wedge each of gouda and emmental, a bottle each of red and white wines, some olives, some dates, some crackers. Imagine that scenario for other families – with, say, meats and vegetables now available not just in their community markets, but also in supermarkets, they can try new dishes and make their families happier.

 

Of course, this takes a lot of work, continuous work. For companies, this means improving their processes, identifying new ways to increase efficiency while keeping costs at optimal levels. This could mean investing in new technologies or in training people. For the government, this means ensuring infrastructure is up to speed, and also looking at policies that may slow down or completely prevent the movement of goods. For everyone, it means working together to ensure that Filipinos can get what they need (or want) when they have to, whether it be day-to-day needs or a once-in-a-while indulgence. Or, perhaps, a hobby.

 

This is critical in a consumption-reliant economy like ours, but also, it keeps all of us happy and ready to face another day – another day at work, another productive day at work, another productive day for the economy. This psychological element, the liberating power of supply chain done well – we have to keep that in mind, too.

 

New executive director: Former SCMAP president Corazon Curay has been named the organization’s new executive director, as Norman Adriano moves on to pursue other opportunities. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

 

2019 events announced: We kick off our 30th year with Supply Chain Outlook, scheduled for February 8. We have announced dates for all of our events for 2019; learn more at scmap.org.

 

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications executive of SCMAP. A former board director, he is also editor-in-chief of the organization’s official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.

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