SandBox Middle East is the largest Filipino-owned import and distribution company for grocery items in the entire Gulf region. It is the exclusive distributor of several legacy brands like Delimondo, Arce Dairy, B Coffee, and Frabelle Snacks, as well as upcoming Philippine brands like Plantation Prime, Pacquiao Coffee, and GreenFood.
At the same time, SandBox is the marketing and distribution partner of PDLT Global, the largest and oldest telecommunications company in the Philippines, for its proprietary platform named BayaDIRECT. This service allows Filipino expats living in the UAE to directly pay for their Philippine-based bills, mobile subscriptions and purchase e-gifts and vouchers for their families back home – all in the convenience of strategically located payment centers across the Emirates.
The Steadfast Leader
Since childhood, SandBox Middle East CEO Lito German was always fascinated with Marketing thanks to the influence of his father, a renowned spin doctor and advertising guru. So, as Lito grew up, it was no surprise that he pursued a career in Public Relations and Marketing.
I started in the family business for the practical reason that my parents insisted that they get their money’s worth after paying for my education”, he says with a smile.
“I had taken this as a given anyway, as I had spent a lot of my free time during my university days hanging out at my father’s PR and Marketing agency, being a casual observer and learning the ropes”, he explains.
Eventually, Lito jumped from the agency side and from working for the family business, to the client side after receiving an offer to join the BMW subsidiary in the Philippines as its Marketing and Communications Director. This step spearheaded Lito’s 15 year-long career in the automotive industry.
“Through the years, I was privileged to work across continents for the world’s leading car brands such as BMW, Toyota and Lexus. It was a magical ride”, Lito recalls.
Later in early 2021, Lito made another leap of faith by joining SandBox Middle East, a Dubai-based import and distribution company primarily focusing on various food and grocery items from the Philippines.
“For me, the main challenge of any CEO is being able to jump into different positions seamlessly and authentically, depending on what’s required by the moment. These days, I find myself switching from being a cheerleader to being a coach, from being a referee to being the squad captain. I stand in front of my team when there’s trouble ahead, beside them when there’s work to be done, and behind them when there’s praise and acknowledgment due,” Lito says.
A Fundamentally Different Organization
“We are not just traders we’re brand builders,” Lito emphasizes. As a Filipino owned and operated organization, we care about the brands we carry–more so because we grew up with most of them,”explains Lito. He adds that he was surprised to find that most of the importers and distributors of Philippine-made products in the Middle East have little or no connection at all to his country. “Most of the time, they view our country’s products as mere commodities to sell at the highest possible margin,” he says.
As opposed to that, Lito explains that SandBox Middle East carefully curates brands that they distribute, in order to present the very best products that the Philippines has to offer to a wider audience. This is the reason why his organization invests heavily in marketing efforts to create appreciation for Philippine products beyond its captive audience of Filipino expats.
A Breakthrough Year
Lito feels that 2022 has been a breakthrough year for the company. Not only has SandBox widened its product range by adding several brands like Plantation Prime and Veega, it likewise expanded its sales channels by reaching out to new markets across the Gulf region. A major milestone this year was also achieved with the launch of the BayaDIRECT payment platform, in partnership with PDLT Global.
“2022 strengthened our belief that we have what it takes not only to perform, but even to lead in the Big League,” Lito added.
Getting Ready for the Future
SandBox Middle East continues to aggressively expand to several markets across the Gulf region as evidenced by its recent start of operations in Qatar and Bahrain. At the same time, the company is diversifying beyond its offerings of processed food and grocery items by launching more BayaDIRECT payment centers across the entire Middle East through strategic partnerships with money exchange and remittance companies.
Additionally, it is launching specialty retail stores that offer direct B2C sales of its top-selling products, while serving as BayaDIRECT payment centers. SandBox Middle East intends to initially set up its stores in the UAE starting at the end of 2022, with the mid-term goal of establishing its retail chain across the entire GCC region.