Latin-America and the Caribbean are surfing the ride-hailing wave
Remember what trying to get a cab used to be like? Not long ago, you would have to step into the street, wave your arm in hopes of being noticed and sometimes wrestle another would-be passenger for the coveted spot. And that was only the beginning. At times, cab drivers took you down the “tourist route,” or simply got lost finding their way. At pay time, it was a matter of luck for you to have cash or for a driver to have change.
The irruption of new players in the global commodities trade, greater consolidation of the multinationals, and the effects of climate change are forcing agricultural producers in Latin America and the Caribbean to rethink their strategies for minimizing risks and maximizing results on a sustainable basis.
Realities and opportunities
Although the research and development (R&D) investments of the “Big Four” (Bayer-Monsanto, ChemChina-Syngenta, Dow-Dupont, and BASF) achieved scientific advances that transformed global agriculture, expanded the agricultural frontier, and increased yields, producers face a dependence on technology and prices that is difficult to mitigate. Although in grains, companies like China’s COFCO or Japan’s Marubeni challenge the power of the ABCD (ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Dreyfus), and demonstrate the strategic importance of ensuring the supply of commodities for some countries. In this fight, it is likely that corporate acquisitions will continue, or that new commodities platforms will be developed, creating opportunities for groups of producers, cooperatives, or business associations. Finally, the effects of climate change (rains, droughts, frosts, floods, cyclones, reduced aquifer flows, and new diseases) are affecting the producers’ profits, particularly in Central America where the narrow strip of land between two oceans makes climatic distortions even worse.
Various ways to partner
It is an historic reality that agricultural producers take the greatest risks but capture the smallest piece of the pie because of their fragmentation, difficulties in accessing financing, and minimum added value.
However, producer partners in cooperatives that adapted to the dynamics of the market, through internal transformations (including advances in the management of corporate governance), were able not only to improve their incomes, but also to become part of a sustainable business, like Copersucar in Brazil, Conaprole in Uruguay, ACA in Argentina, FNC in Colombia, Colonias Unidas in Paraguay, or Dos Pinos in Costa Rica.
In the case of independent larger-scale producers, although they will be able to maintain a certain individualistic profile internally to obtain efficiency and productivity, improving the external profitability is a must. They could take their inspiration from the spirit of cooperatives to create partnerships leveraging their combined volume (with increasing strategic value) and obtaining better conditions, or even process it for greater added value. For example, in Argentina, the 30 partnered producers of Bio4 transform their own and third-party corn to produce ethanol, and the “L” Group partners to sell milk. Similarly, in Mexico, the partnered producers of Proaoass and Gradesa export bread wheat or durum wheat.
Although the greatest challenge for farmers under this model was to remain united, and in some cases to delegate the management of the new business to third-party professionals, they were also focused on obtaining better economic results, and also to develop a platform to start new businesses and obtain market intelligence.
It is likely that differences in results among producers of a similar scale are due to: (1) more collective than individual actions; (2) a more business-like profile for sustainable production; and (3) the management of individuals or teams that applied the best technology packages.
Considering that quasi-state companies, and sovereign funds from Asia-Pacific and Middle East countries are seeking alternatives to ensure the food supply, soon it would not be utopic to think that networks of partnered producers or cooperatives may develop strategic alliances to have their own ports, freezers, or powdered milk plants. Moreover, since these investments require long-term financing, it would not be unrealistic to think that development banking will be financing these projects.
As Seneca said: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
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71% of the millennials in the United States would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are saying, according to the Millennial Disruption Index, while 35% of the banks in Latin America feel they are not meeting the needs of this generation, and 71% admit they are unable to rapidly adapt to technological advances, according to a study done by the GMix program of Stanford University and Technisys. However, in upcoming years this age group will be the main source of consumers and labor.
Millennials represent close to 30% of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more than half of them, only innovative companies will be successful. In effect, four out of every ten believe that the private sector is the true driver of innovation, according to a survey conducted by Deloitte. For this reason, banks in the region are looking for new formulas to attract them:
1. Chile: Collaborative spaces
The millennials are the “BRICs” of the age groups: due to their size, they can disrupt the economy, particularly the banking industry, according to Scratch. In Chile, banks are betting on collaborative spaces to approach this generation. Thus, was born Work/Café, a space open to the general public for working, holding meetings, and using free Wi-Fi and that already has six locations in the country. The Santander Group’s wager includes a cafeteria with discounts for clients, executives specializing in financial advice, and ATMs for cashing checks, making deposits, and transferring funds.
Another characteristic sought by millennials is flexibility. Thus, these branches add four hours to traditional banking hours in Chile, remaining open for 18 hours, Monday through Thursday. Work/Café also gives talks in order to keep capturing clients constantly.
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2. Brazil: 100% virtual
In Latin America and the Caribbean, 55% of the population buys products via the Internet and 90% of millennials are digital banking clients. For this reason, a Brazilian bank made the decision to be the first 100% digital bank. Banco Original developed a website, applications for mobile telephones, tablets, and even Smart TVs to reach its public on line and close its branches.
To avoid in-person visits, this Brazilian bank developed a site with services for personal, commercial, and agribusiness banking. In addition, it developed Bot Original, a service enabling interactions via Messenger and even on Facebook, with a robotic system of instantaneous responses for clients.
3. Mexico: On-line support for SMEs
One of the region’s largest financing gaps is experienced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs); this gap is estimated at between $210 billion and $250 billion. However, for more than half of the region’s millennials, a venture is one of the most important achievements. Thus, the banking system is seeking ways to facilitate access to financing for SMEs given that applications for financing for companies of this type still require in-person visits in many countries.
Bankaool, Mexico’s first 100% on-line bank, developed financing tools for SMEs. Clients can apply for and receive financing for their businesses in a more streamlined and expeditious way. This has also allowed the bank to carve out a niche within the financial industry based on its work generating inclusive businesses.
Innovative wagers continue to flourish in the region and in the rest of the world, from applications for different financial operations and the use of biometric profiles, to the development of products for women’s banking. They all seek a positive effect on returns, efficiency, and the consumer’s experience. It is thus essential to continue looking for strategies that make attracting millennials possible since, as John D. Wright once said, “Business is like riding a bicycle. Either you keep moving or you fall down.” Now we need to see what the banking sector’s next move will be in the region.
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The technological revolution has come to stay in finance, bringing with it a transformation in how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in value chains obtain financing and streamlining relations between anchor companies and their suppliers, customers, and collaborators. How does it work?
Imagine a company that manufactures aluminum auto parts in Mexico, the principal anchor between the metal supplier and the customer who buys the finished product. The supplier requests the payment as soon as possible, within 30 days, due to its limited working capital. However, 270 days elapse from the time when the company receives the supplies and produces the parts until the sale of the final product. Clearly the money cycle does not match, and the company must pay for its purchases before producing the parts, making the sale and even charging the customer.
Existing market conditions make the situation even more difficult, and the increase in aluminum prices does not allow price adjustments from the company to the customers at the same pace that price metal fluctuates. This means that costs for the company increases more rapidly than the final price of its products.
Not only Mexico’s automotive industry suffers from the complexities of the cash flow ratio (between the average period to pay the supplier, process the supplies, and collect from the customer), it is even worse in other industries, such as supermarkets.
Moreover, the World Trade Organization says that half of all SME requests for financing are rejected, compared to only 7% of the requests made by multinational companies. Access to appropriate and timely financial services for all actors in the value chain is key to achieving successful results. Not only large companies, large producers and traders need access to appropriate financial services suited to their money cycles; small producers need them even more for their survival and financial balance. Thus, value chain financing seeks to fill the gaps created in the anchor company-supplier relationship, as well as to mitigate the perceived risks through innovative ways of providing financial services.
But what is the relationship with technology?
Value chain financing requires trusting and durable relationships among the different actors and financial institutions. Each party involved must know and understand the other. Access to innovative and flexible financial products and services is vital. Financial technology (fintech) companies help to make this happen and ensure that financing is flexible, transparent, reliable, and accessible 24/7.
Fintech companies are a bridge between the anchor company’s requirements and its suppliers and collaborators, through technologies applied to banks’ middle and back offices. By using internet platforms, fintech allow millions of SMEs to access loans, under conditions equal to those enjoyed by larger and more established companies, the missing piece in the puzzle without any doubt.
Most financial innovation companies in Latin America and the Caribbean have arisen in the region’s largest markets, including Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Chile. Alliances between fintech companies and financial institutions have been key to bringing promising solutions to scale. But it is not simple.
IDB Invest is an essential part of the value chain financing circuit in the region, through strategic alliances with its clients (the region’s large anchor companies) and fintech firms. These alliances allow IDB Invest to support the base of the pyramid in Latin America efficiently.
The first step was taken in Mexico, where a framework contract was signed with the fintech eFactor, a Mexican company that offers electronic factoring services for the discount of credit rights derived from the demand for goods and services by large buyers. This marks an important milestone for IDB Invest in its value chain financing transactions and in the creation of scalable and efficient solutions.
You can also see more on the impact of the fintech revolution in Latin America and the Caribbean in this full report.
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Four countries leading in solar in Latin America and the Caribbean
Nearly half of the global electric power capacity could come from solar energy by 2025, according to McKinsey & Company. Multiple Latin American and Caribbean countries, benefitting from exceptional resources and evolved regulatory frameworks, have seen rapid growth in solar energy in the last few years. Utility scale projects are now considered commercially viable and receive private financing, while the application of distributed solar is growing quickly. However, falling solar prices are squeezing the industry, and macroeconomic uncertainty will continue to test its strength. Meanwhile, developers are now consolidating to gain market share and achieve profitability.
Abandoned houses prove golden opportunity: An interview with Antonio Díaz, Founder and CEO of Provive
Miriam, 43, lives in Cañadas del Florido, a low-income neighborhood in Tijuana, Baja California, the northernmost state of Mexico. Three years ago, on any given day, Miriam and her three children would watch criminals, drug addicts, and vagrants frequent the empty house next-door. Their streets were littered with garbage and dead animals. This is not an uncommon situation in the Mexican neighborhoods, or fraccionamientos, where more than seven million houses were built by developers with mortgages from the government in the last decade. Thanks to Provive, Miriam’s life has since changed.