If there were any doubts about why supermarket chain Tiendas TIA was the right partner for IDB Invest in 2020, you only need to look at how the retailer responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged some of its biggest markets in Ecuador.
Founded by Eastern European merchants who fled their homeland during the Second World War, Tiendas TIA led a campaign that pooled the efforts of hundreds of companies and countless individual donors to collect food for victims of the coronavirus crisis.
“At the height of the crisis we were reaching 250,000 people a day, and we never let up until the health emergency showed signs of abating and informal workers could once again venture out to make a living,” said TIA General Manager Luis Reyes in December. “To this very day we continue supporting vulnerable people in communities across Ecuador.”
At a later stage of the campaign, they designed a virtual platform that enabled beneficiaries to select the products they needed using text messages and electronic vouchers, adding the choice of fresh produce and involving neighborhood shops in the distribution effort.
The campaign earned Tiendas TIA the Superheroes of Development award, which recognizes outstanding contributions and innovations made by partners of the IDB and IDB Invest. “It made total sense for us to team up with Tiendas TIA,” says manufacturing investment officer Gabriel Jiménez Grandes. “Besides an admirable commitment to corporate social responsibility, they have a huge footprint and focus on lower- and middle-income consumers. They also involve thousands of small businesses in their supply chain. The opportunities for getting a bigger development impact are boundless.”
Tiendas TIA sought IDB Invest’s support to finance an expansion of their sales and logistics network, as well as to provide liquidity to make advance payments to suppliers hit by the pandemic. Their plans foresee opening as many as 100 new stores (up from 229 at present) over the next four years, moving into fast-growing outer suburbs and towns where no other supermarkets currently operate.
The project also involves a shared-value program under which the supermarket chain will endeavor to link more small businesses owned by female, indigenous or Afro-Ecuadorian entrepreneurs in supplying locally grown fruits and vegetables, designing and producing sustainable packaging, and managing post-consumer waste.
Depending on the result of ongoing studies, Tiendas TIA might also use resources from the IDB Invest loan to equip some of its stores and warehouses with rooftop solar panels, reducing its carbon footprint.