Latin America’s “Gamechangers” … from Camposol to Cariuma, NotCo to Nubank … Learning from brands thriving in adverse and volatile markets

July 1, 2022

We live in a world of diverse and dramatic challenges – economic inflation, political instability, social inequality, environmental crisis, global fragmentation, unjust conflict, broken supply chains, and much more. Latin America, in particular, is no stranger to such adversity, and volatility.

But with challenge also comes opportunity. Indeed we will probably see more change in this decade, than over the last 250 years.

This is fuelled by the relentless pace of new technology, and in particular the connections of digital platforms, bio tech and nanotech, IoT and robotics, and the data and AI which emerges from it.

But in reality, tech is just the enabler of more dramatic change – of convergent, disrupted marketplaces; of changing customer attitudes and priorities; of new attitudes towards work and the role of organisations in society; and of new opportunities to innovate and grow. And the unforeseen “accelerators” of change in market structures and consumer behaviours, driven by two turbulent years of pandemic and more.

In the old world, size mattered. Big companies, the largest customer bases, the highest revenue, and market share. None of that matters today.

In the new world, markets are fragmented and discerning. It’s about focus, relevance and speed.

Mass-marketing doesn’t work. Customers are not average. Transactions are not enough. People trust people rather than brands. Purpose matters. Propositions are more personal.

What matters to marketers? Customers, brands and innovation.

Business needs marketers more than ever to unlock these crucial assets and capabilities, in order to make sense of rapid change, to actively shape the future markets, to respond to new entrants and disruptors, and bring the organisation together strategically and operationally to drive profitable growth.

Look at my new analysis of Latin American “Gamechangers”, shaking up markets right now. I will be launching this at CAMP 2022 in Lima, Peru next week:

What can we learn from these brands who are thriving in some of the world’s most adverse, uncertain, volatile markets?

They constantly adapt and change. They imagine their own futures. They search and seize new agendas. They find new spaces in markets, or create entirely new markets. They embrace tech in smart, human, creative ways. They find a core then scale fast, but have no respect for all boundaries or conventions. And they have leaders with courage, persistence and optimism.

Some of them a well established, large and global – like the wonderful cosmetics business Natura & Co, inspired by natural vibrancy of the Brazilian rainforests. Others are admired in the same breath as tech giants – Mercado Libre is a superstar of retail, Nubank of neo-banking, Rappi as a super-app. And others are relatively small but making a huge difference locally – like Elenas, the social commerce platform liberating women, and Peru’s Crehana, providing online vocational education to Latam youth.

They are just 12 examples, of the many more fascinating, creative businesses in Latin America.

Camposol … the world’s best blueberries, from Peru

Peru’s Camposol is a fresh food business in more than 40 countries. It is involved in the harvest, processing and marketing of high quality agricultural products such as avocados, blueberries, grapes, mangos and mandarins, among others. The new sustainable initative “Camposol Cares from Farm to Family” aims to gain better conditions for the farmers. Managing Director José Antonio Goméz talks about the impacts of the growing demand for avocado in Europe:

Cariuma … the Brazilian vegan sneakers

The Brazilian sneaker brand believes in making good-looking, crazy-comfy and consciously-made sneakers. “We want the shoes you wear to be made responsibly, feel crazy comfortable and provide effortless style.” 100% Vegan skate shoes, the new, high performance vegan suede is 2.5X more resistant than animal suede, while recycled fabric webbing creates more durability.

Crehana … online vocational education from Peru

Crehana Education is one of the largest online learning platforms in Latin America that provides highly relevant online training to over 2 million young adults. 66% of Latin American youth do not have university degrees or higher technical education, and around 20% of young people are unemployed. The company, based in Lima, Peru, uses a project- based methodology with industry experts that allows students to acquire valuable skills to work as freelancers or gain employment. 40% of Crehana’s students are women, a percentage with the company is working to increase.

Elenas … the Colombian social commerce platform

Latin America’s top social commerce platform empowering tens of thousands of women across Colombia to launch online businesses and earn extra income by selling products on WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media. Currently, 11 million women across Latin America sell consumer good products through direct sales catalogues and door-to-door sales. Elenas provides a digital solution for them to start an online store, manage clients, and grow their business from home, without having to worry about product sourcing, delivery, or payment collection.

Frubana … everything for Latam restaurants from Colombia

Founded by Fabian Gomez, a former McKinsey consultant, and one of the founders of Rappi, Frubana provides everything for Latin America’s restaurants. It is a fast growing technology B2B scale-up revolutionising the world of agriculture and the restaurant industry.. “Connecting the countryside and different suppliers with the city, through a digital platform with a wide portfolio of products for the restaurant sector.”

Kavak … used car super platform from Mexico

Kavak is the top e-commerce platform to buy, finance and sell pre-owned cars in Latin America. Driven by data, technology and innovation, it is the 2nd biggest startup in the region with 40+ stores in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Currently the 2nd largest startup in Latam with a valuation of around $9bn. Founder and CEO Carlos Garcia says “In Kavak our dream is to build something memorable, it will take us a long time and we will learn from every experience.”

Mercado Libre … Argentina’s online retail success

Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Buenos Aires, Mercado Libre is Latin America’s leading e-commerce technology company. Through its primary platforms, and, it provides solutions to individuals and companies buying, selling, advertising, and paying for goods online. Mercado Libe serves millions of users and creates a market for a wide variety of goods and services in an easy, safe and efficient way. Read my Leader Profile of Marcos Galperin

Natura & Co … the world’s leading natural cosmetics from Brazil

Natura & Co is a Brazilian global personal care cosmetics group based in São Paulo. The group currently includes Natura Cosméticos, Aesop, The Body Shop and Avon. It is present in 73 countries across all continents except Antarctica. Natura Cosméticos, the parent company, was founded in 1969 by Antônio Luiz Seabra and went public in 2004. The company’s mission is to “Create and sell products and services that promote bem estar bem : well being / being well”.

NotCo … AI-enhanced plant-based food from Chile

NotCo is a unicorn Chilean food-tech company producing plant-based alternatives to animal-based food products. NotCo was founded in 2015 by Matias Muchnick and others, and utilizes machine learning to replicate dairy products in plant-based forms.  Its algorithm “Giuseppe” was created by Karim Pichara and patented in 2021, and utilises lists of plant ingredients to find the ideal combinations to recreate specific food attributes. This aims to replicate various food tastes, textures and cooking behaviors. NotMilk includes both pineapple and cabbage, allowing it to cook in the same way as cow’s milk.

Nubank … banking for the unbanked from Brazil

Nubank is the leading financial technology company in Latin America and the largest independent neobank in the world, with more than 20 million clients. Its first product, launched in 2014, is a no-fee credit card that is fully managed by a mobile app and used by more than 12 million customers. Almost 36 million Brazilians have requested its products. In 2017, Nubank launched its proprietary loyalty rewards program “Nubank Rewards”, as well as a digital account “NuConta” that is already used by more than 17 million people. Read my Leader Profile of Cristina Junqueira

Nuvocargo … the logistics platform from Mexico

Nuvocargo provides an all-in-one digital logistics platform for shippers and carriers moving goods between the US and Mexico, consolidating key services including truck procurement on both sides of the border, customs clearance, insurance, and trade finance. With dual HQs in New York and Mexico City,it  increased its monthly shipments by over 400% in the first half of 2021 versus 2020.

Rappi … the Colombian super app

Rappi is Latin-America’s first “super-app“. It was founded in 2015 by Simón Borrero and others and today is present in 9 countries and more than 200 cities. “We are a young Latin American team of technology entrepreneurs with a mission to drive progress in our region through our platform for digital commerce.” By 2020, Rappi had more than 200,000 independent couriers actively connecting to the app in Latin America. Rappi also worked with over 250,000 different businesses including groceries shops, pharmacies, kiosks, and office supply stores.

Dialogue magazine reflected on the opportunities for Latin American business, saying “There’s something stirring south of the Rio Grande”, and how it has the potential to become a “leapfrog” region, jumping to the future …

The future can look good for Latin America, if Latin America gets out of its own way

Progress 5/10 … Latin American politicians continue to swathe tech in red tape. There is a large body of thought in the region that innovation is best overseen by active government action. There is little global evidence for this. Governments would be better acting as facilitators for a new generation of entrepreneur.

More seed money is required for startups and entrepreneurs

Progress 8/10 … Remarkably, LatAm tech startups raised more cash in the first six months of 2021 than in all of 2020 – a cool US$9.3bn. There is enhanced interest from investors – Softbank, for example, created a US$5bn LatAm fund in 2019, committing an additional US$3bn in 2021. The result is a new breed of LatAm unicorns growing up in a much healthier venture capital environment.

Technology education will allow the region to move forward

Progress 6/10 … The pandemic choked off an otherwise encouraging trend. By September 2021, Covid-19 had contributed to a region-wide crisis in school attendance, with two-thirds of LatAm children still outside the classroom. Outside schools, the situation is rather better. Technology educational programmes are emerging across the region. The private sector is leading the way. US tech giant Oracle, for example, has launched a skills development programme which aims to train some 40,000 people in IT by the summer of this year.

Maximize opportunities in neobanking

Progress 7/10 … The most heart-warming development in the region is its progressive outlook on reimagining money. Part of this stems from context: stifling regulation in many LatAm nations renders it inordinately difficult for people to get a bank account, creating chronic financial exclusion region-wide. Neobanks have stepped into the vacuum. The likes of Nubank, Uala and Oyster have expanded banking services to demographics that were previously unbanked.

On the downside, El Salvador has unwisely become a global crypto pioneer: in 2021 it became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. This is economic suicide: in the long-term, bets on Ponzi schemes are likely to fail.

Increase supply of outsourced services

Progress 8/10 … A perfect storm of global skills shortages, Covid-19 and geopolitical tensions between the US and China has opened a huge door to LatAm tech outsourcing. The region has been impressively effective in taking advantage. Suppliers of outsourcing tech services have continued to expand region-wide.

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