The value of global e-commerce sales reached almost three billion euros in 2019, a figure that is growing annually by more than 10%. But despite this huge growth, not everyone has the ability to sell their products online. Bureaucracy, the digital divide, and financial requirements prevent many businesses from being able to put their products online.
To solve this problem, young Panamanian Felipe Echandi has created a financial technology start-up through which he offers an e-commerce platform called Cuanto. By downloading the app, anyone can set up their online store in five minutes and publish it on their social networks, without any bureaucracy or paperwork. As a result, MIT Technology Review in Spanish has selected Echandi as one of the Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020.
"Cuanto was created to help people in Latin America who have never had the opportunity to make a living from the Internet to do so without difficulties. We offer a digital store manager where the person can sell directly on social media and WhatsApp," Echandi explains. The system offers prepayment methods and allows sellers to manage their inventory and know what is happening with their business, which is important "because small businesses usually don't even know how they are performing," adds the innovator.
This innovation allows users to manage catalogs on cell phones without the need for programming knowledge. "The Caribbean area is where most people are starting up in the early stages of business and people face a lot of hurdles in starting their business. We are looking to expand the potential size of the market for a small business and unleash the potential of these businesses," explains the app's creator.
After launching the app, the innovator has found that most of its customers are women. Thus, his product not only opens the doors of e-commerce to them, but also helps them to become financially self-sufficient.
This benefit is especially important to Echandi. When he was a teenager, his mother, who was a homemaker, was widowed and had to support the entire family. "I saw how she did whatever it took to raise us. From this family experience, I have realized that it is not creativity that is needed, but the removal of barriers to entry in order to take advantage of opportunities," the young man reflects.
Currently more than 15,000 small businesses already use his system, but Echandi wants to expand the system to more countries in northern Latin America and take advantage of the fact that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated the trend of businesses going digital.
The co-founder and CEO of OZMO (Mexico) and member of the jury of Innovators under 35 Latin America 2020, Ángel Otero Mac Kinney, highlights that Cuanto offers a good and clear solution to "the problem of digitalization for small businesses." In his opinion, Echandi's project "is at a very good level of maturity."