05 Feb MRJEFF – DANIA COTLEAR
Mr Jeff provides dry cleaning and laundry services online at home in Spain, Peru, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. Through its app or website customers will have their laundry washed and ironed with just one click. Dania Cotlear, CCO, shares what means to be a “Eurolatina” crossing the pond.
What makes LATAM a great opportunity for startups? Why LATAM&Europe and no other regions?
In recent years, LATAM has seen a wave of progress supporting entrepreneurship thanks to the institutional support of many Ministries, business incubation centres, programs supporting entrepreneurs, etc. That institutional support has reflected in public-private collaborations that have fostered the development of start-ups at all levels in the region and have been a driver for innovation.
Another important connection that I see is the cultural and language ties between Spain and LATAM that help close the Europe-LATAM gap. LATAM has a young, dynamic population that thanks to access to finance has access to credit. People have lost the fear or overcome the distrust of using the credit card to make purchases online and now almost everyone buys something online. In our case, we have opted for a mixed model of physical payment in store, with the payment through the app that works very smoothly and responds to our customers’ needs.
When someone asks me why LATAM and no other continents, I always say that our countries, except Brazil, are big enough to serve as a sample for more markets. However, they are also “small enough” so that, if something fails or does not go as planned, it is possible to make a better damage control and act quickly to make the changes!
What are the main challenges startups are facing when expanding to LATAM?
We have realized that in our countries in LATAM, wealth is very centralized in a few cities, mainly in large cities. The user outside of the big capitals is very different and prefers a more physical and face-to-face approach than that the ones from the city. This circumstance often forces us to rethink the model to better adapt to the demand of our customers depending where they are based.
Despite the enormous effort made to provide access to banking services to all population in many cases is not enough and forces us to ally with other fintech companies so the user can use the app, but with the peculiarity of paying in cash. In terms of services, the diversity of requests for different services from our customers also forces us to innovate.
Another challenge we face is the issue of mobility in transport. In our case, we have to adapt the containers, boxes, etc to transport the clothes we clean and this forces us to use different formats, sizes, etc. to minimize costs and be efficient at the same time in the pick-up and delivery.
The green and ecological transition that many countries are living is also a challenge regarding the use of non-plastics, types of detergents and chemical products etc … we try to always innovate ahead but now it is a challenge.
In terms of talent, in our case we have developed a culture based on the values we believe in and to strengthen it we travel the staff to Valencia-Spain, our HQ, where we train them to embed that culture. Attracting local talent is key to the development of the business and so we work in that direction.
Key learnings / recommendations for Startups planning to expand from Europe to the LATAM market
- The fundamentals are basic: know your consumer and what she/ he expects from our service. We make follow-up phone calls to assess their needs, to know if they like their current service, to understand what future services they can demand, to understand for example the seasonality of the service you may need at a certain time. In addition to the telephone follow-up, we work with focus groups.
2. A single price and very standardized services are not what our customers demand and that is why is key what we call “hyper locality”! The product or service must be what we call ongoing; it must evolve responsively including customer feedback, adapting the prices to the neighborhoods for example of each MRJEFF point.
3.Another recommendation is bearing always in mind the sustainability and impact of our work, from the carbon footprint to the impact on the community.
4. The online & offline strategy with physical presence in some locations generating trust with the user, or creating the traceability “garment – client” and creating a face-to-face relationship have proved to be key in our business in LATAM.