Two decades ago Mexico’s economy was hermetically sealed behind a complicated web of trade barriers but shrewd retailers here are eyeing a promising sector of the economy. “Large companies have finally taken notice of the potential of e-commerce in Mexico,” says David Bernardo, an entrepreneur who lectures in online retail at Mexico City’s Tec de Monterrey University. The country has a rapidly growing, upwardly mobile class of smartphone-using young professionals. In other advanced economies, this is the group that becomes the bedrock of a thriving web-retail market.
Amazon launched in Mexico in mid-2015 following the successful online efforts of bricks-and-mortar conglomerates such as Home Depot and Walmart and local competitors El Palacio de Hierro and Superama. Amazon México’s director Juan Carlos García believes that “Mexico will be one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world”. Receipts in Mexico tallied $2.8bn (€2.5bn) in 2014 and that figure is set to double over the next three years.
The idiosyncratic challenges of the Mexican market have led to innovation. With more than half the population not using debit or credit cards, savvy firms have aped telecommunications companies by offering unorthodox payment options. These include allowing customers to pay by cash in shops, with the money then transferred to the online retailers.
Q&A- Nicolás García Mayor
Industrial designer and inventor
In 2002, Nicolás García Mayor developed the innovative Cmax emergency shelter for victims of war and natural disasters. In light of the refugee crisis, his foldable and reusable shelter may have found its niche.
How was the idea born?
It was my university thesis. The important element in emergency situations is to be able to give refugees a quick solution; these units can be set up in 10 minutes and can house up to 10 people. In 2013 the UN invited me to present my project and people were surprised.
How are you developing the product?
I picked the slower path: I decided not to sell the patent and not to accept foreign investment. I decided to stay in Argentina and am developing the project here.
What kind of entrepreneur do you consider yourself?
I like working on social issues. Nowadays we need to be virtuous; we don’t have to fill our pockets with money.
Palestine territories [FASHION]
In 2013, Two Neighbors started life in the rocky South Hebron Hills, an impoverished part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli-American Segal Kirsch helped bring together Palestinian embroiderers and Miriam Givon, a Tel Aviv-based designer. The pair now work together to create clothes that sell in fashion outlets around the world.
More than 40 women now take part in the initiative. “At first there was resistance to the idea,” one of the embroiderers told us. “But I encouraged the women to work together. I want to help promote peace.”
Rocketing rents have hit Istanbul’s independent booksellers hard. But there’s a healthy hubbub of chatter emanating from Istanbul’s tightly packed, two-floor Filbooks, which is surprising for a niche bookshop specialising in photographers’ monographs and critical theory.
“We knew that it was impossible to survive only as a bookshop,” says Cemre Yesil, who opened Filbooks in June. So the bookshop supplements its earnings by serving Italian coffee and homemade cakes.“All the books I’ve ever wanted about photography and theory are downstairs,” says Yesil. “And to keep this working we have the café.”
The long game
San Jose [AIR TRAVEL]
Thanks to its efficiency and smaller size, the Boeing 787 lets airlines service long routes that have comparatively light traffic. A little-known airport in Silicon Valley that sees fewer than 10 million passengers a year has benefitted enormously from this fact.
Largely focused on domestic and holiday flights, San Jose now boasts three intercontinental routes, all with 787s: ANA has served Tokyo since 2013, Hainan Airlines began flights to Beijing this summer and BA will fly to London from next year. “[The 787] is the perfect aircraft for places like Austin, Texas and now San Jose,” says Simon Brooks, a senior vice-president at BA.