COLOMBIA - Telecoms & IT
Senior Director Andean Region, Mercado Libre
Jaime Ramírez is an economist from Universidad de los Andes, where he graduated with honors, and holds an MBA from Columbia University in New York City. He has more than 19 years of experience as general manager, strategic consultant and financial advisor in both the US and Latin America. Since 2019, he has served as senior director for the Andean region of Mercado Libre. Prior to that, Ramírez was Mercado Libre’s country manager in Colombia, a position that he held for two years. During his career, he has been part of the strategic consulting and investment banking teams of companies such as McKinsey & Company, The Boston Consulting Group, and Violy, Byorum, and Partners in New York. He also served as executive director of corporate finance at BBVA Colombia. Before joining Mercado Libre, he was director of Tribeca Asset Management.
Colombia has enviable always been an important market for Mercado Libre; we have been here for over 20 years. Unfortunately, for many years due to the low penetration of banking, mistrust of online channels, and other issues, e-commerce was not particularly strong in Colombia—it had a penetration of 1.5-2% prior to the pandemic; however, between March and July 2020, Colombia had a strict quarantine, and many people were forced to use online channels. Fortunately, Mercado Libre had been investing heavily in Colombia, particularly on improving the user experience and making purchasing easier and convenient, with better prices and a wider assortment of products. Additionally, we had invested in the logistics aspect of e-commerce, particularly on quicker delivery times. We opened a distribution/fulfillment center in Funza, located in the outskirts of Bogotá, in June 2020. This center allows us to take control of the inventory of some of our sellers, since we are an intermediary platform and do not sell products directly, although we are starting to sell some since the opening of the distribution center last year. Prior to the protests, we were delivering about 50% of our packages within 24 hours and over 80% in 48 hours or less, which was a differentiating factor in terms of logistics. We are also trying to offer a better experience for users on the platform, offering as many payment methods as we can. We also added new businesses, including a private label business, which is helping us fill some supply gaps in the market. During the first three months of the pandemic, we added 500,000 new users in Colombia, and many of them became repeat customers. Colombia is an important market, with a population of 50 million people and massive potential.
One of the main obstacles of e-commerce in Colombia has always been trust. People have to trust that they will receive what they are buying or what the picture shows. We created the program “protected purchase” to make sure buyers understand that no matter what happens, Mercado Libre is behind the purchase, and we will back it up. When someone buys something from us, they do not pay the seller; they pay Mercado Libre, and we inform the seller they have made a purchase, so they can send the product. Once the buyer receives the product and says everything is ok, we give the seller the money. This allows us to control the process. For the official stores program, we form partnerships with brands, for example Adidas or Samsung. Buyers are purchasing directly from the brand. We recently launched the official store for Apple here in Colombia, which we had been pursuing for a long time, and we aim to continue adding strong brands with a solid reputation.
Mercado Libre is a strong believer in sustainability. We have three pillars of sustainability: environment; social; and diversity. Earlier this year we announced a USD1.1 billion inaugural debt offering in the US market whose proceeds will go to boost the company’s sustainability agenda. We also want to launch a fleet of green vehicles for delivery. In Mexico and Brazil, we are launching our own fleet of vehicles to avoid depending on third parties. Additionally, we are funding programs for entrepreneurs that offer sustainable products. We offer them coaching and money to help them grow their businesses. We have a sustainable products section in the platform as well, and we offer sellers of this products discounts on our commissions. This section has been extremely successful.
COLOMBIA - Industry
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