Innovating through uncertainty

Airfox ramps up banQi feature development in response to COVID-19

4 min readApr 24, 2020

The whole world is adjusting to life under pandemic conditions. As COVID-19 continues its spread across the globe, populations large and small are changing habits, learning to avoid physical contact with others as much as possible, and offering support to their communities in whatever ways they can.

The hope is that, together, we can flatten the curve of projected coronavirus cases so that health systems are not overwhelmed and those most in need will have access to the best available care. The world as a whole is witnessing exceptional bravery and heroism in the work of medical professionals and essential services providers, but it’s also experiencing a surge in financial instability, fear, and feelings of isolation during these uncertain times.

We’re in this together

The situation is no different for the crew at Airfox. At our Boston-based headquarters, staff has shifted to work-from-home operations under the shelter-in-place directive issued by the state governor on March 13.

In Brazil, our teams — including our support team — are also working from home, while taking every measure to ensure the best service and the safest possible business conduct under extraordinary circumstances. We are still hard at work and continue extending excellent and accessible mobile banking and financial services to millions of Brazilians with banQi.

Airfox’s banQi app reached 500,000 downloads on Google Play.
Airfox’s banQi app recently reached the 500,000 downloads mark on Google Play.

Since we partnered with Via Varejo in 2018, Brazilian consumers have had an easy, fast, and cost-free way to complete such daily financial tasks as purchasing goods, managing bills, transferring money, and recharging public transit cards using their mobile phones.

With banQi, customers can pay boletos without leaving home, top-up pre-paid phones with ease, send money instantly to anyone in Brazil with a smartphone, pay for goods and services anywhere that accepts Mastercard with their free banQi card, review past purchases and account balance in the banQi app, and deposit money at any Casas Bahia store.

Paper carnês.
Before banQi, CDCs were managed via paper booklets.

Customers can also pay their Casas Bahia CDC “carnês” bills directly through banQi instead of going to a physical store. CDCs are in-store loans used to purchase large-ticket items like furniture, electronics, and appliances; and Via Varejo issues hundreds of thousands of new CDCs each month.

There’s something new in the banQi app
banQi users are able to easily control the payments of CDCs.

In response to temporary closures of many physical stores, Via Varejo has implemented an internal sales platform called “Online Seller” that lets Casas Bahia teams continue to work from home and allows customers to use technology to continue shopping with salespeople they already know from the store they are used to frequenting.

There’s also a “Necessou, está aqui” campaign with several e-commerce offers intended to make life easier for housebound customers (including personal hygiene items, home office supplies, and toys for children) and featuring free shipping across Brazil on thousands of products.

Via Varejo’s corporate social responsibility division, the Casas Bahia Foundation, has also created the Entrepreneurial Women Emergency Fund — an initiative to donate R$1 million to 2,000 female entrepreneurs who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Airfox’s banQi app will facilitate this large financial operation.

Responding with faster feature innovation

At Airfox, our app development teams have been coordinating with Via Varejo to fast-track some banQi feature updates in order to simplify transactions, alleviate stress, and help folks during their time of need. Three of the features we’re currently focusing on are intended to improve Casas Bahia CDC management in banQi.

Picture of the banQi app.
We’re fast-tracking some banQi feature updates in response to the current crisis.

Easier account creation for Via Varejo customers and employees

With a focus on improving user experience and decreasing the time and effort required for CDC registration, we’re planning to make banQi more accessible to Via Varejo’s customers. By using banQi, customers will no longer have to leave their homes to make CDC payments, thus minimizing travel and physical interaction.

CDC management for customers without banQi accounts

We’re developing a CDC management feature that allows Casas Bahia customers to access limited CDC details on banQi even if they don’t have an account. While we want Via Varejo’s customers to create banQi accounts, our main mission is to make financial services easy and accessible for all Brazilians, not just our existing user base.

Currently, Casas Bahia customers have to go to a physical store to get their CDC information such as their due dates, payment amounts, late payments, discounts for paying early, and penalties. By digitizing this process through banQi, we’ll continue to reduce physical contact and travel while making the process simpler.

Minimizing user effort

We’re improving the user experience by decreasing friction for users with CDCs to view upcoming payment due dates in the app. To help current customers, Via Varejo has delayed the payment due dates for current CDCs.

We’ve always been committed to delivering excellent services and continual feature improvements in banQi, but we’re even more motivated than usual these days. Working with our equally passionate and dedicated colleagues at Via Varejo, we’re striving hard every day with a renewed sense of purpose — to help make life a little easier and less worrisome for Brazilians during these tough times.

For regular updates from the Airfox team, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.




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