“You are digitalizing THE carnês of Casas Bahia? That’s huge!”
The future of inclusive fintech in emerging markets
When the Airfox team traveled to Brazil to launch a pilot of the Airfox app in two Casas Bahia stores, we heard this over and over as we talked with friends, customers, and everyone else. Mamonas Assassinas, a beloved Brazilian band from the 1990s, even wrote a hit song about the carnês of Casas Bahia, saying it is “happiness” and “delight.” This carnê is not just a payment method, it is a symbol of so much more in Brazilian culture.
Welcome to the “Walmart” of Brazil
Casas Bahia stores are sensory experience: speakers are blasting on your left as customers test sound quality, cell phones and computers on the right, and various sales people in their black pants and white button-downs eager to help all over the place. Dangling from the ceiling are signs and advertisements, half about Christmas and the other half about the new “Carnê Digital” partnership with Airfox. Wandering deeper into the store means navigating through rows of washers machines, shelves full of pots and pans and appliances (including the current popular trend, the Airfryer), and the section dedicated to furniture: kitchen sets, dining tables, and couches. Eventually, in the back, is the Credit Assessment desk (Crediário) and the cashier.
We came to know well the store layouts during our pilot launch to enable the first Carnê Digital in the Airfox app for customers at the initial two stores in Ipiranga, a district in São Paulo. Prior to the digital carnê, every customer purchasing on monthly installments would receive a packet of payment slips as they concluded their purchase. Via Varejo issues roughly 300,000 new carnês per month, and currently has an outstanding CDC loan portfolio of roughly $1 billion.
Meeting the mobile needs of the underbanked
Customers would have to safely store these pieces of paper, remember to return to the store every month with cash-in-hand, wait in line, and make a payment. Depending upon where you live and the time of day you visit, this may be a quick stop-in, or a many-hour trek.
Now, Airfox enables the payments and management of the carnê to be totally done in app. Customers receive notifications before the payment day, payments will be registered instantly, and payments can be made from anywhere.
Of course, not everyone was a fan of change. Some of the older customers passed on feedback such as, “I’ve been standing in this line at Casas Bahia for 45 years, I’m not about to change now.” But many others gave us important examples of how this could make a big difference in their day-to-day:
- A middle-aged woman who was waiting to be approved for her carnê told us about a time a few months prior when she was hospitalized for four days and missed her payment while she was there. When she returned to the store, she had R$200 of fines waiting for her. Her problem wasn’t a lack of money or memory, it was that she couldn’t physically leave the hospital to make the payment, and there was no alternative.
- One salesperson mentioned that many customers visiting São Paulo from the northeast of Brazil want to make purchase using on monthly installments. However, they don’t have a nearby store to make the payments. Airfox can be a game-changer for people who don’t live near a Casas Bahia.
- Many customers mentioned their biggest problem with carnês was the late payment fees and how sometimes making the monthly payment on time slips their mind. The automatic reminders in the app were the big excitement for them.
Airfox to expand to 28 stores in January
The purpose of the two-store pilot was to test the technology, process, and need. We have our work cut-out for us in the coming months to make the app and processes as smooth as possible, but the need is certain. Our team is currently preparing to launch in 28 additional stores at the end of the month. As a company that has done things the same way for decades, Casas Bahia is ready to change. Airfox is eager to be a proponent of this initial step.
Casas Bahia is an adventure to walk through; it’s a store where you can find everything and brings back important memories for many Brazilians. Specifically, the Crediário has much emotion attached to it, as it requires a rather lengthy process that then enables so many to build the homes they had dreamed of. With the update to a digital carnê, Airfox is hoping to bring even more joy to these same people, as they will now have a new option for making their payments, for monitoring their debts, and for economizing money and time.
For more information about the app, visit our website. To find out how Airfox plans to make financial services more affordable using blockchain technology and our cryptocurrency AirToken, read our new white paper.