This startup in Brazil takes advantage of social distance

While many businesses have problems surviving in this quarantine, others have seen a boom.

While many businesses have problems surviving in this quarantine, others have seen a boom, as is the case with Onii, an autonomous store that operates in residential areas of Brazil, according to the Brazilian business magazine Exame.

Onii’s business model takes up the Amazon convenience store (Amazon Go). Customers install an application on their phone, enter the store, pick up the products they need, and leave, without the need to interact with absolutely anyone. Neither ATM nor counter vendors.

The difference of Onii with Amazon Go is that customers must scan the items they buy one by one from their cell phone so that they can charge their card registered with the application.

A newborn startup

Onii is short on the market. Coincidentally, it appeared almost at the same time as COVID-19: in December 2019. Its first store opened within a residential area of ​​São Carlos, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. In the first week, 200 residents of the 240 houses had already downloaded the Onii app.

With this, the startup billed the modest amount of $ 2.75 thousand but showed that its business model worked. In early March, the company closed 80 contracts for the installation of similar stores across the state. The startup’s clients include construction companies, condominium chains, and even the São Paulo airport.

Grow up in isolation

Unlike what happened with other businesses, the demand for Onii stores grew with the distancing measures. According to Rivardo Podval, the company’s founder, they are installing new units in an emergency. New stores begin to open in different points of São Paulo, such as São João da Boa Vista, Piracicaba, Limeira, Araraquara, São José do Rio Preto, Ribeirão Preto, Barueri, Curitiba, Londrina and Uberlândia.

As a form of solidarity with local producers, Podval claims that the company is opening space for them to put their products inside the store. Residents can also use the space to receive orders and deliveries when they are not at home. Additionally, Onii is reducing the price of basic products and supplying stores with new categories of items to help residents.

History of the company

Onii was created in 2019 at the ONOVOLAB innovation center in São Carlos by entrepreneurs Ricardo Podval, Victor Azouri, Tom Ricetti, and Conrado Rantin. The idea for the deal came from Ricetti’s previous company, Pão to Go, a chain of bakeries working on a model of a disk drive.

The businessman promised to create a self-contained bakery for residential condos when he joined his friends. Together, they decided to try adapting Amazon’s convenience store model to Brazil. For four months, inside the innovation center, partners tested the technology necessary to put the model on its feet. With the first unit installed in December, they saw that the business was working and decided to expand.

The Onii project foresees the installation of the units in charge of the company, but the operation must be subcontracted to a resident of the condominium, who obtains 90% of the store’s invoicing value. “The plan is for them to be managed by residents over the age of 60, to generate jobs and income for this population,” says Podval.

By the end of the year, the goal is to have 200 stores installed in the country. “We believe that the model is here to stay, it provides comfort to the resident, who can consume without leaving the condominium,” says the founding partner.