SAO PAULO – Workers in Brazil’s largest city unloaded a 40-inch air fryer, gaming chair and television from a truck and transported them to a small distribution center where they would soon be shipped to the neighboring houses.
Their fast shipping would be nothing special in most of Sao Paulo. But those items were intended for homes in Paraisopolis, one of the sprawling low-income neighborhoods known as the favelas that were largely left out of the global delivery revolution.
The packages have just started arriving there, thanks to a 21-year-old with glasses and a graduate in information technology.
Inspired by community distribution of food kits and donations during the pandemic, Giva Pereira founded a logistics startup to manage what retailers call ‘the last mile’ in her hardscrabble community, in which delivery drivers have been hesitant to enter.
Like others around the world, Brazilians quarantined during the pandemic have started shopping more online – not just food and pharmaceuticals, but electronics and household goods as well.
But residents of favelas who fill out order forms with their zip codes are often told that businesses don’t ship to their neighborhood.
Those who do manage to place orders may receive excuses rather than products: notes with questionable claims that they were not home at the time of delivery, or that their address was not located.
And indeed, identifying a specific house in the serpentine alleys is no easy task for a foreigner, especially in favelas as densely populated as Paraisopolis, which is home to nearly 100,000 people. Mapping apps offer little help and, further complicating matters, some areas are dominated by heavily armed drug traffickers.
While the Brazilian Postal Service delivers letters and bills to some streets in Paraisopolis, it often leaves them in shops, bars or collective mailboxes for residents to collect later – a system that does not work for many online shopping.
Even brick-and-mortar stores charge more for delivering appliances or furniture to favelas, or leaving shipments at transit points like residents’ associations.
Enter Pereira, 21, a resident of Paraisopolis who graduated from college last year and felt an opportunity. Favela Brasil XPress was born.
His fledgling company secured funding from a small, favela-focused lender, G10 Bank, and partnered with one of Brazil’s largest retailers, Lojas Americanas. He hired locals familiar with the twists and turns of Paraisopolis. They began deliveries in April using compact trucks and bicycles, and processed up to 1,300 packages per day.
“It solves the problem of mapping and this problem of breaking down the barrier of prejudice among people or logistics companies, who should be delivering here indoors, but are not,” Pereira told The Associated Press. . “Bringing businesses from outside the favela into the favela totally breaks this paradigm that favelas only have bad things, and we show that it’s different. “
In the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo, more than 2 million people live in overcrowded favelas. Paraisopolis has long standing problems like water shortages and lack of basic sanitation, with open sewers in some isolated areas that have been recently populated. It is the home of waiters and housekeepers, builders and bus drivers.
There are also young people like Pereira, whose family left the poor northeastern state of Paraiba when he was 12, hoping for a better life.
“We came because of the difficulties we went through in Paraiba. We had some difficulties here too, ”said Pereira. He began to think of ways to help the favela.
His project is reminiscent of another one launched several years ago in Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, Rocinha. Former enumerators mapped the hillside neighborhood and established a base to receive mail from the Postal Service. For a monthly fee, the company distributes letters and bills to residents, but they still have to collect the packages.
While Pereira’s delivery concept isn’t revolutionary, the level of organization, planning and logistics infrastructure is, said Theresa Williamson, executive director of a favela advocacy group, Catalytic Communities.
“Residents find creative ways to meet this need in many communities, but it’s never on the scale or the quality it needs to be, and it’s often informal,” said Williamson. Favela Brasil XPress “could pave the way for a model that can be followed across the country, building small businesses around it.”
Or, she said, it could show the government how to step in and meet the needs of the community.
At an event on Tuesday to commemorate the delivery of his company’s 100,000th package, Pereira looked jubilant, though a little surprised by the sudden success. He said the company has set up distribution bases in six other favelas, including Sao Paulo’s largest, Heliopolis. He also signed distribution contracts for other retailers.
Gilson Rodrigues, head of the Paraisopolis community and president of the bank whose loan got Pereira’s startup off the ground, said being able to receive a package at home after so many years of boxing is a feeling of freedom.
“They told us it wasn’t possible in a favela,” Rodrigues said. “This is an example, a slap in the face of society that excludes the favelas, which wants to see the favelas as needy, never so powerful. ___ David Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro.