Magazine article International Trade Forum

Computers and Cakes Give Confidence and Cash to Housewives in Peru

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Computers and Cakes Give Confidence and Cash to Housewives in Peru

Article excerpt

A network of Peruvian housewives is using the Internet to bake cakes ordered by Peruvian expatriates and deliver them locally. The start-up e-business, Tortasperu, came into being with the assistance of Red Cientifica Peruana (RCP) and E-connexions, two Peruvian NGOs. RCP is based in Peru; E-connexions is based in the United States, but is composed of expatriate Peruvians who work entirely via the Internet. This case provides a practical example of how organizations can work together to foster e-trade for small businesses in developing countries.

Generating work for women who must stay at home and take care of children can be a challenge.

Targeting Peruvians abroad

Faced with that problem ourselves, my wife, Maria del Carmen Vucetich and I created Tortasperu, an e-business that tar gets the two million Peruvians living outside Peru who might like to surprise family and friends back home with a home-made cake. Taking advantage of microfinance loans, growing Internet usage, and technical support from RCP and E-connexions, Tortasperu has expanded from Lima-based production and delivery; it now includes a net work of housewives who fill orders from Peruvians abroad, which are delivered in seven Peruvian cities.

How it started

The seed of the idea was born in Sweden in 1995. At that time, I was attending a management course. I had unlimited computer connection time, and so I kept in contact with my family by e-mail three times a day, and at night I "surfed the net" (that is, browsed through various Internet sites) to look for business start-up ideas. I had a friend in Kenya and was considering a visit there to gather information. Using a search engine, I typed in "Kenya". I found a web site for a bakery named Kenya. That was the starting point of Tortasperu.

My wife and I set up a site in which Maria del Carmen could offer her home-made cakes to Peruvians abroad with relatives or friends living in Lima, Peru. In 1996 we set up "Ekeko shop" where we offered home-made cakes to people via Internet for delivery in Lima. This may have been the first site in Peru where a product was offered with the possibility of an order and the delivery service. At that time the word e-business was not yet popular or commonly known in Peru.

The idea was unique, but implementation posed one problem. How would we get the payment? We decided to use a method in which the person giving the order had to send a cheque to an address in the United States. This was impractical, due to waiting for cheque clearance. We did, however, make sporadic deliveries. The idea and the site was there, just waiting for the right time and the right tools.

Flash forward

In February 2000, I was involved in another Internet project, in which I was a presenter in a virtual seminar to promote tourism to Cusco, Peru. The group organizing this seminar was E-connexions. I noted the credit-card payment system they had in place. This is what was needed for Maria del Carmen's cakes. I decided to hire this payment system for the cake project.

Expanding the network

A few months later, in April, Maria del Carmen visited her family in her hometown, Cusco. She talked to some of her old classmates about her web site, and realized that other women would like to participate. She expanded the project to cover the whole country. …

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