Every week AB InBev interacts with six million pubs, restaurants and family-run retailers who sell and serve our products. Whether in Argentina or Zimbabwe, they typically face the same challenges as most small and medium-sized businesses: difficulties managing inventory, expenses and financial records, and limited funds to buy what their businesses need. And the fallout from these issues is grim - 80% of all SMBs will fail within the first three years.
To help our partners and other SMBs avoid becoming another statistic, in 2019 AB InBev launched Z-Tech, a technology and innovation hub focused on connecting SMBs owners with digital platforms that will make their businesses more profitable and better their lives.
“SMBs are critical to the economic health of our communities,” said Francisco Prisco, CEO of Z-Tech. “Our mission is to empower them with the technology and services they need to thrive, even when facing difficult conditions like many are now.”
Solutions to the biggest problems
The arrival of COVID-19 gave owners of small businesses little time to adjust to a world where an online presence and digital tools are necessary to survive. Luckily, Z-Tech already had a suite of offerings to bring SMBs quickly and safely into the digital economy.
Digital marketplaces save SMB owners time and money by giving them access to one-stop, online shops for business essentials, including food, beverages, home and cleaning items. Platforms like MiMercado in Mexico and Menu in Brazil allow users to easily compare prices, place and pay for their orders and have their items delivered within 48 hours. Fast and convenient, the marketplaces also allow owners to accurately track their inventory and order history.
“When I found Menu, I was looking for a company that would offer more agile logistics, from ordering to delivery. The platform helps me in all of these aspects,” said Elídio Biazini, owner and founder of Dídio Pizza, a small chain of restaurants in São Paulo, Brazil.
Menu, the one-stop digital marketplace saving small business owners time and money, is LinkedIn's top-ranked Startup of 2020 in Brazil.
Financial services are another big need. Many SMBs have little or no access to traditional bank accounts or credit cards, so they rely on cash transactions, which can lead to safety issues, inaccurate accounting practices and unethical practices, like money laundering.
To help, SMBs are connected with fair credit lenders and financial technology companies, such as Donus, a company developed by Z-Tech. Today tens of thousands small businesses are using Donus' services that provide a point-of-sale system to accept credit and debit cards, and a simple smartphone app to monitor transactions and access funds placed in a secure digital wallet.
“Z-Tech identified the pain points of SMBs and is working to build a network of technology solutions to lift up underbanked entrepreneurs across the world, beginning with Latin America,” said Rodrigo Pio, leader of Z-Tech in the Middle Americas region.
Z-Tech is also stepping in with services to solve other challenges SMBs face. After a survey revealed that pub, restaurant and grocery owners (who own numerous refrigerators and freezers to keep products cold) struggled to pay their energy bills, Z-Tech formed a partnership with Lemon Energia, to provide more affordable, renewable energy. And when the pandemic left restaurants scrambling to adjust to socially distanced dining, Z-Tech partnered with the Get In app to provide online reservation services and contactless menus.
“Together with our affiliate network and our rapidly expanding portfolio of ventures, Z-Tech is changing the lives of small business owners,” said Roberto Guido, leader of Z-Tech in Brazil. “We're proud to give them the convenience, access and services they need to sustain their families and their communities through the pandemic and long into the future.”