The Virtual Market: "Mom-and-Pop" Shops Reborn
In 2013, two entrepreneurs launched the Virtual Market in Mexico City with a mission to transform small traditional retailers (the so-called "mom-and-pop" shops) into competitive market players. The family-owned shops were strongly embedded in the society, culture, and economy of Mexico and Latin America, producing 50 per cent of the region's retail sales and 15 per cent of Mexico's true gross domestic product. However, economic growth had increased consumers' earnings, leading to previously low-income consumers gaining financial status. The traditional shops were unable to compete with the new demands for cashless payment methods, wider ranges of products and services, and lower prices. To remedy the situation, the Virtual Market gained the trust of the shop owners and worked to improve their financial, technological, and business literacy. By 2017, the Virtual Market had successfully worked with 10,000 shops but had still not attained break-even. Was its business model sustainable in the long term? Could it be replicated in other countries and with other cultures? How could it scale up and secure profits? Jasenko Ljubica and Miguel Montoya are affiliated with Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM).