Rappi raises over $500 million in a round led by T.Rowe Price, lifts valuation to $5.2 billion
Colombian app Rappi. Photo: Shutterstock

Latin American companies' and their employees' efforts to curb coronavirus impacts

Rappi, Walmart Chile, Wiri Salud and others. In times of crisis, tech savvy Latin American companies use their know-how to help #flattenthecurve

While coronavirus outbreak spreads over Europe and the Americas, not only governments are strengthening efforts to tackle the pandemic, but some companies and their employees are raising new initiatives in order to curb the crisis impacts. If, on one hand, sectors such as e-commerce might not feel a direct impact – even recording more demand during such times – other industries, as in the case of travel, can be sharply affected by the calamity

But amidst new contingency plans and measures being launched by companies – especially the wide adoption of remote work – some players have been working to go beyond the concerns solely with their own operations.

Take a look at a few initiatives of Latin American companies that aims at generating greater positive impact for their communities:


Colombian super app Rappi has joined forces with local government to help promote information about coronavirus such as symptoms and prevention. The platform has developed a bot so that people can make a self-diagnosis and avoid congestion in medical and hospital centers.

Another initiative that Rappi start to run was enabling an option for users to be able to receive their orders without physical contact, having, therefore, the recommended social distance. “Currently, they (users) can request it in the comments, but in a few days that feature will come out in the app for everywhere (where Rappi operates),” said Matías Laks, Rappi’s country manager in Colombia, to a local newspaper. 

In an effort to protect their partner couriers, called Rappitenderos, the app has created a fund, both by importing hundreds of thousands of antibacterial gels and masks and by education, self-care and prevention campaigns. Partnering with businesses to supply homes, Rappi pointed out that in the event that a staple product is not easily obtained, they will do everything possible to be a bridge between supermarkets and pharmacies in order to supply such items that the user requires.

Mercado Libre

Argentinian Mercado Libre, which recently changed its logo for raising awareness about coronavirus, seeks to promote online shopping to avoid conglomerations in supermarkets. The e-commerce giant has lowered the commissions for the online sale of basic products.

“On Mercado Libre, we decided to lower commissions to 100% for sellers who have products of this nature. The reduction will impact the commissions of more than 252 thousand basic cleaning, personal hygiene and non-perishable food products in more than 21 thousand sellers, from March 17 to 31”, explains a company statement. The goal is to actively collaborate so that these products can reach those who need it, while benefiting both sellers and consumers, who will not have speculative increases and will notice a decrease in the final price of essential products. 

In addition, MercadoLibre will monitor and moderate the prices and posts of alcohol in gel, face masks, and related products, to avoid exorbitant prices. The Argentinian company will cancel those ads that have imposed disproportionate increases in the last month.

Banco Original

In an effort to help their customers keep their bills on time, the Brazilian Banco Original announced benefits to customers economically impacted by coronavirus. The open banking has launched features such as zero rate of payment on credit card; interest reduction for voluntary credit card installments; and a period of 60 days to pay the first installment of a personal loan. The information is from media outlet Neofeed.

James Delivery 

From the Southern city of Curitiba, the delivery app James Delivery, owned by the retail giant that controls the chains Extra and Pão de Açúcar, GPA, is exempting the delivery fee for purchases in its app, in order to help people to stay at home during the coronavirus crisis. 

“Hi, one of the main recommendations of the health agencies to prevent contamination is that we stay at home, avoiding as much as possible to go out. This includes grocery shopping. To help at that time, James launched the code below to use in the app and make purchases at home without paying the delivery fee: #correntedobem. You can use and share it with your friends too. The goal is to keep everyone at home safe and make it easy for as few people as possible to go to physical stores,” said a note in the startup’s app.

Walmart Chile

As what happened in other countries, the fast advance of the coronavirus in Chile has had a well-known effect on consumer behavior regarding cleaning and hygiene products, leaving the shelves in supermarkets almost empty. To tackle this issue, Walmart Chile made the decision to limit the purchase of hygiene products and personal care, actively helping all consumers to have access to those products. 

The measure implies customers being able to purchase a maximum of five units of spray sanitizer, alcohol gel, and gel hand soap. Over time, Walmart will add more essential products to the list, as informed Chilean newspaper Diario Financiero

Wiri Salud 

Focusing on revolutionizing healthcare in developing countries by providing patients a new and affordable way to take care of themselves, Buenos Aires-based Wiri Salud uses technology to disintermediate the doctor-patient relationship, increasing the efficiency of providers such as doctors, clinics and pharmacies. By allowing them to offer their services at a discount rate that is transferred directly to their customer base, the startup uses a pay-per-use model, where patients can download the app to find the best doctors near their location, book low-cost appointments and buy the medication with up to 50% discount.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, a group of specialist doctors will give free consultations, which will be carried out digitally through a forum, in order to assist thousands of patients. The initiative aims at solving any doubt that could arise in the midst of an emergency due to the new virus spread in Argentina.

To support the cause, Wiri Salud launched its Medical Forum “thinking about the situation the country is going through and about the emergency measures that all responsible people are taking,” local newspaper El Intransigente learned. According to the startup, it is the “first space where people can directly consult specialists doctors about the  COVID-19 and get qualified answers from trained professionals”.

About the operation of the medical forum, free consultations can be made by accessing the website from smartphones or computers and then asking the question.” From there, once the demand reaches the system, one of the professionals takes it and replies using their medical experience and guiding the patient in the best way. Wiri’s goal with the initiative is also to “fight against disinformation on social networks.”

Global giants and their measures

US-based giant Adobe is allowing students and teachers who use its software worldwide to request home access to the platform at no additional cost, up to May 31. The software company will also offer, until early July, free access to its online conference tool for meetings, training and virtual classrooms. 

In order to support independent delivery partners, among other third-party service providers in financial distress during the coronavirus crisis, retail giant Amazon created a $25 million fund. Additionally, another $ 5 million funds will be targeted at subsidies for small businesses in its hometown Seattle. Jeff Bezo’s company has also invested $1 million into a Seattle Foundation project to support initiatives focused on people without a medical license or health insurance. 

In an effort to promote trustworthy health information on the pandemic, Facebook will put a new coronavirus info center on top of the News Feed, as informed by TechCrunch. The new information center will work as a central hub for the company to collect information from sources like the CDC and WHO. “We’re going to be putting it at the top of everyone’s Facebook feed,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a press call announcing the feature.

Another social media giant, Twitter, has also launched measures to fight misinformation. The company updated its safety policy to ban tweets that “could place people at a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19,” TechCrunch reported. The new policy forbids tweets denying expert guidance on the virus, encouraging “fake or ineffective treatments, preventions and diagnostic techniques,” and also posts that might mislead users by pretending to be from health entities or experts.