How an armed robbery may have changed Brazil’s smartphone market

In 2013, Brazillian MIT graduate Guillermo Freire was visiting Argentina, he had intentions of building a successful business and carried his phone and his laptop on his travels as any businessman would. While working on his plans to open a new café in Buenos Aires he was robbed at gunpoint and stripped of both his work tools. In need of a swift replacement he dabbled into the Argentinian classifieds and second-hand market for a replacement. It was that experience that turned him into his new business venture, Trocafone, which already garnered the attention of high profile investors.

Trocafone is a web platform that gives users access to all kinds of services regarding mobile phones. Users can buy, refurbish or re-sell their devices through the platform. Since Latin America is the 4th largest smartphone market in the world, such an ambitious idea was considered profitable and funded by investors such as Sallfort, Rocketship and FundersClub.

Despite an all-time high regional demand for smartphones, 70% of LatAm’s population can’t afford a new device, especially in Brazil, which comparatively boasts the highest iPhone price in the world, 156% the price of those available in the US or $931 USD.

It is argued that one of the reasons why this price remains at a staggering high is because Brazil lacks an effective re-sale market that allows users to access second hand phones at reduced prices, and that is exactly the necessity that Trocafone comes in to satisfy.

The way the platform works, people sell their own devices to Trocafone, the company takes on the task to refurbish it and re-sell it, all of this aided by the phone’s original manufacturer, which helps keep costs down and costumer trust high.

Trocafone knows that as smartphone theft is a real possibility in the region, they must take security measures regarding the origin of the phones they buy back. Not only do they rigorously check the phones IMEI (a sort of smartphone unique ID number) but they work with GSMA, a global network of mobile service providers able to track phones back to their owners.

As of now, Trocafone sells $3 million in phones every month, and expect to increase their sales numbers to over $70 million a month.

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