Still pining for those China-like growth rates in Brazil? Not satisfied with 0.2 per cent GDP expansion? Well perhaps it’s time you tried Brazilian e-commerce.

The industry is expected to be worth R$23.4bn ($11.6bn) by the end of this year – 25 per cent more than 2011, according to e-bit, a local consultancy service. In 2011 e-commerce grew 26 per cent and in 2010, a whopping 40 per cent.

Four people who are already starting to see the fruits of this are the co-founders of Dafiti – Latin America’s answer to Asos or Zappos. The company, which is backed by Germany’s Rocket Internet, was set up in January last year and is expected to reach its R$1bn sale mark over the next few months.

After investments so far of around €40m, Dafiti is now also in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. The company started off with shoes but soon branched into apparel and now sells more than 50,000 products online.

But launching a start-up in Brazil is not easy, according to Dafiti’s founders – a well-groomed group of ex-Harvard/JP Morgan guys in their late 20s and early 30s from Germany, France and Brazil. (Think somewhere between Mark Zuckerberg and the Backstreet Boys…)

“Sometimes the labour laws here don’t really reflect the start-up environment,” explains Philipp Povel, a Brazilian who has spent most of his life in Germany.

“For example, we bought some office tables and for me, they were perfectly fine. But then somebody came around to look at the office and they thought they might injure somebody so we had to go out and buy new ones. Or sometimes, we needed to work 24 hours a day and then we would just take the next day off but under Brazilian law, you can’t compensate hours like that.”

Logistics also tends to be the Achilles’ heel of Brazil’s e-commerce industry. For that reason Dafiti decided to build its own warehouses, and if it gets its own way, will also own all of its delivery trucks one day too.

But the struggle appears to be paying off. When asked about economists’ comments that Brazil’s consumption-led model of growth is reaching its limit, the founders’ faces looked back blankly.

Revenue has been growing at double digits month-on-month and annual growth will be much higher than 30 per cent, they say.

Even the collapse of the euro zone won’t stop Brazilians from shopping, it seems.

Related reading:
Brazil: let 113 shopping centres bloom, beyondbrics
Brazilians in Miami shop ’til they drop, beyondbrics
Brazilians shoppers: no fear of recession, beyondbrics
Australia’s Westfield expands into Brazil, FT
Luxury market set to hit $1.5tn, FT

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