American Fintech Firm Airfox Taken Over by Brazilian Retail Store Giant Via Varejo

UTC by Muhaimin Olowoporoku · 3 min read
American Fintech Firm Airfox Taken Over by Brazilian Retail Store Giant Via Varejo
Airfox team. Photo: Airfox / Twitter

Airfox, a Boston based fintech company, was acquired by the Brazilian retailer Via Varejo. Two years ago the companies worked together on an online bank application banQi that shows a rise in the user number amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fintech and digital banking firm Airfox, based in Boston, America, has been acquired by Via Varejo, Brazil’s largest retail store. Taken over for an undisclosed fee, the fintech firm will remain headquartered in Boston and act as an innovation hub. This enables it to use the Via Varejo structure in order to provide financial service to unbanked and underbanked Latin Americans.

Initially, Airfox partnered with Via Varejo two years ago to launch an app “banQi” – an online bank that enables Brazilians to make purchases or transfer money via their smartphones. The app also allows users to perform financial transactions at any of Via Varejo’s retail stores throughout Brazil too. With this acquisition, however, Via Varejo becomes a financial service provider and not only a retail store.

Airfox and Via Varejo to Provide Alternative to Traditional Banking

Across the globe, technology is being adopted to provide an alternative to traditional banking. Online banking apps in the U.S. have drawn millions of customers like other countries in the world. It is, however, believed that these technologies would thrive more in developing countries where people know little about banks and are open to these alternatives.

Victor Santos, Airfox founder for these reasons, sees Brazil as an ideal market for mobile phone banking. According to him, 40 percent of Brazil’s population have no bank accounts, and loans are very expensive too. Santos said that “the poorer you are the more you have to pay”. For instance, he said that credit cards often charge eight to 10 percent a month, while banQi users pay three to five percent.

Airfox, founded to provide mobile services to low-income users in the telco space, had always served as an alternative to traditional banking, providing different financial services. In 2017, the firm planned to create its cryptocurrency to help low-income earners and give loans to people who don’t have access to financial services.

BanQi App Use Surge amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

The banQi app, which was developed by both firms to help unbanked or underbanked Brazilian perform financial transactions, has seen an unprecedented rise in its number of users amidst coronavirus. Andre Calabro, Via Varejo’s financial director in a statement revealed that in Q1 2020, a 100 percent increase was noticed in banQi account. Bill payment on the app surged 300 percent and 117 percent rise in-store loan.

The app also recently was announced a finalist for an innovation award in SXSW’s New Economy category but was canceled afterwards because of the ravaging coronavirus pandemic.

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Muhaimin Olowoporoku

Muhaimin is a journalist, a fintech and crypto enthusiast who is passionate about its development in Africa and across the globe. Muhaimin derives pleasure in reporting and analysing happenings in the crypto world and a believer in Blockchain technology.

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