As part of our editorial series on Brazil, we chat with the team behind social enterprise Rangri about how they are using their business model (a web-based food order and delivery service) to help tackle hunger.
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. In March this year, a team of social entrepreneurs from Brazil brought Rangri to life, a food delivery service that donates half the profits from each order to local organisations that help fight hunger in Brazil - without charging the customer extra. The concept was so clever in its approach that UNICEF and Brazil's Organic Agriculture Association (AAO) quickly jumped on board as partners. We chatted with the company's CEO and co-founder, Flavio Masson, about Rangri and how, through technology and innovation, businesses can play a pivotal role in solving social and environmental issues.
Where did the idea for Rangri come from?
Hunger is a constant on the streets of Brazil’s largest and most affluent cities. Yet most Brazilians turn a blind eye, as they do not have a real protocol or meaningful way to deal with it. There are non-profit organizations doing great work, and despite recent programs that reduced poverty and malnutrition in Brazil, 11.2 Million people still have nothing to eat.
One night, I was ordering food online from my Brooklyn apartment. Then it occurred to me: what if I could share some of the food I order almost every night with people in need? And what if all my friends did the same?
With all the market signs in place – constant technological advances, an economy that rewards doing more with less, an increase in consumers seeking brands, and social entrepreneurs breaking boundaries between the for- and non-profit worlds – I decided to hatch a plan to tackle two problems at once: the hunger of the rich and the hunger of the poor.
That’s how the online food ordering platform Rangri—meaning “hungry” in Portuguese—was born. The concept is simple: Rangri donates 50 percent of its net profit on each order to the diner’s choice of a pre-selected list of organisations that fight hunger. So when the rich guy eats, the poor guy can eat, too. The revenue comes from a commission every participating restaurant agrees to pay.
How did the Rangri team initially become involved with UNICEF and AAO?
We set up meetings with them as soon as we had our first screens and business plan. Both organisations were immediately drawn to the idea. What excited them the most was our alternative approach to creating recurrent micro-contributions without asking users for donations. Additionally, they saw Rangri as a channel that allowed them to sustain a constant dialogue with consumers.
How do you select the organisations you donate money to?
Since the beginning, we knew we wanted to work with well-respected organisations that, like us, were committed to the fight against hunger and malnutrition; and that represented a wide range of approaches to fighting hunger, improving the quality of our food, and increasing food efficiency.
What has the response from customers been so far?
Our beta users in Curitiba—the city I which our prototype was launched—have given us really positive feedback so far. Rangri jives really well with the city’s strong food culture and wide range of restaurants. Users are really surprised that they can join a movement against hunger doing something as simple as ordering food online, and without spending an extra dime.
In your opinion, do you think the business community in Brazil is ready and willing to implement more social and environmentally-friendly initiatives?
Yes. It’s market survival. Businesses will be forced to adapt to a new generation of consumers that is looking for brands that are mission-driven and sustainability-focused. We see a growing number of initiatives, and the entrepreneurs behind them are helping shape a new marketplace, a new way of thinking which diverges significantly from the old profit-first/profit-only attitude.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced?
We know that great ideas can be ruined by poor technology, so we have focused so far on building a functional platform that is optimised for acquisition and retention of users from branding, technical and marketing standpoints. Our next big challenge is scale. We’re looking to make great impact and set an example in Curitiba first before we expand to other cities.
What role do you think business can play in sustainable development in Brazil?
We live in a more intelligent and efficient world. Breakthrough innovations and advancements in technology, when properly utilised, enable businesses to experiment with new models. These new models have the potential to address some of the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges today. We no longer have to wait for political leaders and governments to tackle these problems.
Where do you see Rangri in the next 5-10 years?
In 5-10 years, we hope to have scaled to Brazil’s largest markets. There’s so much land to grab. We think partnerships will be crucial to achieving that goal. We hope to increasingly empower Brazilians to change their country for the better.
For us, hunger is just the beginning. It felt natural for us to start with what’s most fundamental—eating for survival—but we have ambitious plans to take our model and apply it to other problems in Brazil, and potentially other countries as well. Rangri is our first step.
With all eyes turned towards Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we're going beyond the stadium and putting the spotlight on local people, organisations and movements that incorporate and implement smart approaches to sustainability and social justice. Find other articles in the series here.