Guatemala Business Idea

The Problem

As much as I would prefer to buy locally, it is not always possible. The common alternative is to buy from Amazon on-line but then you need to get the products through customs and to you. There are companies (TransExpress, for example) who offer you an "address" in Miami Florida where they will receive your shipments, ship them to Guatemala, get them cleared by customs and delivered to you. That's the good news.

The bad news is that companies that sell on-line and Amazon in particular tend to divide up your order into multiple shipments. So, you may place an order for 10 items totalling $500 and it could get shipped in up to 10 packages. The freight forwarder then receives 10 shipments and charges you to process each one individually.  Besides the additional shipping and processing costs, you will need to break up the original order information so the forwarder has individual bills for each package.

Solutions That Don't Work

There may be more than one but I only know about Guatemala Digital. In theory they are what is needed. Clearly most if not all of their product comes from Amazon. You just go to their web site, order what you want and they do the rest. Unfortunately, their implementation falls way short of what is needed. Here are some points:

  • Their web site is less than perfect making it hard to find products, insufficient product descriptions and generally not clean.
  • You can only order one item at a time. That is, you find the product, select the quantity and click the purchase button. You are then prompted for your name and address, how you will pay, your NIT, ... If you then want to purchase another item you basically start over.
  • As bad as the purchase process is, there are other issues. For example, there is free shipping on orders over Q800 but, because of the one item per order issue, you can have shipping charges even though you spend way over Q800 in, to you, one session.
  • Customer support is email only. That is actually what I want (so there is a record) but not what everyone wants.
  • As there is no "order status page" for you, you get a host of emails for each item you have ordered.

I could continue but the bottom line is that you can easily spend more time ordering two items from Guatemala Digital than you would spend ordering 20 from Amazon. I would summarize this by saying they have implemented the wrong half of a solution.

The Solution

In summary, you need a Guatemala-based business who will buy what you tell them (and this could be restricted to Amazon -- at least initially) and they get it to you.

Here is what I see as the way to do it:

  1. You, the shopper, find (on the Amazon site) what you want and build a file of the URLs for the products. (More on this below in Note 1.)
  2. You go to the "buy it" site, enter your account and upload your items. (All the information about you including payment information) is already stored in your account.
  3. The Guatemala company places the orders with Amazon (there actually are discounts for an intermediary like this), receive them, consolidate them, forward to Guatemala, process with customs and deliver them.

Clearly the company will need a warehouse with staff in the U.S. to handle the consolidation but it is very likely there are shipping companies they could work with.

None of this is hard. All the computer stuff can be easily implemented using Open Source software. There is no product files to manage and update -- only order-specific information.

What is needed:

  • Someone with business organization skills
  • Software designer and a single programmer possibly plus a graphics designer for a short time
  • Investment capital to get things going

That's about it. Anyone ready to do it?


Note 1: This interface could be "improved". I think the best approach would be to offer the ability to add individual items like this:

  • The user opens two browser tabs -- one on Amazon and the other on the buy site. He logs into the buy site.
  • The user searches Amazon to find a desired product and copies the URL
  • The user then switches to the buy tab and pastes the URL
  • Once all URLs have been copied, he selects the "done" button. The system enters the order, enters the info on the user account (for status updates) and places the Amazon order.
  • Exceptions (not available, can't ship to Guatemala, ...) and handled by updating the user account page and sending an email to the user.