AB InBev’s Beer Garage Global Accelerator Program witnessed an overwhelming response from the global fintech ecosystem with 600+ applications pouring in from 60+ countries to be part of the 2021 cohort. The fintech startups applied across nine use cases — from digital payments, SME lending, value added services, and other relevant solutions — in line with the strategy of AB InBev’s B2B e-commerce platform BEES.
The platform envisions to provide a digital customer experience to its 6 million SME customers (retailers, pubs, bars, restaurants, etc). This accelerator will provide an opportunity to the selected startups to do pilots across various geographies to validate their solutions, build a roadmap to scale with AB InBev, and a potential investment with AB InBev’s venture arms.
The key rationale for driving fintech acceleration at AB InBev is to support its SME customers. Launched in April 2020, the BEES B2B app has close to 1.5 million active SME customers across 11 countries and this provided a great opportunity for AB InBev to leverage this channel to activate embedded finance. Its three focus areas across the fintech product strategy are – enabling payments, providing credit, and offering value-added services to SME customers.
1. Activating digital payments: The payments module includes the convenience of the customers to pay invoices through bank transfers, credit/debit cards, and alternative payment methods.
2. Providing credit to customers: AB InBev witnessed a huge demand coming in for financing needs from its SME customers as liquidity and financing was limited. HoReCa Segment is often classified as a high-risk market for financial loans. SMEs in this segment have no collateral and require sizeable transaction costs, and thus have limited access to credit from traditional financial institutions.
The crisis deeply affected SMEs as they struggled to stay afloat amidst the post-COVID fragility in the market. AB InBev has already executed pilots in LATAM and EU regions with lending fintechs to offer short-term/long-term credit loans and is looking to scale this approach in various geographies.
3. Enabling value-added services: These services are aimed at generating additional revenue streams for the customers through bill payments, remittances, insurance agents, or other services to the end-consumers.
As the next step of the program, AB InBev team is currently evaluating applications to shortlist startups to pilot with. The cohort will be announced by August, after which the shortlisted ones will begin their engagement with AB InBev in the selected area. Startups will then get to showcase their solutions on Demo Day in December 2021.
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