In the last thirty years, the Spanish population has increased by 22%. That of the province of Soria, on the other hand, has fallen by 6%. And not because of its capital, which has also grown, but because of all the municipalities that have been depopulated over the years. It is the prototype of “the emptied Spain”: rural areas that have lost neighbors and services. It is getting more and more difficult to continue living there. However, a social enterprise from Soria makes it somewhat easier.
“If it weren’t for Victoria, I wouldn’t be able to live here anymore, I would have to close the house and leave,” says Amelia, one of the fifty people who live in Carbonera, a town in the heart of the province that has neither a single store.
Victoria Tortosa is the founder of La Exclusiva, a logistics company that provides all the towns of Soria with everything they need without incurring an added cost. Food, appliances, furniture, home renovations, domestic services such as electricity or plumbing. He even sets up the lighting or the sound system for the local festivities in these municipalities with twenty, fifty, one hundred inhabitants. This is the first story of “In search of HONORability”.
The history of La Exclusiva, on video
More than 500 population centers
Victoria Tortosa, from La Exclusiva, and Ángela Blanco, from Xataka, chatting in front of the delivery van before starting one of the daily routes. Image: Xataka.
With 2,500 recurring customers distributed among the 518 population centers throughout the province, Victoria and her team (less than five employees) attend to orders that they take in their vans to Buitrago, Villasayas or Fuentepinilla, municipalities in the province with a record in life expectancy: women from Soria have a life expectancy unmatched by any other, over 88 years.
The important thing about their business model is that the inhabitants of these towns do not find it more expensive to buy a product and take it home than if they had to travel to a larger town or the capital to make that purchase.
La Exclusiva’s van making one of its routes to proceed with deliveries. Image: Xataka.
La Exclusiva does not buy or sell anything, it limits itself to transporting without increasing the cost: receives orders, processes them and delivers them without adding any cost to the customer, since the retail prices are the same for those who go to the store as for those who send an order to Victoria and her team. At the end of the month, she charges a commission on the total billing to the business where she has made that purchase. Depending on what kind of goods you sell, between 8% and 20%.
It has agreements with suppliers of all kinds to ensure that no request can resist them. From Hypermarket E. Leclerc and Grupo Dia for food distribution to Leroy Merlin, Huertos de Soria or Saneamientos Almazán, among others. Each type of command ends in one of those who have signed.
Loading process of a van before the distribution of orders. Image: Xataka.
Orders are not limited to weekly purchases, it is also required to renew an appliance, for example. Image: Xataka.
The van already loaded and ready to go on the road. Image: Xataka.
And if something out of the ordinary requires a specific search, no problem, like when Victoria was asked for “a live donkey”. “None of my suppliers have live donkeys to sell, and I certainly can’t take one in my van, but I told that person I could help him locate someone who would sell it to him. A man from two towns beyond his own I was selling cattle and I got him to bring it to him”, he tells as a star anecdote.
So people don’t have to leave home
In towns that no longer have shops and in homes where age no longer allows taking the car, La Exclusiva has become the only way to continue living where ever. From to be able to continue filling the fridge to buy a book, clothes, or change the bathtub for a shower tray. They not only take care of the transport: they also do the installations and remove what is necessary.
Amelia in her kitchen, along with Victoria and Ángela, after receiving an order with her weekly purchase. Image: Xataka.
“The goal of La Exclusiva is to keep people from leaving their homes,” says Victoria. “We take care of everything that in a capital we have at our fingertips and in the towns there isn’t.”
Orders, usually made by phone, have been made by WhatsApp, something that allows greater agility
The only restriction is that, in order to optimize delivery routes, the inhabitants of those municipalities that have a store have to go there to pick up their orders. Although there is not much rigor in an activity that transcends the personal relationship: Victoria is able to fulfill desires like eating roast chicken by carrying a lunch box with a ration that she has made at home if an old lady tells her that she feels like eating it but she can use the oven. It is much more than a logistics company.
The vast majority of their customers used to order by phone, basically because they had no other means. An unsustainable format due to the time required to process them. Over time, more and more orders arrive via WhatsApp, something easier to manage.
People-to-people digital training
Luis teaching one of the Pixie by La Exclusiva trainings for the use of the smartphone in the town of Vinuesa. Image: Xataka.
The change has not happened only because of technological progress: it has also arisen from the Pixie by La Exclusiva initiative, an agreement between the company and its technology and home appliance supplier, Luis Mundo Digital, through which they have organized more than thirty courses —and going up- to go teaching town to town, in groups, how to use the smartphone.
That the inhabitants of the small towns of Soria learn to use the smartphone is vital for their leisure, their communications and their banking or health procedures
From the most basic, such as turning it on, turning it off or making calls; to using the bank’s application and surviving the closing of the branches, accessing the Castilian-León public health platform or watching streaming videos to entertain themselves during the long Soria winter.
“Everything is explained to them, from what are the notifications that they receive from applications so that they know what they have to accept and what not… They have a fairly good reception for what the province of Soria is. In towns of fifty inhabitants they still come fifteen people. It’s worth it; the progression is immediate”, comments Luis. “It’s rewarding to do it.”
A training that translates into an impact, above all, at the level of leisure. “Here in Soria at five in the afternoon in winter it is already night. That people can see their WhatsApp, their Facebook, look for their things on the Internet… Rural people are being given a capacity for leisure I didn’t have before, I only had the TV, and that’s it”.
The most common doubt among students is usually whether or not to accept the notifications. Or the cookies. “It scares them when they see something that is out of the ordinary.” Similar to what happens with WhatsApp, which they may know how to use, but not manage an abnormal event, such as an incoming video call. After attending these courses, they manage it normally.
Luis chatting with Ángela about the impact of the smartphone use courses taught by Pixie by La Exclusiva. Image: Xataka.
Between Victoria and Luis, La Exclusiva and Pixie by La Exclusiva, the inhabitants who are spread over the least populated province in Spain and with one of the lowest population densities in all of Europe, they have their needs much better covered. I even like to receive help to buy a live donkey, if the opportunity arises.
This story is part of ‘In search of HONORability’, a Xataka and Honor project in which we look for projects that use technology to improve the world and generate a positive impact on their environment.
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