Brazil delivery app iFood sees job applications double after coronavirus

SAO PAULO, April 1 (Reuters) - Brazilian delivery app iFood saw job applications more than double in March, an executive told Reuters, as the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak has fueled unemployment concerns in Latin America’s largest economy.

The outbreak, which had claimed 201 lives by Tuesday, according to Brazil’s Health Ministry, triggered lockdown decrees that forced some companies to lay off or furlough employees and also slashed income for informal workers like street vendors.

Social distancing measures have also turned iFood and other Web-based delivery apps like Uber Eats and Rappi into a critical service as demand surges for delivered groceries and ready-to-eat meals.

iFood, which operates in over 1,000 cities across Brazil, received 175,000 applications for delivery worker positions in March, up from 85,000 in February, Chief Financial and Strategic Officer Diego Barreto, said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

iFood currently has 140,000 deliverers plugged into its platform, and there are also 200,000 third-party ones directly serving the restaurants. The iFood deliverers receive no salary but earn a portion of the value of each delivery.

The company is controlled by Brazilian technology group Movile, whose largest investor is South African group Naspers Ltd.

“Demand has been quite intense and customers’ behavior is changing across all categories,” Barreto said without disclosing the total amount of orders in March. He said it remained uncertain how many applicants will get jobs, adding iFood is seeking “balanced growth.”

The number of restaurants taking orders through iFood hit 160,000 in March, up from 142,000 in February.

The company, which also delivers from supermarkets, reported a 400% increase in demand for cleaning products, including hand sanitizer as well as a 45% rise in rice and beans, both staples of the national diet, iFood numbers showed.

Among iFood’s rivals, Softbank-backed Rappi said it plans to triple the amount of personal shoppers handling supermarket groceries in Brazil and seek more delivery partners.

Earlier in March, Rappi reported a 30% rise in all Latin American deliveries in the first two months of 2020 compared with the last two months of 2019.

The Colombian company, which has around 200,000 delivery people in nine Latin American countries, has not yet disclosed its March numbers.

UberEats, part of ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies , is partnering with pharmacies, convenience stores and pet shops in Sao Paulo to offer basic supplies. It hopes to expand such services to other cities in coming days, it said in a statement. (Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Christian Plumb)