Features

Vanessa Sanchez Torres Isaia – Amazon 

Driving Amazon’s growth in Brazil

E-commerce moves more efficiently in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, the authorities having recently allowed the goods of traditional merchants and online retailers to be kept at the same warehouse. Amazon often deals with small merchants who don’t have the infrastructure for fast delivery. Thus, those merchants want to take advantage of Amazon’s vast storage facilities.

Furthermore, the pandemic caused an upsurge in e-commerce as brick-and-mortar stores closed and basic goods such as food and medicine became difficult to secure. Though the worst of COVID-19 is hopefully over, it’s hastened what already had been a fast-moving trend for online shopping and Brazil—and the rest of Latin America—has got to modernize.

Vanessa Sanchez Torres Isaia

Vanessa Sanchez Torres Isaia

Using the United States as an example, Vanessa Sanchez Torres Isaia got her point across that the old ways bound online retailers in red tape while depressing commerce in general. Modern technology also simplifies the tax issues with a simple bar code differentiating which goods came from what source.

It’s been a win-win-win, she says about Amazon and other online retailers in Sao Paulo because of easier product access and the money and time saved through better invoicing.

Thinking big 

For Isaia, it’s why she was recruited for the Amazon position in January 2019. With over 25 years of tax experience in large multinational companies, among which three-plus years in a similar capacity with one of its larger competitors, MercadoLivre.com, and before then, Nike. Amazon was a relatively small player when she joined but has grown five-fold, increasing its distribution centers from one to 10, among other investments to enhance the customer experience.

It’s taken some doing as high-speed operations remain a work in progress. Industrywide, she says costs are high and operations inefficient, Still, this being Latin America’s largest country and the world’s fourth most populous, there’s much ground to be gained here by the company.

Vanessa Sanchez Torres Isaia

As a company lawyer and Latin America tax director, Isaia says she’s well-positioned to upgrade Amazon’s standing by participating in the dialogue with the government, weighing in on strategic initiatives and keeping the company compliant with the tax code. Challenging as the logistics are, she says she understands the big picture, given that the Brazilian economy was long rooted in coffee, cattle and other commodities, and the regulators had to play catch-up as times changed.

Given her preference, there would be more uniformity among Brazil’s tax laws, and while there’s been some movement toward that aim, it’ll likely be incremental and keep Isaia poring through the rules and regulations of each state. It’s detail-intense work that others might find drudgery, but it’s her professional passion.

Ever accountable 

The daughter of Spaniards who immigrated to Brazil, Isaia says she’s not certain what drew her toward law, but, as a youngster, she enjoyed watching television crime shows. While her brother found his calling in veterinary science, she Initially envisioned becoming a defense attorney, but during her third year at Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo, Isaia was offered a tax  position at the regional office of accounting giant PwC.

She sandwiched two stints there around another tax position at Schneider Electric and, in 2013, began a very pivotal two-and-a-half-year stretch with Nike. She got her first connection with e-commerce in Brazil, implemented strategic tax savings for the footwear behemoth and visited its corporate campus in Beaverton, Oregon.

“It’s the right fit,” she says of tax law. “I like math, and I’m curious about legislation. I’m fascinated by the world of taxation, how it differs from country to country, and how it impacts the development of this country.”

Through Isaia’s initiatives, she too has a role in impacting the development of her homeland, as does her husband, a civil engineer with a portfolio that includes hospitals, shopping centers, utilities and industrial facilities. The couple is raising a 12-year-old son, and they all enjoy the outdoors and hiking through Brazil’s scenic and diverse terrain. An artistic type, she also enjoys painting with acrylics and, during the pandemic, learned how to sew tablecloths.

But recreational time can be at a premium, there being so much for both parents to do in Sao Paulo and the other states. Amazon continues to invest in Brazil and much of Latin America, and as economics grow, consumers expect to receive their products in a shorter time.

The policy changes she’s helped steer in Sao Paulo aren’t just for the benefit of Amazon. “Other players can have their goods mixed while running their e-commerce,” she says. “We’re helping whole industries, Amazon and other competitors, and the companies that depend on deliveries.”

She’ll keep growing in her profession, Isaia’s goals include pursuing a master’s degree in economics. There’s always so much to learn about the micro and macro systems, especially with Brazil in a macro mood.

“We want our operation in Brazil to deliver as quickly and efficiently as it does in the U.S.,” she says.

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: January 26, 2024

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