Bar­ter­ing plat­form of­fers a way to side­step cap­i­tal con­trols and get what you want or need

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY LINA GIANNAROU

Stella makes photo al­bums for wed­dings and bap­tisms, which she trades for ground beef. Dell­man ser­vices PCs and lap­tops in ex­change for olive oil, Panayiota has a BMW she’d gladly trade for a small stu­dio apart­ment in Athens, and Dim­itris needs a small re­frig­er­a­tor which he’s will­ing to trade for nearly new chil­dren’s clothes.

“Only your imag­i­na­tion can set lim­its,” says Yian­nis Deliyian­nis, who, with a group of friends, set up trade­now.gr in early 2013, the first au­to­mated plat­form for swap­ping ser­vices and goods in Greece.

“Is there any­thing that can’t be swapped?” asks Deliyian­nis. “Some­one might not have any cash in his wal­let but a watch or cell phone he doesn’t need. That’s like hav­ing 500 eu­ros, with which he can get any­thing he wants.”

The site was launched as Greece en­tered the depths of the cri­sis and is even more pop­u­lar to­day since the im­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal con­trols in the sum­mer re­stricted Greeks’ pur­chas­ing power even fur­ther.

“We at­tracted a huge num­ber of peo­ple af­ter the cap­i­tal con­trols were put in place,” says Deliyian­nis. Reg­is­tered mem­bers swelled to above 25,000 in the sum­mer from 20,000 at the start of the year and more keep com­ing as an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple look for ways to ac­quire the things they need with­out hav­ing to spend cash.

The ini­tial idea came about dur­ing a spon­ta­neous ex­change.

“A friend of mine wanted an energy-ef­fi­cient fire­place in his house but couldn’t af­ford it. The tech­ni­cian of­fered to take his old fire­place in ex­change for the ma­te­ri­als for the new one and also of­fered him a dis­count on the in­stal­la­tion,” ex­plains Deliyian­nis. “I was in­ter­ested so we started look­ing at whether any­thing like that was hap­pen­ing else­where in the world. We found a num­ber of sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives, es­pe­cially in the United States, where ma­jor trade net­works have been de­vel­oped be­tween busi­nesses look­ing to cut costs. So that’s how we came up with the idea of cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity that would in­clude all tiers of the econ­omy, from in­di­vid­u­als with goods and ser­vices to of­fer to busi­nesses that could trade with other busi­nesses while at the same time get­ting some pub­lic­ity and selling their goods or ser­vices at a dis­count.”

Putting the idea into ac­tion led to all sorts of com­pli­ca­tions.

“The plat­form is in­ter­ac­tive. When some­one logs on ask­ing for a bi­cy­cle and of­fer­ing a watch, the site will au­to­mat­i­cally link them to ev­ery­one who and a group of friends set up trade­now.gr in early 2013, the first au­to­mated plat­form for swap­ping ser­vices and goods in Greece. ‘Is there any­thing that can’t be swapped?’ he asks. ‘Some­one might not have any cash in his wal­let but a watch or cell phone he doesn’t need. That’s like hav­ing 500 eu­ros, with which he can get any­thing he wants.’ wants a watch or is of­fer­ing a bike. Then the dif­fer­ent par­ties can hag­gle among them­selves; it’s like each mem­ber is run­ning a e-shop of their own.”

To make ex­changes eas­ier, the com­pany has in­tro­duced a form of “cur­rency,” a Trade Point, which re­flects the value of the items or ser­vices on of­fer. So if some­one wants to buy some­thing that is of greater value than what they’re of­fer­ing, they can make up the dif­fer­ent with points (1 point equals 1 euro).

Mem­ber­ship to the site is free of charge for in­di­vid­u­als and costs from 50 eu­ros up­ward for com­pa­nies, with a small com­mis­sion fee when di­rected sales are made.

“It was hard at first to con­vince com­pa­nies [mostly small and medi­um­sized] to join and build a pro­file. There were quite a few cases where we not only had to ex­plain how bar­ter­ing works but also had to ac­tu­ally ex­plain the In­ter­net,” says Deliyian­nis. “Ev­ery­thing changes with the cap­i­tal con­trols. Peo­ple were obliged to do busi­ness with­out cash and so they soon saw the ben­e­fits.”

Com­pa­nies usu­ally swap pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial like leaflets or ban­ners, as well as of­fice ma­te­ri­als or ser­vices like se­cu­rity sys­tem in­stal­la­tions. Among in­di­vid­u­als, most of the ex­changes in­volve cell phones and other IT gad­gets, but also food.

“We have a butcher who got new tires for his car by of­fer­ing meat, another guy who got his car ser­viced by of­fer­ing a shower stall, and oth­ers who swapped cars for boats. Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble,” says Deliyian­nis.

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