Cooperative PUMA

Desafío Joven, the Shell LiveWIRE programme in Argentina, operates out of the Neuquen province in the centre of the country. With a focus on supporting local entrepreneurs and bringing opportunities to the region, Desafío Joven seeks to empower communities. The story of the Cooperativa PUMA, now a Shell Argentina supplier, illustrates the tenacity and ingenuity of local LiveWIREs, even in the face of obstacles as large as a global pandemic.

In 2013, a group of unemployed workers in Neuquen approached Shell Argentina to request training, with the goal of acquiring the hard and soft skills necessary to access employment opportunities in their region. Desafío Joven obliged, providing training to the workers and helping to support the administrative development of a new organisation, Cooperativa PUMA. Fernando Fernandez and Juan Sanchez, PUMA’s founders, prioritised the creation of a cooperative, instead of a traditional business. For them, satisfying the needs of the collective, and supporting their local community, was just as important as providing livelihoods for individuals.

The cooperative’s activities began in the town of San Patricio del Chañar and nearby towns such as Añelo, Campo Grande and Vista Alegre. Shell was their first client.

Initially, they carried out civil construction work and metallurgical work for the oil industry and agribusiness. Today, they also carry out building and master repair services, always prioritising the delivery of quality and innovative work. This is despite COVID-19, which changed their way of working and threatened their business model at the beginning of 2020. Even in the face of a pandemic, PUMA hasn’t given up.

The Cooperative’s 18 active members saw major threats to their business at the beginning of the year. With an impending quarantine, they knew they wouldn’t be able to carry out construction in close quarters. PUMA had to find a solution to stay active, given their important role as an employer and a training organisation for local men and women. So, the group saw an opportunity to pivot and use skills related to the traditional livelihoods of their region. Using a fallow apple and pear field in the city of Chañar, the location of the Shell Argentina offices, the PUMAs made the switch to agriculture. They cleaned the terrain and prepared it for a new crop of almond and walnut plants, which will be harvested from next year. The skills they had gained while participating in Shell's "Entrepreneur Challenge" programme helped bolster their knowledge of their value propositions, financial and cost planning, and marketing strategies, and their company is ending 2020 on a high note. In the words of Fernandez and Sanchez, “Desafío Emprendedor was really helpful for us. The incubation program opened our minds, brought new opportunities, and increased our knowledge.”

Going forward, Desafío Joven is working to include PUMA in future Shell activities. They are developing a health, safety, and security course for businesses like PUMA, which wish to become Shell suppliers. PUMA’s outlook is optimistic, as work is set to resume by the end of 2020.