Ana Escalante

Immigrants Build Houses in Mexico with Remittances- The Case of Construmex

Construmex LogoMany immigrants come to work in the US, and when they do, they usually leave family behind. Often, their primary objective is to make money and provide for their families back home. Some companies – like the Mexico-based multinational cement giant CEMEX – are taking advantage of this situation and are starting to productize remittances. Instead of sending cash to their families back home, immigrants using a program called Construmex send aid in the form of housing materials.

Productizing remittances is a secure way for workers abroad to provide what they think its priority to their families. Some may recall a post by Thamel dot Com founder Bal Joshi about this very subject. We recently covered a news story on NextBillion talking about CEMEX’s Construmex program:

Money transfers can be expensive, and family members back home frequently spend the money on other things. And many immigrants don’t know how much cement to buy or how to build a roof, so their hard-earned savings often are wasted. That’s where Construmex comes in: Its architects help clients design home plans and calculate how much material to deliver and at what time intervals. The company also finances the purchase of the construction materials.

In my opinion, this system is very intelligent, because, after all, it is the money of the person who is sending it and this system allows him to decide how it is spent. It ensures that the people back home get what he wants them to get – in the case of Construmex, a house.

According to Business Week, in two years, Monterrey-based Construmex has helped 4,500 migrants living in the U.S. build homes or small businesses in Mexico. This year it expects $3.8 million in revenue, a mere hint of the potential. “We’re certain that there’s a very large, unsatisfied demand out there,” says Hector Ureta, CEMEX’s director for low-income programs. The company’s studies show that 58% of Mexican migrants to the U.S. intend to build in their home towns.

Of course this is not CEMEX’s first foray into the BOP space; they already have a program in Mexico targeting the BOP called Patrimonio Hoy. Although both programs work with the BOP, the difference between Patrimionio Hoy and Construmex is that the first works domestically in Mexico, while the latter works with the immigrants in the US to provide housing materials. The interesting fact about CEMEX’s BOP programs is that they are neither operated nor subsidized by the Mexican government nor a by a NGO. CEMEX can be considered one of the leaders in the BOP space; they have experienced success and this is why they are looking to diversify their BOP holdings.

Critics of this system might have mixed-feelings about businesses catering to illegal immigrants, because of their illegal status. Editor’s note – The previous sentence has been crossed out, since it reflects inaccurate information about the Construmex program.? apologizes for the factual error – CEMEX adheres to all laws and regulations regarding immigration status.? I guess that if the workers have the option of starting to build assets back in their home countries, they have something to look forward to when they return. They are not just coming to work here, but they are building a future in their home towns for their return.

Acumen Fund