Nearshore Americas | The New Axis of Outsourcing Experts in BPO, IT and Software in Latin America and the Caribbean 2015-05-22T10:22:49Z http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/feed/atom/ Bianca Wright <![CDATA[Cracking the Innovation Code: LatAm IT Companies Need to Foster, Demonstrate Innovation]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45376 2015-05-22T10:22:49Z 2015-05-21T20:08:23Z By Bianca Wright Talking about innovation and being innovative are two different things. For software development companies, the need to innovate is paramount, yet the question always remains: how do you demonstrate innovation? More importantly, perhaps, how do you instil a culture of innovation among your developers? In an increasingly competitive IT environment, answering those two questions has never been ...

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By Bianca Wright

Talking about innovation and being innovative are two different things. For software development companies, the need to innovate is paramount, yet the question always remains: how do you demonstrate innovation? More importantly, perhaps, how do you instil a culture of innovation among your developers? In an increasingly competitive IT environment, answering those two questions has never been so vital.

During a Nexus panel discussion at the end of April, Alex Robbio, Co-Founder and President of Belatrix Software, pointed out that it is very easy to claim innovation, but more difficult to prove it. He noted that his company has adapted Ideo’s Design Thinking concept to foster innovation among its developers.

In a statement on the Ideo website, president and CEO Tim Brown, explained that Design Thinking is “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Drive For Innovation

This concept ties into a larger trend to combine design into the broader development framework. Gustavo Aguirre, the new VP of Innovation at Latin American software development company Globant, said: “What we are seeing lately is a stronger and stronger demand to merge design and innovation from the very beginning in all our software development engagements.”

Aguirre added that this is driven by customer demand. “For example today, as customers when using a mobile banking application, we do not compare its design and user experience with other mobile banking apps, but we expect it to be as ‘cool’ as any other application we have on our smartphone,” he said. “We are seeing the same behavior with corporate employees; they expect the company’s internal applications to be as user-friendly and innovative as the applications they use outside the corporate world.”

Aguirre noted that previously innovation and design were done by specialized boutique companies and then were specifications sent to an engineering company. “This was obviously a very inefficient process, so nowadays the market demands all these practices – innovation, design and engineering – to be integrated,” he said.

One possible approach to greater innovation is what Sam Elfawal, President for U.S. Operations at Neoris, calls co-innovation. Co-innovation, he noted, is about partnerships that help to stimulate innovation. He emphasised in a Practical Insights post that “In order to succeed, co-innovation efforts must have the 4Cs: collaboration, cost-containment, continuity, and commitment. For today’s global IT and consulting services providers, it is imperative to mold ourselves into top rated co-innovation partners for our clients. This can be accomplished by adopting on-shore or near-shore models to deliver the 4Cs, and promoting the advantage of regional proximity and lower labor costs.”

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Aguirre explained that innovation is about culture. “It is not a single thing. For example, at Globant the offices layout is built thinking about innovation and collaboration, special rooms for brainstorming, whiteboards everywhere, 3D printing labs — even the desks are organized such that there are spaces in between for collaboration,” he said.

He added that they also do many innovation-related activities, like brainstorming sessions, or organizing FlipThinking Sessions where they bring experts from different fields to talk about subjects that may seem unrelated to our business: NeuroScience, Rockets and Satellites, Biotech, Nuclear Engineering, and so on.

Patrick Millar, Co-Founder and CMO at Formatic.Ly, emphasized that if providers in Latin America want to succeed — within the context of, for example, SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) technologies — they need to demonstrate their ability in the innovation space. “Providing software development services is a low margin business. In this ‘me too’ space where skill differences are quickly leveled, the advantage goes to providers who can add clear value by innovating with their clients during the development process. In many cases this will require clients to be more agile in their processes, but it also requires providers to create an environment that encourages innovation and to coach employees on how to innovate,” he said.

Not Ideal For Innovation

Recent steps towards insourcing in some quarters has been linked, by some, to lack of innovation in outsourced environments. Bill Huber, Managing Director at Alsbridge, explained that one key driver behind the move to insourcing is that outsourcing has fallen short of its promise to deliver innovation and transformation. “By taking services back in house, organizations often believe that they can achieve the benefits of labor arbitrage, while bringing more flexibility and focus on the customer,” he said.

Huber added: “The problem is that in traditional outsourcing, business cases are focused on cost take-out rather than improving the effectiveness of service or enabling business objectives. The result is that contracts are structured with rigid service levels to reduce costs rather than enrich business services.”

Mike Slavin, Managing Director of Alsbridge said: “Traditional large infrastructure outsourcing relationships have been unsuccessful at driving innovation because of their basic commercial constructs.” He added that very few, if any, agreements have items such as a standing innovation committee or an innovation fund built into the deals.

Slavin said: “Many innovative projects, such as moving to cloud, potentially cannibalize existing revenue streams and assets that are not fully depreciated. That means that, under the traditional constructs, providers have a clear disincentive to push for innovation.”

He agreed that functions being repatriated are often related to innovation, and the data does clearly shows that lack of innovation is one of the top three complaints that clients have about outsourcing. “So while there are certainly other factors driving smaller and shorter deals, that repatriation of certain functions has been a contributor,” he said.

Huber went on to explain that lawyers seek to “de-risk” outsourcing contracts and fail to include innovation elements, which in any event are difficult to define legally. “Another problem is that sponsorship and governance of outsourcing are frequently done at an operational rather than strategic level, with a ‘keep-the-lights-on’ focus,” Huber said.

The potential perception that outsourced environments may not foster innovation means that Latin American companies need to ensure that their innovation is recognized and that they put in place strategies to encourage the required kind of innovation in their development teams. As Aguirre noted: “You should have innovation as an important corporate value, and encourage and reward innovation.”

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Narayan Ammachchi <![CDATA[Xerox and ACT to Expand Operations, Create 2,000 New Jobs in Jamaica]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45379 2015-05-21T15:25:46Z 2015-05-21T15:25:46Z By Narayan Ammachchi Advanced Call Center Technologies and Xerox are due to significantly expand their operations in Jamaica, with the global BPO firms leasing more space at the Barnett Tech Park in Montego Bay. According to the Jamaica Gleaner, they have occupied “all the available space” in the 50,000-square foot facility at the tech park. A statement on the Jamaican government website claims the ...

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By Narayan Ammachchi

Advanced Call Center Technologies and Xerox are due to significantly expand their operations in Jamaica, with the global BPO firms leasing more space at the Barnett Tech Park in Montego Bay.

According to the Jamaica Gleaner, they have occupied “all the available space” in the 50,000-square foot facility at the tech park.

A statement on the Jamaican government website claims the BPOs will create as many as 2,000 jobs by the end of this year.

Advanced Call Center Technologies (ACT) has a strong presence in Jamaica, where it has been operating for the past five years. According to the Jamaican government, ACT already runs nine delivery centers in Montego Bay alone.

Some local reports say the company will hire an additional 250 agents by the end of the summer.

Built by the real estate firm Mark Kerr-Jarrett, and armed with high-speed Internet and a round-the-clock electricity supply, the Barnett Tech Park is the centerpiece of BPO infrastructure in Jamaica.

ACT’s CEO Joseph Lembo has stated that he is in talks with the constructor to build another facility for the firm, increasing its floor space to 250,000 square feet.

The new facility, likely to be ready for occupation within the next two years, will take the company’s total headcount to 8,000, Lembo said.

“Our business is very competitive and we earn business based on performance. Since we have taken over this part of the business, our team here has outshone most of our competitors,” Lembo added.

Xerox, believed to be the largest BPO operator in Jamaica, said it will add 50,000 square feet to its operation and hire another 900 people.

Furthermore, the outsourcer has also unveiled plans to launch three more call centers in the Jamaican capital of Kingston, adding another 1,000 employees to its current workforce of over 6,000 in the country.

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Narayan Ammachchi <![CDATA[World Economic Forum Lauds Barbados’ Tourism Infrastructure]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45371 2015-05-20T16:56:52Z 2015-05-20T16:56:52Z By Narayan Ammachchi Barbados has the best tourism infrastructure in the Caribbean, while the Dominican Republic is the region’s most-visited country, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report. Tourism forms the central pillar of economies across the region, but the WEF report has urged regional governments to focus on improving transport and Internet infrastructure, pointing out ...

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By Narayan Ammachchi

Barbados has the best tourism infrastructure in the Caribbean, while the Dominican Republic is the region’s most-visited country, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report.

Tourism forms the central pillar of economies across the region, but the WEF report has urged regional governments to focus on improving transport and Internet infrastructure, pointing out that they rely heavily on their famous beaches.

According to the report, a lack of UNESCO natural heritage sites and reluctance in protecting lands are the reasons why the Caribbean’s tourism growth is slowing. Meanwhile, in Central and South America, infrastructure gaps, safety and security and business environment issues are the main hurdles restraining further growth in the sector.

“Most Caribbean economies rely extensively on their famous beaches but do not seem to sufficiently promote their cultural resources. More efforts in promoting and leveraging their cultural heritage could further improve their competitiveness,” the report noted.

In Latin America, the most-visited countries are Brazil and Mexico. The report regards the new Quito International Airport as the most important piece of infrastructure for bolstering tourism sector in Ecuador.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games have led Brazil to invest huge sums of money in infrastructure and connectivity, helping the country rank 41st in airport infrastructure and 3rd in the number of sports stadiums.

With approximately 60.6 million arrivals, Spain tops the WEF ranking. Thanks to its Latin American connections, Spain is seeing a sudden surge in tourism from Mexico and Brazil.

The WEF has urged countries to focus on improving their broadband infrastructure to draw more tourists, saying that Internet access during a trip is increasingly seen as a necessity. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group estimates that 95% of people use digital resources to organize a trip.

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Duncan Tucker <![CDATA[Automation and Client Demands Drive Evolving BPO Skill Sets]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45358 2015-05-20T15:59:55Z 2015-05-20T15:59:55Z By Duncan Tucker As clients grow more demanding and technological advances facilitate the onset of automated work, BPO workers must become more flexible and rounded, with universal skill sets that enable them to perform a broader range of tasks. Meanwhile, in order to improve retention and develop a more mature and sophisticated workforce, their employers must invest in more comprehensive ...

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By Duncan Tucker

As clients grow more demanding and technological advances facilitate the onset of automated work, BPO workers must become more flexible and rounded, with universal skill sets that enable them to perform a broader range of tasks.

Meanwhile, in order to improve retention and develop a more mature and sophisticated workforce, their employers must invest in more comprehensive training programs and ensure that staff see tangible long-term career opportunities within their organization. That was the message that executives from BPO giants Capgemini and Teleperformance conveyed to Nearshore Americas when questioned about how the evolution of skill sets required for global BPO work.

Jean-Christophe Ravaux, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Business Transformation at Capgemini, affirmed that today’s BPO workers need more Cloud and analytics training as well as further specialist training to oversee automated work. For this reason, he said, Capgemini has adopted a new curriculum in order to meet the levels of demand and sophistication that clients are now demanding.

“In terms of skill sets we’ve moved drastically from being a strong business operator to a more holistic engagement executive role,” Ravaux said. Rather than mere back-end support staff, Capgemini’s BPO workers are more like front-end consultants specialized in different industries and with a broad capacity to grow and work on diverse projects, he explained. “After a couple of years they become team leaders. Every 18 to 24 months our staff change roles. They change clients and they change industries,” Ravaux added, noting that having multi-talented staff like this makes the company more credible in the eyes of its clients.

Capgemini recently doubled its presence in North America through the acquisition of Indian technology services provider iGATE, Ravaux said. He could not reveal how many staff the company is taking on from iGATE in the nearshore region but he said that the acquired firm’s assets and vertical-centric IT solutions will complement Capgemini’s operations nicely: “We bring the methodology and they bring these capabilities and products and I think that should be a very positive combination.” Noting that 40% of iGATE’s business is related to financial services, Ravaux said the acquisition will reinforce Capgemini’s finance-related offerings in Brazil, although this is a market area where the company was already particularly strong. Taking on iGATE’s Mexican operations will also complement Capgemini’s BPO operations in neighboring Guatemala, which have also “recorded massive growth,” he added.

Skills and Certification Challenges

Alejandro Hernandez, the Chief Human Resources Officer at Teleperformance in Mexico, told Nearshore Americas that there is a greater demand for what he describes as “universal profiles.” He explained, “I see more and more approval of profiles when the need is for people with universal skills who can change from one kind of call to another, thus giving clients a more flexible workforce. Before agents worked in customer service, technical support or sales, but now clients want people to be able to handle all three. It’s something that they’re demanding now so us BPOs need to have the ability to develop or identify the right talent to meet their needs.”

Hernandez noted that is also greater demand for BPO workers with a higher level of educational experience today. Clients “prefer for staff to have past experience, or high school or further education. This educational experience gives you greater flexibility and maturity, basic skills for being able to tend to customers,” he said. “There are people out there but it can be hard to find those with the right profile. Sometimes those who are available in the market didn’t finish high school because they moved to the United States or started their own business. They have the right abilities but they don’t have the certifications,” Hernandez added. “So I think we must work with the government through open school programs to solve this problem, so that the people who are apt and available are able to obtain the certifications in order to meet the requirements that clients establish in their contracts.”

Ravaux agreed that a lack of certified workers had been posing a problem for Capgemini. In a bid to resolve this issue, he said, “We’ve invented a BPO certification around transformation capability for people who can do content modeling and have consulting skill sets – they’re a different kind of talent.” Capgemini has developed its own universities and academies which offer training and certification programs based on a curriculum devised by the company. “We’re perfecting these models, area by area and industry by industry,” Ravaux said of Capgemini’s training programs.

In order to accelerate the development of Capgemini’s most talented new employees, the company has also introduced a mentoring program that partners vice presidents with high-performing employees of the opposite gender. The idea is to bring together people with different experiences from different generations, genders, cultures and put bright new recruits in “situations where they can further demonstrate their ability,” Ravaux said. “We get them certified because we’re not deviating from the curriculum that we’ve put in place, but they will be progressing a bit faster than others. It’s also good for retention. This is a way to show that we genuinely do care about people. When you’ve got top leaders coaching individuals from other parts of the organization then the loyalty we show people is paid back ten times over.”

Teleperformance has also “evolved and been working very hard on our training programs,” Hernandez said: “We have programs in which we provide participants with opportunities to develop their skills so that they can become supervisors or coaches or work in quality assurance. We’ve changed the content of our curriculum because times have changed. I think this is essential for any BPO or any organization because if you stop investing in your first-line management then you’re done for.”

Improving Retention

Ravaux repeatedly emphasized the crucial importance of retention and creating clear career paths for employees. “This is a talent industry and we try to avoid a talent war. We select people who can climb the ladder or the pyramid,” he said. “We need to be smarter and faster than our rivals. We always need to be ahead. We’re in an industry where to do nothing is not an option. To retain our people we not only need to have more and more clients but also to elevate our training programs and create more interesting jobs. That’s what we’ve been working on for the last five or six years. This is why people stay with us.”

Encouraging employees to frequently work in new areas instead of one fixed-position not only makes them more flexible and attractive workers but also keeps them motivated and mentally stimulated, Ravaux added. “When you look at the new generation their attention span is reduced to 12 to 18 months. So they need that stimulus,” he said. “But not many clients – even global corporations – can offer work that is not position-based. So if they don’t get a promotion after two or three years the employees move on because they are bored and nobody’s investing in their education.”

Even when Capgemini does lose staff, Ravaux said it’s not uncommon to see them return within a few years: “We have clients poaching our talent from time to time because of their expertise. They overpay them to attract them but after two years they often get bored because it’s position-based, they’re working with just one client and soon they’ve had enough and they come back to us.”

Overall, he believes Capgemini offers “a pretty rich career path.” Many people start out there almost by accident and only regard it as a short-term option, he admitted, “but then they realize that after many years in the business they’re enjoying it more and more because they can grow as people leaders, take on added responsibilities and have partner roles.”

Hernandez described the perception of BPO work as a short-term career option as an undeniable problem for the industry, but one that can be overcome. “There are some businesses out there who don’t take human capital seriously,” he said, “but we have a policy of investing heavily in our people; we’re constantly carrying out employee satisfaction surveys and we’re certifying more and more sites with the Great Place to Work institute. I think we must work very hard to show people that they can develop here. We have many success stories of directors and managers who started out taking calls.” Hernandez added: “Nearshore workers tend to have strong social and cultural aspirations. They’re people that have lived in the United States or studied English and they want to keep growing. We try to make sure that they have very clear career paths so that they understand how far they can go. I think if you give people a clear idea of how far they can go then those that are focused will achieve it.”

Finding the Right Profiles

In Latin America there is a growing need for profiles with greater technical skills and high-tech knowledge,” Hernandez said. “The way in which people contact our staff is changing. We’re evolving from the telephone to social networks,” he added. “Although the telephone is still the principal means of reaching customers, it’s very important that we bear in mind that social networks are the channel of the future.”  When it comes to finding talent with the right skill sets, Hernandez said he believes in-house training is more important than an ability to find the perfect potential employee. He also stressed that “the government a needs to work with us to develop the industry as an important source of employment.”

Hernandez explained: “One of the greatest needs of all Latin American countries is for job creation and we see ourselves as great generators of employment. So we need to talk to our governments and say ‘hey, help us out with this.’ I think if we work together we can achieve our aims. In Mexico I think there are about 80,000 or 90,000 people employed in the BPO industry and we’re a country of 120 million inhabitants. Surely there are more people out there who could be working in this industry.”

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Narayan Ammachchi <![CDATA[Bahamas Reviews Internet Security after Hackers Hit Government Sites]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45363 2015-05-20T15:48:39Z 2015-05-20T15:48:39Z By Narayan Ammachchi The Bahamas government says it is reviewing its entire Internet infrastructure after an Islamist group allegedly hacked several of its official websites. The news comes barely a month after St Vincent complained that a radical Islamist group affiliated to Islamic State (IS) hacked some of its sites. All the hacked sites have now been restored, Prime Minister Perry ...

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By Narayan Ammachchi

The Bahamas government says it is reviewing its entire Internet infrastructure after an Islamist group allegedly hacked several of its official websites.

The news comes barely a month after St Vincent complained that a radical Islamist group affiliated to Islamic State (IS) hacked some of its sites.

All the hacked sites have now been restored, Prime Minister Perry G. Christie told parliament. Christie did not blame the Islamic State but accused a Tunisian Islamist group, known as Fallaga Team, of defacing the government sites.

The hacked sites include www.bahamas.comwww.bahamasfilm.com as well as the site of the country’s tourism ministry.

“Defaced sections of the government-owned websites were quickly removed and a corrected version redeployed and with the restoration of all compromised pages, all affected websites are now back to normal modes of operation,” the government said in a statement.

To prevent similar hacks in the future, government has set up a committee of industry experts to review the country’s entire Internet infrastructure.

“All government websites have been checked for possible breaches, safeguarded and reinforced against potential vulnerabilities by the implementation of software patching,” added the government statement.

The committee, comprised of technology experts from both the public and private sectors, will meet regularly and help the government formulate policies with respect to cyber security.

“This matter has been given serious attention and we will spare no effort in protecting and safeguarding these valuable assets,” stated the country’s Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe.

Another committee, made up of experts including a retired FBI cyber security agent, is said to be preparing to train Bahamian officials in ethical hacking in order to enable them to intercept and block such security threats quickly.

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Narayan Ammachchi <![CDATA[Report: Filling Job Vacancies Remains a Major Challenge in the US]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45351 2015-05-19T16:07:27Z 2015-05-19T16:07:27Z By Narayan Ammachchi American businesses are continuing to face a severe talent shortage, with one in three U.S. employers having trouble filling positions, according to ManpowerGroup’s annual talent survey.   The study reveals that 32% of U.S. employers report difficulties filling job vacancies, down slightly from 40% in 2014. Although as many 48% of U.S. executives surveyed acknowledged that talent shortages ...

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By Narayan Ammachchi

American businesses are continuing to face a severe talent shortage, with one in three U.S. employers having trouble filling positions, according to ManpowerGroup’s annual talent survey.  

The study reveals that 32% of U.S. employers report difficulties filling job vacancies, down slightly from 40% in 2014. Although as many 48% of U.S. executives surveyed acknowledged that talent shortages would negatively affect their business, only a few appeared to be devising strategies to address the problem.

One in five U.S. employers are still not pursuing strategies to overcome talent shortages. In a similar survey conducted last year, only 13% of U.S. employers reported they were not pursuing strategies to overcome talent shortages.

Things are not rosy globally, either. In the survey, 68% of Peruvian employers and 61% Brazilian employers claimed to be facing similar issues. In Japan, around two in three employers reported difficulty in filling jobs.

“Talent shortages are real and are not going away,” said Kip Wright, senior vice president, Manpower North America. “Despite impacts to competitiveness and productivity, our research shows fewer employers are trying to solve the problem through better talent strategies.”

As the struggle to find the right talent continues, analysts say, employers might resort to relying heavily on their best workers to drive their businesses forward. The report says the shortage in talent is forcing many employers to overwork their existing staff to and spend more money on compensation.

Although there is a lack of engineers or technicians, the hardest jobs to fill in the United States are teachers and drivers.

When asked why they are struggling to fill certain jobs, employers cite a lack of applicants (33%), lack of experience (19%) and lack of technical competencies or hard skills (17%). Technical competencies employers seek include industry-specific professional qualifications (7%) and trade certifications (7%).

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Narayan Ammachchi <![CDATA[Globant Moves into India with Acquisition of Clarice Technologies]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45345 2015-05-19T15:37:46Z 2015-05-19T15:02:52Z By Narayan Ammachchi Argentine IT firm Globant has announced that it has acquired India-based software developing firm Clarice Technologies and will soon launch a delivery center in the South Asian country. Expanding its operations beyond the Americas and gaining access to India’s IT talent pool are said to be the primary reasons behind the acquisition. “This acquisition will help us increase ...

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By Narayan Ammachchi

Argentine IT firm Globant has announced that it has acquired India-based software developing firm Clarice Technologies and will soon launch a delivery center in the South Asian country.

Expanding its operations beyond the Americas and gaining access to India’s IT talent pool are said to be the primary reasons behind the acquisition. “This acquisition will help us increase the depth of our capabilities in Mobile, IoT and UX,” stated Globant CEO Martin Migoya in a press release.

Globant has not disclosed what price it paid for the Indian firm, but some analysts estimate that the Argentine company would have shelled out between $20 and $25 million. Nor is it clear how large Clarice’s workforce is.

Founded in 2008, Clarice specializes in using engineering and design technology in the software it writes for its clients. The company has delivery centers in the Indian cities of Pune and Bangalore, in addition to an office in California.

Clarice has won several awards for its innovative work, including the Red Herring Global Top 100 award in 2013 and Deloitte Technology Fast 50 award in 2014.

With 26 delivery centers across the Americas, Globant has long been focusing on developing software in emerging technologies, including cloud computing, gaming and big-data.

Analysts say Globant had long been looking for an acquisition in India, where it can employ low-cost but high-skilled software professionals with lengthy experience in writing software for U.S. multinationals.

The majority of Globant’s clients are in the United States and they include the likes of Google Inc., LinkedIn Corp., JWT, Electronic Arts and Coca-Cola.

“Our vision is to build a global team with the best talent of the world, regardless their geographic location,” Migoya stated.

When it published its latest quarterly financial results, Globant said it had over 4,000 employees, 500 more than when it launched a delivery center in New York in February.

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Hilda Thomas <![CDATA[The Unusual Flavors of Latin America and the Caribbean]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45330 2015-05-19T13:06:04Z 2015-05-19T13:06:04Z By Hilda Thomas Are you tired of eating the same things day after day? Say goodbye to hotdogs and hamburgers and try some of the more unusual and sometimes downright bizarre delicacies from Latin America and the Caribbean instead. Beyond the usual beef, chicken or pork, there is a world of culinary options available to the more adventurous food tourists willing to give ...

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By Hilda Thomas

Are you tired of eating the same things day after day? Say goodbye to hotdogs and hamburgers and try some of the more unusual and sometimes downright bizarre delicacies from Latin America and the Caribbean instead.

Beyond the usual beef, chicken or pork, there is a world of culinary options available to the more adventurous food tourists willing to give it a try. According to Culture Trip, Brazil boasts a dish called the ‘Buchada’, which is similar to the Scottish haggis. Buchada is made by stuffing a goat’s stomach (but could also be made with any kind of animal stomach) with any innards available, sewing it up and cooking it. The dish’s name comes from the Portuguese word ‘bucho’ meaning animal stomach.

A basket of Chapulines (Roasted Cricket) in a market in Tepoztlan, Mexico. Photo by Meutia Chaerani and Indradi Soemardjan.

A basket of Chapulines (Roasted Cricket) in a market in Tepoztlan, Mexico. Photo by Meutia Chaerani and Indradi Soemardjan.

Mexico has something that is equally intriguing – Chapulines. This is a dish of grasshoppers fried in chilli, garlic and lime. It is apparently packed full of flavor and may be eaten on its own or in tacos. Chapulines are very high in protein and low in fat – ideal for your diet if you like crunchy foods. Mexicans eat them like chips. This dish is a speciality of Oaxaca, west of Mexico City. According to the Guardian, insects could be the next big trend in protein; already over two million people worldwide eat insects as part of their basic diets.

Don’t fancy grasshoppers? Try ants instead, the large leaf-cutter ones. In the Santander region of Colombia, they eat a dish called ‘hormigas culonas’. The word ‘culonas’ means big-bottomed. The ants’ legs and wings are cut off, the bodies are soaked in salted water and then roasted in ceramic pans or fried. These ants are seasonal and the snacks are only available during April and May.

Another unusual dish is to be found in Nicaragua where some of the natives (but not all of them) eat cheese worms or maggots. Food explorer and adventurer, Andrew Zimmern says that the Nicaraguans use aged Chontales cheese and allow it to ripen in the heat of the day until maggots hatch. They then either take the maggots out and eat them or eat the cheese infested with them. Similar cheeses are found in Italy, France and Germany.

Buchada is similar to Scottish Haggis.

Buchada is similar to Scottish Haggis.

Alternatively you could try the stewed, roasted or curried iguana in Trinidad, although you may have to wait until October 2015 as there is currently a ban on hunting them until then. Or travel to the Bahamas and taste conch fritters if you fancy escargots. The conches are cut up into small pieces, then onions, peppers and celery are added. The whole is rolled into a doughy ball and deep fried.

Another Caribbean specialty, according to Matt Smith, is Jamaica’s ‘pepper pleasure’. It sounds innocuous. However, curried goat has fiery Jamaican peppers added to it. These peppers measure 325,000 heat units on the Scoville scale whereas jalapeños measure just 5,000 – even coconut milk can’t help you. If you enjoy hot food, however, have a taste of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion which is known to be one of the hottest peppers in the world, measuring over 2 million heat units!

Now you’ve sampled some very unusual offerings, what about something to drink? The Caribbean has some very special cocktails to offer. In Jamaica, they serve a Bamboo Duppy cocktail which is made from seven kinds of alcohol (tequila, vodka, spiced rum, dark rum, white rum, cane and wine). That’s enough alcohol to make you want to gobble down some of the stranger menu options on offer. Iguana, anyone?

The Rum Swizzle cocktail is now Bermuda’s national drink. It is a drink made of rum, fruit juices and herbs. Or how about trying the Tortuga Gorda cocktail, which packs quite a punch with its four types of alcohol?

If you try Mezcal, will you swallow the worm?

If you try Mezcal, will you swallow the worm?

Latin America has its own set of unusual drinks. According to Pedro Moreno, if you ever travel to Latin America, you need to taste one of the oldest traditional drinks around, the Chicha. It was apparently drunk by the Incas. All Latin American countries drink it, but each has its own special spin to it, its own ingredient: Chileans use apples, Peruvians use corn, Colombians use Yuca, Venezuelans use rice, etc.

In San Salvador, you can drink some Marañon juice. The Marañon resembles a red pepper in shape and size and has a sweet yet acidic taste. According to Salvadorean traditional belief, the juice is the ‘juice of memory’ as it helps speed up your brain activity.

Mexico’s claim to fame for unusual drinks is the Mezcal, a variation on tequila. Most brands of Mezcal include a worm. This came about as a result of a clever ploy by Jacobo Lozano who decided to advertise it as adding flavor to the drink. It is well-loved by locals and tourists alike!

Embrace the craziness of a Coco Loco.

Embrace the craziness of a Coco Loco in Colombia.

What about tasting some ‘Coco loco’ (mad coconut) from Colombia? This is a delicious drink made of rum, vodka, tequila, lime juice, coconut cream, coconut water and ice cubes. Another option is the Cuban drink, la Canchánchara, was invented by the common soldiers fighting the war of independence against the Spanish Crown. This drink helped them keep warm in the freezing night temperatures and is mostly served in the city of Trinidad, Cuba. It is made of brandy, honey, ice and lime juice.

If you prefer non-alcoholic drinks, try the Belizean seaweed shake, made of seaweed, evaporated and condensed milk, vanilla, nutmeg and ice. It usually makes you feel healthier and refreshed. It is available from street vendors. Another popular South American drink is the Horchata, which includes milk, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon but the ingredients vary depending on the country.

This is just the tip of the culinary iceberg, though. The exciting culinary world of Latin America and the Caribbean is awaiting you. Take the risk and try one of the less well-known options. What’s the worst that could happen?

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Juan Manuel Gonzalez <![CDATA[Hot Tips for Latin American Outsourcing Providers in 2015]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=44924 2015-05-18T17:03:15Z 2015-05-18T17:03:15Z By Juan Manuel González, Enterprise Communications Industry Manager, Frost & Sullivan The need to contain costs, drive out agent inefficiencies, deliver high quality interactions for clients, and grow top-line revenues are among the biggest challenges facing customer care outsourcing firms in Latin America today. These key challenges must all be met while still achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction for clients. Market dynamics and ...

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By Juan Manuel González, Enterprise Communications Industry Manager, Frost & Sullivan

The need to contain costs, drive out agent inefficiencies, deliver high quality interactions for clients, and grow top-line revenues are among the biggest challenges facing customer care outsourcing firms in Latin America today. These key challenges must all be met while still achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction for clients.

Market dynamics and recent technical innovations bring new advances, functionality, complexity, and challenges to daily contact center operations. But the principal competitive challenge in Latin America still revolves around the need for flexibility and speed in implementing highly customized client solutions.

Many of these challenges were raised in the 2015 State of the Industry Survey by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP), the results of which appeared in the latest issue of its Pulse magazine. Let’s review some of the key findings from the survey:

1) “Customers are outsourcing to gain flexibility, innovation and access to new technology

No news is good news. We are not seeing any reference to the “cost” factor. At least, among the top three drivers for outsourcing, there is not any mention of it (of course, cost savings will always be a key driver for customers to outsource).

Increasing business flexibility was the customer’s number one reason for outsourcing in 2013 and 2014, according to the IAOP. The high focus on innovation and technology is also interesting (on a personal note, I believe the cloud computing trend is a big push behind both).

2) “As outsourcing has matured, companies have grown comfortable working with multiple providers to achieve these benefits and get best-of-breed capabilities. But buyers also want shorter, more flexible contracts and providers who are willing to invest with them and share the risks

Barking dogs never bite. Loud and clear, your clients expect shorter and flexible contracts and want your company to invest in them while sharing the risks. The Latin America region will go through a disruptive moment in the 2015-2016 period as providers will start to differentiate themselves among those that are willing to invest and take the risk versus those who are not.

Pricing models are also changing (driven by technology updates and digitalization). Currently, the most common price structures used by outsourcers function per agent hour, per call, and per minute rates. Generally, the more price-sensitive the client, the smaller the unit of interaction measurement. Customers that elect to go with a per-call pricing structure also rank low on the price sensitivity scale. Based on a flat fee per call, this method of pricing enables agents to stay on a call without worrying about its length. This is where the focus is greatest on customer delight and maintaining high C-Sat and Net Promoter scores.

Clients are also stating very clear that they feel very comfortable on working with several providers at the same time, in order to get the most from everyone (as a matter of fact, according to the survey, multi-sourcing as an outsourcing approach increased by 75% from last year’s percentage (from 16% on 2013, to 28% on 2014)).

In other words, your outsourcing company will continually and increasingly be benchmarked against your competitors.

3) “Demand for sophisticated analytics, cloud solutions, and automation will grow exponentially in an increasingly digital and multi-channel world

Actions speak louder than words. Frost & Sullivan is watching as traditional voice-centric call centers are morphing into “omni-channel” contact centers. The omni-channel consumer wants to be able to use all available channels simultaneously, including the (retail) in-store experience. As a result, BPO providers are challenged to deploy a complex blend of communications and collaboration technologies in order to stay relevant, competitive and profitable. The goal is to connect and communicate with the customer at the touch point of their choice.

Companies are employing multichannel analytics to capture, assess, improve, and shorten customer “journeys”, and the voice of the customer (VoC) to understand customer needs, and identifying root causes of product and support problems. Interactive analytics applications also help guide problem resolution.

Our recommendation for companies is to start small. As tools are added, such as speech analytics or customer surveys, start with those areas of critical importance, and then go back and test, run, refine, rerun, and gain an understanding of the impact that incremental changes can make. Of critical importance is developing a continuous improvement methodology whereby the actionable output from these tools drives improvements in and outside the contact center. The results can then be fed back to the different departments, and another round of analytics can be run after improvements are made, driving deeper or more incremental improvements.

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Narayan Ammachchi <![CDATA[JetBlue Adds Direct Routes to Mexico City and Quito, Ecuador]]> http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=45321 2015-05-18T15:21:55Z 2015-05-18T15:21:55Z By Narayan Ammachchi U.S. low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways has announced that it will launch daily non-stop flights to Mexico City and Quito, Ecuador, from Fort Lauderdale in Florida. These new routes to Latin American destinations come shortly after JetBlue introduced direct charter flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to the Cuban capital of Havana. The introduction of flights to the ...

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By Narayan Ammachchi

U.S. low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways has announced that it will launch daily non-stop flights to Mexico City and Quito, Ecuador, from Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

These new routes to Latin American destinations come shortly after JetBlue introduced direct charter flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to the Cuban capital of Havana.

The introduction of flights to the Mexican and Ecuadorian capitals shows how the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is becoming to be a major hub for JetBlue’s South American destinations.

JetBlue currently offers nonstop service to 37 destinations, with up to 85 daily flights from Fort Lauderdale.

Ecuador’s popular tourist hot spots are what prompted the carrier to add routes to the Andean country.  The Amazon rainforest, home to wide varieties of animal species, and the intriguing Galapagos Islands are particularly popular with U.S. citizens. Some of the beaches and fishing towns along the Pacific coast also draw large numbers of foreign tourists.

Apart from Quito, JetBlue also offers services to South American cities like Lima, Peru; and Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin in Colombia.

Service to Ecuador is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2016, while the flights to Mexico City will begin in October this year.

The Fort Lauderdale-to-Quito route will operate with 150-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. Ecuadorian carrier Tame also reportedly runs several flights on this route.

JetBlue, it seems, is the U.S. carrier offering the most flights to destinations across Latin America and the Caribbean, with the company operating more than 35 routes to the region.

The carrier is offering an introductory fare of $99 available for one-way travel from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood or from Orlando to Mexico City.

“We’re proud to continue to grow our Fort Lauderdale focus city, a major gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America,” said Dave Clark, JetBlue’s vice president network planning. “Demand for travel to Ecuador has been growing strongly, especially after extensive promotional efforts by the country’s officials.”

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