Nearshore Nexus takeaway: Will countries capitalize on a golden marketing moment?
By Dennis Barker
You might’ve heard this before. Enrique Cortes of Dell Services said it here just a few months ago. And if you were at the Nearshore Nexus conference last week, you definitely heard it: Most Latin American countries are not doing a good job of getting the word out about the region’s technical capabilities.
This was hammered home during several Nexus talks and panel discussions, like a recurring theme. During his morning keynote speech, Capgemini’s Steve Rudderham, VP of client engagement for the Americas, urged trade promotion associations and governments to step up efforts to market IT capabilities and tout the region’s other advantages. They should also be doing more to combat negative perceptions of Latin America. “They’ve got to do a better job of communicating within the U.S., through the U.S. media,” he said.
There are some bright signs. Rudderham said a few LatAm agencies are opening offices in the U.S., “living and breathing with the client,” and cited Colombia for doing “tremendous work promoting Colombia.” But the region lacks a Nasscom, a “great association” that has pushed the cause of Indian BPO and IT providers, he said. Brazil’s Brasscom “has started to mirror a lot of things Nasscom is doing,” but no group is yet having the success or reach of the Indian association.
“From a press perspective, India has done a great job of promoting itself,” said John McCormick, editorial director of Information Management magazine, during a panel discussion. “The Latin America story hasn’t been told. Do some research and you see there are dynamic IT companies all over the region, but the message isn’t getting out there.”
Cesar D’Onofrio, CEO of Common Sense, a software developer based in Buenos Aires, agreed. “I think we are not doing well enough to market ourselves,” he said. “We’re not doing that.”
“Folks in Latin America don’t know how to market themselves,” said Jerry Luftman, executive director of Stevens Institute of Technology. “How do you compete with someone like Wipro? They have a great story, and they’ve established themselves.”
Is a unified messaging campaign the solution? The idea of an activist group that would be the voice of the Nearshore nation came up repeatedly during the conference.
“In order for Latin America to truly be on the globe like India and China, the countries in Latin America need to work together to form a strong organization,” said Julia Santos, head of global sourcing for Johnson & Johnson. “We’re not cohesive. Everyone is doing their own thing. That needs to change in order to get people to listen. The marketing needs to be a collaborative effort.”
An audience member asked if one association could effectively represent such a diverse region. John Edwards, VP of sales, marketing, and alliances at software developer 4th Source, said, “Yes, but it all goes back to the constituency of the member organizations.”
David Shpilberg, cofounder of Brazil’s CPM Braxis Capgemini, did not seem convinced of a one-voice-fits-all solution. “When you try to resolve this issue of one common image of Latin America,” he said, “we need to realize that this has never happened. It’s like trying to have Asia speak with one voice.”
“I think that is part of our culture,” D’Onofrio said. “I’m from Argentina, and I don’t know if Argentine companies are thinking the same way as companies from other countries.”
But here’s another angle. It’s possible that many Latin American companies, the smaller ones in particular, don’t even want or need the international business right now—or aren’t ready for it yet. Rudderham noted that a lot of the sourcing deals being made by indigenous companies are “Latin America for Latin America. Brazil for Brazil, for example.”
So, perhaps the time isn’t right. Also, just because American businesses are obsessed with marketing and promotion doesn’t mean Nearshore technology providers have to be too. Maybe they’re focused on something more important.