Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Global IT Outsourcing: Here Is How Brazil Can Differentiate Itself

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 10, 2010

I'm enjoying meeting Brazilian IT services companies and various IT associations as part of my trip this week to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The Brazilian IT sector is very sophisticated and it wants its share of the global outsourcing pie -- the same pie that India and China enjoy.

This morning we heard presentations from several very senior government officials from the state of Rio de Janeiro. The overall message was that Rio de Janeiro has 8 out of ten of the country's top science and technology schools; it produces 14,000 PH.d graduates a year; it has expertise in BPO and call centers; there are science and technology business parks; there is government financing, R&D credits, etc.

It's very much the same message that every other place around the world is using in their efforts to attract IT services business.

But when there are so many regions around the world now offering pretty much the same things, how do you distinguish yourself? That was one of the questions put to the Brazilian officials and they didn't have a good answer.

Antonio Gill, president of Brasscom, the Brazilian IT industry association, finished up the meeting by saying that there is a lot more work that needs to be done in getting the message out to the world that Brazil has a sophisticated IT services sector that is the equal of India or China.

"We are not very good at marketing," he lamented.

As he finished, the curtains in the conference room were rolled back and sunlight poured in through the large windows. And the vista was breathtaking.

We were right across from the iconic beaches of Ipanema, golden sands stretching for miles, the surf tumbling in, thudding and whooshing, people relaxing, playing volleyball, blue skies and blue water. Wow.

It was my first real view of Rio de Janeiro because we had arrived late the previous evening. I'd seen plenty of pictures of Rio but none captured how stunning this city really is.

Endless golden beaches ring the bay, similar to San Francisco bay, but this bay is studded with spectacular islands that tower hundreds of feet above the water. Behind, there is a ring of steep, lush green, cathedral-like mountains, on which one stands the massive statue of Christ the Redeemer.

And that's what struck me as the best way Brazil can distinguish its IT industries from any other place in the world:

"We have Rio de Janeiro."

After all, when all things are equal, why would you want to work with outsourcing teams in India, or China, when you could have Rio?!

Consider this:

- India and China take a full day and night of travel to reach and you arrive horribly exhausted and unproductive.

- You have to deal with massive jet lag.

- You are stuck in places where you can barely see the sun through the pollution.

- It takes another 24 hours of travel to get home, you arrive horribly exhausted and with massive jet lag and are unproductive for days.

- You have to stay up late at night to communicate with your teams in India or China.

- You have to deal with significant cultural differences both in business management and popular culture, which affects communications.

Brazil has the same things that India and China have: established IT services firms; a highly educated workforce; lots of engineering graduates; tax and financial incentives.

But also:

- Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are within one to four hours of the same time zone as US companies.

- There's no need for US managers to stay up late at night to talk with their teams.

- Travel time is a lot shorter than India or China.

- Hardly any jet lag coming or returning which means you are productive instantly on arrival.

- Brazilians have a very good understanding of US culture and especially business culture, which makes for far better collboration.

- And the most important selling point - Brazil has Rio de Janeiro.

Here is my contribution to the marketing of Brazilian IT services in the US, just use this slogan: "It's Brazil" along with images of Rio.

You can even play around with the "IT" in Information Technology: "IT's Brazil" ... along with some appropriate images of the great lifestyle in Rio.

In a similar way as in the movie "Spinal Tap," when the lead guitarist shows of his custom amps that have dials that go to "11," and is asked questions about what makes them special compared with other amps, he keeps saying in a puzzled tone, "Yes, but these go to 11..."

If companies looking for IT outsourcing services ask questions, comparisons with Bangalore, etc, just repeat in a slightly puzzled tone, "Yes, but this is Brazil..." Because Rio takes Brazil to 11.

In the global IT outsourcing marketplace, when all things are equal -- as they trend towards that point anyway -- great lifestyle will be the next best selling point. And on this Rio de Janeiro can't be beat.

As soon as Brazilian IT services companies figure this out, that the answer to their marketing problem is staring them in the face, they will do very well indeed. They just need to roll back the curtains.


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