Situated in the southernmost part of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, nestled among green rolling hills, coffee plantations and dairy farms is the small town of Santa Rita do Sapucaí. A cursory glance shows Santa Rita as a charming town full of farms and churches but in reality, this picturesque little city has so much more to offer. In recent years, it has become known as “Vale da Eletrônica” or Electronics Valley because it is home to the highly respected technical school, Escola Técnica de Eletrônica Francisco Moreira da Costa and is also known as a hub for technological applications, from carpool and table service apps to toothbrushes with sensors that connect to children’s games. And Santa Rita isn’t the only city in Brazil ramping up their efforts.
Plagued by years of upheaval economically, Brazil is making a comeback and relying on the IT sector to help make their triumphant return. A $200 million joint investment with chipmaker Qualcomm, was welcomed in March by the federal government to build a semiconductor factory in the state of São Paulo where other major tech companies such as Samsung and Lenovo already have operations. Their hope for the investment is that this will be the first step for Brazil in becoming a noteworthy player in the manufacturing of high density semiconductors that are used in 4G and in the future, 5G devices, as well as IoT applications. The investment from Qualcomm is expected to bring in about 1,200 new jobs which only makes a tiny dent in solving Brazil’s unemployment rates—at 11% there is still a long way to go, but it’s a step in the right direction.
When most people think of Argentina, they probably think of the tango, wine, soccer fanatics or maybe the emotional play, Evita. What many may not know is that despite many setbacks and hardships, this country of proud and hardworking people has continued time and again to rise and become one of the leading exporters of products ranging from soybeans to software.
Until the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century, Argentina was a sparsely populated country and most people lived either in small, walled towns that made pottery, grew potatoes and squash and used metal for their work, or belonged to hunter-gatherer communities. Despite the Spanish and British fighting for land and the breakup of the United Provinces into what is now Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay, Argentina has continued to grow and develop its’ resources. The first railroad was introduced in the country in 1857 and by 1912 there were over 20,000 miles of railroad throughout Argentina, making it easier to export goods to other countries. Due to exports of wool, meat and grain, by 1900 Argentina was the richest country in Latin America and the seventh richest country in the world. At the same time, the population was booming due to a new wave of immigrants from Italy and Spain. Then Argentina, like the rest of the world, was deeply affected by the Great Depression and subsequently ruled by ineffective leaders and dictators throughout much of the next century causing Argentina to become largely indebted. After a severe recession in 2001-2002, the economy began to grow rapidly for several years. This growth occurred in part by making the peso equal to the US dollar, privatizing numerous state-run companies and using part of those proceeds to pay off debts.
Over the years, Mexico has had its fair share of negative headlines due to drug trafficking, violence and more recently because of the recent elections. Mexico is painted as a dangerous country that should be avoided. Unfortunately, this outdated, negative view is one that many Americans, as well as others around the world, still hold on to despite the fact that it doesn’t come close to matching the reality. Don’t believe me? Keep reading and I’ll see if I can change your mind.
It may be surprising to many that when it comes to producing talent in engineering, manufacturing and construction, Mexico ranks as the 8th highest in the world. When interviewed in June, former president Bill Clinton weighed in on the issue, “All we read about is the violence and the drug war,” said President Clinton. “The truth is that the previous president built 140 tuition-free universities. Two years ago, the Mexicans produced 113,000 engineers. We produced 120,000. They’ve had very brisk growth.” This growth that the former president mentions doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon either. From 2005 to 2012, the percentage of students graduating with degrees in engineering increased from 15.5% to 21.3% and is still continuing to grow steadily.
I just had the distinct pleasure of spending a couple days in Guadalajara experiencing first hand the talent, passion and capabilities of the region. Nearshore Executive Alliance held the Immercio conference there for about 80 people with a mix of buy-side, sell-side, regional experts and advisors in attendance. The sessions I attended and stories I heard convinced me that if I had any doubts about outsourcing to Mexico, it was time to see the light. I was able to hear first hand from companies like HP and United Healthcare who have opened captives with amazing success and while it is more expensive than their Indian locations, they would never consider moving out due to the unique talent, as well as time zone and cultural affinity. I met people representing companies like Softtek with 10,000 employees as well as companies like Unosquare who have 102 and growing rapidly. I met a company called Vesta that outsources all of their high-end work to Unosquare with incredible results. I toured the Institute of Technology of Jalisco and saw hundreds of "20-somethings" doing work for a dozen or so outsourcing companies located there. I met with iTexico, a start up that had eight people working for them two years ago and have 80 now, with plans for 150 by next year. I found that these companies are taking on higher end-work, not commodity type coding. They are creating apps, websites, software and interfaces for companies in North America. They are working for Open Table, Uber, and similar companies. In addition they are serving Fortune 500 companies with their corporate identities and marketing platforms and social media. Why? Well, for one, they will soon be graduating more engineers than the United States on an annual basis. Their English skills are amazing and they are recruiting from all over the world. One center I visited was like the United Nations. I met people who came from India, the UK, Australia and Michigan.