Last week I had the pleasure of visiting São Paulo – SP for a week of work. In spite of what my colleagues thought I’d be up to, it was a full-on work week and great experience. The 15 hour overnight trip from Boston to Sao Paulo definitely is a grinder, even with the modern-day luxuries found on economy class (such as the coveted 2-seat rows in the back of the 777).
On the whole the experience working in Sao Paulo was brilliant. People are good to work with, the economy is blazing, and the scale of the business and cultural terrain is mind-boggling. Some observations in general:
- Relationship is central to business, a requirement for business
- Lunch is a significant part of the day (working hours are long, but a big lunch rounds out the 9-7 or 8 routine
- Excessive rations of expresso are not only tolerated, but encouraged in the workplace
- Being on-time is important, and the average trip ‘across town’ requires 90 minutes lead time with traffic being unpredictable
- Delays are common, and every schedule is subject to change at last minute
- Delays are accepted, but regardless #4 must be closely observed
- IT infrastructure is generally the same as in the US market, however IT infrastructure services are relatively new, and emerging technologies are roughly 18 months behind the US enterprise market in terms of adoption (and that’s a good call given the regional vendor architect designs)
- Hardware/software vendors have a great deal of command over customer decisions and architecture
- The market is ripe for advancement of IT infrastructure services, mainly due to accelerated growth of industry and business
All this points to a great market for IT services, but there are most certainly economic barriers to entry for non-national firms. Coupled with the regular currency differences, Brasil levies >40% tax on any imported services. I appreciate the concept, in comparison to the US market with there have been virtually no incentives for retaining local/regional IT services and few if any barriers to offshoring. It’s not an outrageous levy, but provides a basic incentive to look within before shopping globally. This bears the question of whether or not long-term labor arbitrage in the US will create a skills shortage in IT that could persist for a generation. So as the US IT skills base is being bartered against the lowest-common bidder for many multi-nationals, Brasil in comparison is in a high-growth mode, has an abundance of talented young resources, has a government advocating both offshore trade of in-country services, and in parallel advocating skilled labor development. Not bad policy for a developing economy, maybe we should take some notes in the US.