Is Cuba Ready for a BPO Revolution? We Have Some Answers

Costa Rica Services Summit Coverage (The show is over, but the reporting continues!)

Officials from Cuba's DISAIC, (Cristina Espinosa on left and Mayra Barreto) spoke optimistically about Cuba's emerging professional services sector

Officials from Cuba's DISAIC (Cristina Espinosa on left and Mayra Barreto) spoke optimistically about Cuba's emerging professional services sector. CRM Central Editor Kirk Laughlin joins them at the Costa Rica Services Summit.

The establishment of Cuba as an Nearshore services base for US corporations is not as outrageous as we might have thought only a year ago. Recent geopolitical shifts (including the recent wrangling over Cuba’s potential OAS membership, detailed here in Time Magazine) are revealing a genuine thaw between the US and Cuba with the potential removal of the “insane” embargo in place since 1960.

While I don’t plan to incite any political firestorms here, there are clearly some valid causes to encourage normalized trade relations with Cuba, cultivate technology transfer and  enable Cuba to slowly develop a viable, long-term export services sector. Why? For the same reasons that apply to many of its Nearshore neighbors – from Panama to Nicaragua and Jamaica and the Dominican Republic – the  inflow of foreign capital into economically distressed nations generally causes good things to happen. Jobs appear where they didn’t before, university students develop career aspirations that are based on realistic opportunity, knowledge workers develop specialized skills and foreign corporations begin to investigate the long-term value of initiating sourcing relationships.

Can this happen in Cuba? It’s not as insane as you might think.

I say that because I sat down with two Cuba government officials at the Costa Rica Services Summit, both of whom work for at DISAIC, a government agency focused on consulting with Cuba business to improve their technology infrastructure, HR, training and technical services.  Sitting down for an interview was Cristina Ramirez Espinosa, marketing communications director  and Mayra Sanchez Barreto, IT consulting director. Continue reading


What’s Working and What’s Not in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Services Summit Coverage: A Collective Q/A

The Services Summit is built around corporate speed-dating

Over 300 attendees make up this year's Services Summit. What's striking is there is literally no drop off - people are sticking around for the full conference.

The valuable part to blogging from  a buyer/seller (corporate speed dating) event from a business journalist’s perspective is you have deeper conversations with a focused group of individuals. Unlike a conference with on-stage speakers and panels, this type of event seems to enable you to self-direct your own line of inquiry and test market your opinions.

Here are the key topics I’ve been driving and the collective responses (drawn from about two dozen in-depth conversations throughout the summit):

Question: How does Costa Rica rate among other nearshore nations?

Answer: Costa Rica is not a lowest-cost provider. The nation’s services industry continues on an upward trajectory toward higher levels of quality, specialization and niche professional capabilities. The services sector is intentionally designed to be dynamic and the nation’s education system is in fact set up to align to business requirements now and for the next generation of market  demand.

Question: What is the hottest service sector right now?

Answer: CAD and architectural design is getting a lot of attention and the software development sector is filled with companies with a hard-core focus on differentiation and value-added service. Medical tourism, product development and patent and intellectual property research are doing well also.

Question: Costa Rica is increased looked at as a “hub” for nearshore outsourcing. What exactly does that mean?

Answer: Costa Rica is absolutely a shining light in the Nearshore region. The hub concept is starting to take shape in two ways – regional leadership (dozens of service provider companies from around the nearshore region participated in the Service Summit) and through an “aggregator” role – where business flows from client to the Costa Rica provider which manages the project/ relationship and selectively sources to other locations such at Panama and Colombia, based on need.

(My view: There continues to be a need for the Nearshore nations to come together more collectively as a block which will accelerate global awareness of the unique strengths of this region. Many observers expect CAFTA to enable some of that cooperation. Yet, to be honest, there is definitely a sense of competitiveness among the Nearshore Lions (Costa Rica and Mexico) and the Tigers (Jamaica, Colombia, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Barbados). There is more talk of cooperation than real action.

Question: Where are Costa Rica professional services providers struggling?

Answer:Without question the weakest point for many of the providers in Costa Rica (the vast majority of them have under 50 employees) is sales and marketing. These companies generally  need help developing targeted marketing campaigns and messaging that highlights their core value proposition. Reaching the US buyer is a top issue – since  (at risk of oversimplification) the practice of Nearshore outsourcing is invisible to many US clients. PROCOMER is identified by many providers as a key faciliatator of awareness-building in the buyer audience.

Medical Tourism: Who could argue with bustline enhancements for under 5K?

Hernan Campos, marketing director for Costa Rica Medical, sampled the services of his company when he went for vibro liposuction. Find out what happened in our post!

Hernan Campos, marketing director for Costa Rica Medical, sampled the services of his company when he went for vibro liposuction. Find out what happened in this post.

Costa Rica Services Summit Coverage

When Hernan Campos decided to trim a good bit of fat off  his shoulders, belly and other pats of his body, he knew exactly who to turn to. (BTW, I checked with Hernan and he gave me full permission to share his story.) Hernan shed about 35 pounds in one treatment, provided by Costa Rica Medical, a San Jose-based, medical services organization that provides a wide range of cosmetic surgery and other popular procedures not generally covered by US insurance carriers. Hernan underwent a new, more advanced procedure called Vibroliposuction, a treatment that has not been approved yet by the FDA for usage in the United States.

Read more to find out how things went… . Continue reading

Blogging Live: Costa Rica Services Summit

Hotel San Jose Palacio is the site of the Costa Rica Services Summit, starting today

Hotel San Jose Palacio is the site of the Costa Rica Services Summit, starting today. (Post script: Internet connectivity unfortunately has been a nightmare throughout the conference. We are confident PROCOMER will choose a different venue for the 2010 Services Summit.)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica —  Over 300 attendees from across the Americas and Europe are here this morning, and for the next two days, to strike up business relationships with Costa Rica service providers in four key sectors: health/ medical tourism; engineering and design; entertainment and media and IT and software development. Two Costa Rica economic development agencies – CAMTIC and PROCOMER – organized the event.

The event is largely organized around the increasingly popular corporate matchmaking process, where buyers (over 100 are here) meet the service providers in the various sectors.

Costa Rica has established itself as an early pioneer in outsourcing services and its maturation has positioned the country to go after niche, value-added services. I will be meeting with over a dozen service providers in IT and medical tourism and will follow up with more posts.

For further data and details on the Costa Rica services market – following this post. Continue reading