Recently, Wilson Grava, president for our Latin America region, was recognized by the Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC) as one of the HITEC 50, a list featuring the top 50 most influential and notable Hispanic professionals in the information technology industry in Latin America. The role of the council, which spans the Americas Global 1000 corporations, is to promote stronger technology and business leadership in a technology-centric world.
We sat down with Wilson to talk about the changing IT landscape in Latin America and learn about key trends he and his team see with customers in the region.
Grava: Latin America is going through a very interesting time because several of the most stable countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Chile are headed in the right direction from a macroeconomic standpoint. There is also a boom in the utilization of information technology as a way to compensate for the accelerated growth and corresponding gain of productivity necessary to keep these countries moving forward. As a result, NetApp has continued to make investments in the region to help us continue to address our customers’ needs and keep pace with this changing business environment. For example, this fiscal year we transitioned our operation in Chile into a full subsidiary model and added and/or expanded our presence in certain geographies like Colombia, Peru, Central America, and the Caribbean. We reached a lot of great milestones this year as a company: being part of the Forbes World’s Most Innovative Companies 2012 list, launching the first all-flash disk array in the market, and the continued momentum of our converged infrastructure solutions like the FlexPod® and ExpressPod™ platforms. So we are definitely raising our visibility with the C-level suite and our channel partners.
NetApp: Can you identify one or two key challenges that customers face in Latin America with their data? How are these challenges different or similar to those in other geographies?
Grava: Our customers in Latin America face the same challenges that their counterparts face in more developed geographies like the U.S. and EMEA, and they relate to the explosive need to generate, store, and manage the ever-growing information that is required to keep their business thriving. Themes like the cloud, big data, virtualization, and mobile computing are top of mind with any CIO in the region. NetApp is uniquely positioned to help them achieve the next level in their quest to provide best-in-class, state-of-the-art technology to accelerate their growth and increase productivity in their mission-critical applications. The clustered Data ONTAP® architecture has been generating tremendous interest as have our traditional storage efficiency tools. In Latin America, almost 50% of the companies are multinationals and, in most of the cases, they are on the same par as their headquarters in the U.S., EMEA, and APAC.
NetApp: The perception of Latin America often is that it’s an emerging market. How accurate is that statement and are there areas of the region that are just as advanced or ahead of other regions around the world when it comes to IT?
Grava: As I mentioned, Latin American companies in general are at the same level in their information technology projects as their headquarters in more mature markets. But interestingly enough, in several cases the infrastructure to hold that position is more complex than in more advanced markets. Issues like redundancy in electrical infrastructure, energy consumption, physical location, local legislation, labor issues, and importation restrictions make the typical CIO mission more complex than that of their colleagues around the globe. Yes, Latin America is definitely an emerging region, but the challenges associated with the explosive growth are very real and have to be dealt with in every project and implementation. Countries also vary in their level of technology adoption, availability of telecommunications infrastructure, and time-to-market requirements. There are important regional differences to be considered.
NetApp: There is so much diversity throughout Latin America. Is there a common thread that unifies the countries from an IT or a business perspective? How does this diversity impact NetApp’s approach in the region?
Grava: Brazil is, according to IDC, almost half of the IT market in Latin America, and its almost 200 million people speak Portuguese. Mexico is also a powerhouse, with close to 25% of the market and growing at an accelerated rate. Chile is the most developed and stable country in the region and where the government strongly supports IT as a development tool for the country. Colombia, Peru, Central America, and the Caribbean are experiencing a rapid adoption of technology to bridge the historical development gaps. In the opposite direction, Argentina and Venezuela face macroeconomic challenges that we, as a company, have to adapt to and support as they recover and get back to a sustained growth path. Almost the majority of these countries speak Spanish. Tying this diverse group together is our presence, either directly in the form of subsidiaries or indirectly through our channel partners. We have important customers in all of these countries and many of the brand-name institutions in these markets rely on NetApp® systems and our 100%-channel-driven go-to-market strategy.
NetApp: Is IT seen as a strategic element for Latin America business or is it more of a “cost center”? What does this mean for data storage?
Grava: Information technology is usually more expensive in Latin America due to a culture of cost control, market protection, and incentives to local vendors, and this is challenging to companies like ours. Add to that the difficult and expensive importation procedures, complex taxation, logistics, and so on, and we see cost, discounts, return on investment, and financial analysis as very present and real arguments in any negotiation. Issues like language localization, availability or no availability of local or native-language support, pay-as-you-go programs, and local resources are usually decisive factors in any negotiation table. On the flipside, information technology has been growing as a key competitive differentiator and is considered a key strategic element for companies that explore it properly. NetApp is a vendor of choice in many of these companies.