Bye Bye Brazil

So this is the end of the Brasscom Global IT Forum 2010. Over the past four days, the Brazilian IT trade body hosted the event, which included the Gartner Latin America outsourcing summit in Sao Paulo and a one-day event in Rio de Janeiro with government officials and analysts from various firms.

Brasscom spent more than R$ 1.4m (£526,000) to produce the event, which included a large-scale advertisement campaign in most of the main business magazines, as well as flights, accommodation and entertainment for more than 100 people including IT buyers and suppliers, analysts and journalists.

Brazil is determined to position itself as one of the top three outsourcing destinations worldwide and increase its exports in the sector from $3.5bn to $5bn by next year.

Growing GDP drives IT demand. And we were told by the Economist Intelligence Unit today that Brazil will be world’s third fastest growing economy between now and 2020, so most industry players seem to believe the country’s ambitious goals for the IT sector are achievable.

Brazil may be the world’s ‘darling’ at present and the local technology industry may be attractive to some foreign buyers. Brasscom recognises the country hasn’t done a very good job in promoting its IT companies in the past, so the investment in this week’s event is part of a renewed drive to ‘spread the gospel’.

“[The event] costs us a lot of money, but people are realising the advantages the Brazilian IT industry has to offer and if they are here, it means that they are interested,” said the association’s president Antonio Gil.

Apart from Brasscom’s efforts, the suppliers themselves have gone to great lengths to charm their prospective clients. During the event, I heard stories from IT decision makers of vendor-sponsored helicopter flights across Sao Paulo, visits to swanky restaurants, clubbing until the crack of dawn and flirting with beautiful people, which didn’t fail to impress.

“Although the true differential of some of these companies’ offerings is unclear, but it is obvious that they are determined to get to the top and they are working hard on that. I can tell they are serious by the way they sold me the local culture, creativity and passion, the way they took me around and made me feel totally at ease,” a CIO told me yesterday.

“If a supplier is not able to bond with their clients the way Brazilians do – as opposed to the Indian or the Chinese, who are always focused on pure business – they are likely to fail in what has become a relationship-driven world,” the manager added.  

Despite questions around the unique selling point of IT services firms in Brazil, local players seem very confident – even if a little smug  at times – that their aims will be achieved.

Of course, Brazilian IT services firms do have a wealth of vertical specific knowledge in key markets such as financial services and energy which was acquired by working with clients at home. Now if they will manage to repeat that success abroad, that remains to be seen.