With the international economic scenario becoming gloomier each day, it seems some business sectors simply have more resources than others to face the expected financial squeeze. In the IT market, particularly in emerging countries across Latin America and Asia, consulting firm Neoris is one of the highlights. The company was born in Mexico as a spinoff of cement manufacturer Cemex's IT department, and today it has clients all throughout Latin America and in Europe. It expects to double revenues in Brazil this year - for the third year in a row - and is also maintaining its investment plans for next year. BNamericas talked to Frederico Vilar, Neoris' president in Brazil, about investments, predictions, bottlenecks, cloud services and, of course, the international crisis.
With the international economic scenario becoming gloomier each day, it seems some business sectors simply have more resources than others to face the expected financial squeeze.
In the IT market, particularly in emerging countries across Latin America and Asia, consulting firm Neoris is one of the highlights.
The company was born in Mexico as a spinoff of cement manufacturer Cemex's IT department, and today it has clients all throughout Latin America and in Europe. It expects to double revenues in Brazil this year - for the third year in a row - and is also maintaining its investment plans for next year.
BNamericas talked to Frederico Vilar, Neoris' president in Brazil, about investments, predictions, bottlenecks, cloud services and, of course, the international crisis.
BNamericas: Neoris recently launched in Mexico a corporate social network called TeamUP!. How was this received?
Vilar: We're a company that's always looking for innovations that can add value to our clients' businesses. [TeamUP!] was an initiative that began in 2009... Basically, it comprises a communication platform bringing together different electronic and social media tools that prompt a greater exchange of ideas and knowledge among employees and collaborators, regardless of their hierarchic levels and location.
The project was successfully implemented at Cemex. And in just three months, there were more than 15,000 active collaborators using it, and several projects were selected from ideas they brought, all of which resulted in improvements in productivity, efficiency and the work environment.
Based on this concept, we listed TeamUP! as one of our offerings to be implemented in other companies as well, starting with the Mexican market. The response has been very good, such that Cemex already won two major awards for "best collaboration tool" - one granted by Forrester in 2010, and another by McKinsey and the Harvard Business Review in 2011.
BNamericas: Neoris was born as a spinoff of Cemex. How's that relationship now? Does Mexico remain an important country for Neoris?
Vilar: Yes, and the great advantage of being a spinoff of Cemex was the opportunity to have assisted the group in several implementations of strategic projects, through which we accumulated great expertise.
But today Neoris is a consolidated and totally independent company in Latin America that counts Cemex as just one of its major clients. We're the second largest IT consultancy in Latin America, according to IDC's latest ranking. Obviously, Mexico remains an extremely important market for us, one where we hold the leading position as IT consulting and systems integrator. Mexico is also the country where we have the largest number of professionals in the region - about 1,600. And a sizeable share of our business in Mexico is aimed at the customer service US market, under the nearshore outsourcing model.
BNamericas: And how about new plans regarding Latin America? What's the importance of the region to the company's business in terms of revenue and growth?
Vilar: Today, Neoris is a consolidated company in Latin America, with a strong presence in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. We have over 150 clients in the region, and we run three nearshore customer support centers, located in São Paulo, Rosario [Argentina] and Monterrey [Mexico].
Latin America is extremely strategic to our growth plan, with Brazil as the driving force behind it. Alongside the US, Brazil is the country that receives the largest amount of investments from our company. And besides having a technology-avid domestic market and a favorable time zone with Europe and the US, Brazil also has an extremely qualified community of IT entrepreneurs.
Added to this favorable scenario is the country's economic and political stability, which ends up encouraging investments from large companies, which often set up their Latin American operational bases in Brazil.
In the last five years, Neoris has grown above the market average in Latin America, with Brazil leading this expansion. Today the region accounts for around 50% of the company's worldwide revenue, which last year totaled US$300mn.
BNamericas: Neoris has reported excellent financial results in Brazil in recent years, doubling its revenues. Does the forecast remain the same for 2011 and next year, or is the international economic downturn likely to cool down demand?
Vilar: We're obviously paying close attention to market movements, but we don't believe that the current crisis in some countries will have an impact on Brazil. Demand for services has never been so hot here. Our expectation is to end 2011 with our original prediction of once again doubling the company's revenue in Brazil.
Brazil's main bottleneck, though, remains the lack of a qualified labor force, especially regarding some specific platforms. In this regard, we're engaging in focused partnership programs with universities and research centers to help train people to fill these positions. We have, today, more than 60 open positions.
We also offer constant training for our employees in Brazil. We have an internal program dubbed NPD [Neo People Development], where senior executives coordinate technical training [SAP technologies, Java, NET and others] for lower-level professionals, mainly systems analysts and basic developers. To have an idea, in 2010 we had more than 2,200 hours of training.
BNamericas: In addition to the current offices in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Pernambuco, are there plans to open other units in Brazil?
Vilar: Actually, we're launching a nearshore outsourcing and customer support center in the city of Alphaville [in São Paulo state]. With more than 600 m2 and capacity to accommodate up to 300 consultants, the unit will concentrate on software production, and testing and application management services focused on SAP tools.
The center will be integrated with the four other global centers Neoris has in the world - located in Rosario, Monterrey, Madrid and Budapest. The nearshore center will also work as a lab for developing new technologies, as well as training and technological upgrading for our professionals.
In addition to this unit, which is our largest expansion investment in the country, we plan to open a new office in São Paulo state, in the city of Ribeirão Preto, by year-end - primarily to meet the strong demand from sugar ethanol industry, which is going through a period of consolidation and has huge demand for IT services and solutions. This is a very important vertical in our business plan.
We'll also expand our operations in Rio de Janeiro, adding a customer support center to our office. By the end of the year, we want to absorb some 400 new professionals in the country, which today accounts for 600 employees.
BNamericas: The Brazilian government is currently discussing a specific regulation for cloud computing. What is Neoris' opinion on that? What's the importance of the cloud to the company's performance?
Vilar: Cloud computing is a reality and a topic that should not be ignored. Quite on the contrary. I'd say that nowadays companies are in a stage of understanding the technology, to figure out its main benefits, vulnerabilities, what's the best system to adopt, what kind of data should be left in the cloud, the required investment, the return on investments, etc.
As a company that's in constant search for innovations and that studies the current and future industry demands, Neoris is working to provide strategic consulting services to the companies that are looking for those exact answers. And it's obvious that each market must comply with local laws in force, following established rules governing cloud.
Thus, as a global partner of SAP, Neoris is working in synergy with SAP to understand, first, what offers the manufacturer is bringing to the cloud, to then understand how to operate it and how to make the most of this new business model for our customers.
BNamericas: With the growth of the cloud and M2M services and solutions, how does the company see the segment and its own performance in it?
Vilar: Our over seven-year partnership with SAP has included, as a strong component, a constant search for innovation. Because we're global partners and know the SAP world well, our role is to evolve with the company. Therefore, we work together to test and develop emerging technologies, in-memory, end-to-end and cloud solutions.
We can cite as an example the process of adopting HANA [high-performance analytic appliance] technology in Brazil, where we're at the forefront. Neoris is one of only two companies in the country that are being trained to rapidly deploy the in-memory solution.
BNamericas: Neoris is considered one of the leading companies in outsourcing and has major clients from different segments. What differentiates it from the others?
Vilar: Neoris nowadays serves about 60 clients in Brazil and over 150 in Latin America, mostly large companies such as Banco Santander, Brasif, British American Tobacco [Souza Cruz], Cemex, Claro, CPFL, EMS, Grupo São Martinho, Lanxess, Nestle and Usiminas, among many others.
First of all, one differential is our nearshore outsourcing model, based on a geographic strategy that offers customers global resources with local interface. We work with a combination of tasks and nearshore locations, offering customers efficient services at a competitive cost.
Another important factor is our position in the Latin American market, where we're seen as the second largest IT consulting company and the first in the region to achieve the status of SAP Global Services Partner. We have a large number of consultants in the region able to serve customers in the US and other regions such as Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Finally, our flexible attitude is another important difference, one that allows us to adjust quickly and pragmatically to customer demands. We have brawn and know-how to compete with major players in the industry. And at the same time, our structure allows us to be flexible enough to provide a customized service, to be make decisions efficiently, and to focus on quality and best practices in the services provided to our customers.
President of Neoris in Brazil, Frederico Vilar is Portuguese and has more than 20 years of IT industry experience. Prior to joining Neoris in May 2008, Vilar was senior director for the SAP practice at Sonda Procwork. Previously, he worked as country manager and partner of W3, an IT consulting firm also specialized in SAP.
Before moving to Brazil, the executive worked at Tecnidata, the largest Portuguese IT company, occupying positions such as sales director, partner and systems VP, responsible for the SAP practice for SMEs in Portugal and Spain.
Vilar has a degree in business administration from Instituto Superior ISCTE in Lisbon.
About the company
Neoris is a global business, IT and outsourcing services consultancy, specialized in systems integration, business intelligence projects and implementation of SAP managed services.
Founded in 2000 as a spinoff of Cemex, the Mexican giant cement producer, Neoris is headquartered in Miami and has presence in nine countries, with a total of 26 offices.
The company has 3,500 professionals around the world and more than 250 customers. In Brazil, it has more than 600 employees and 60 clients.