What's a tech company to do in Venezuela?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Although reinvention and innovation are at the core of any tech company, the particularly difficult economic environment Venezuela is facing might be pushing tech firms to take several extra steps. This is the case of Protokol, a Venezuelan technology firm that is expanding its scope through partnerships and seeking new markets in order to stay afloat in an already demanding industry. 

After several changes in management, Protokol opted for a new corporate strategy focused on promising sectors in Latin America. This drove the firm to explore new niche markets such as automation and process control, which added to Protokol's portfolio of traditional ICT and telecom services. Ernesto Belisario, Protokol's head of communications, spoke to BNamericas about the motives that drove his company's current corporate strategy and the markets it is currently pursuing in order to step up its game. 

BNamericas: What does the landscape look like for ICT companies in Venezuela at the moment? 

Belisario: Venezuela is going through a difficult period, so technology companies have been forced to reinvent themselves. Due to the adverse conditions, companies have to invest consistently in innovation and find ways to generate value for sectors that need to be further developed.  

Telecom companies are placing more emphasis on innovation because only those who transform their business models and add value will be able to evolve and survive.

BNamericas: Given these circumstances, what is Protokol's current strategy? 

Belisario: Protokol has been working in the ICT sector for 26 years, and the company has gone through several acquisitions in that time. Some four years ago a new board of directors took over the company and that led to a new way of envisioning our organizational strategy. 

Protokol has been expanding its capabilities and diversifying commercially and technologically beyond traditional ICT. In this sense, we have included automation, process control, software development, and consulting in our proposition. The new business model seeks to push technological solutions that have the potential to impact our clients' business and society as well.

Our current business model entails a global perspective with local action, which allowed us to increase our regional activity in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Colombia. 

BNamericas: What role do partnerships play in Protokol's value proposition? 

Companies don't have all the resources and capabilities required to cater to every market. Partnerships and alliances have allowed us to create a more competitive value proposition for the ICT segment and the new niche markets we're pursuing. 

In addition to the solutions we have developed, we're a distribution channel for large manufacturers such as Cisco, HP, Oracle and IBM, which has helped the company improve its position and increase its knowhow. 

By combining the capabilities that have allowed these large manufacturers to remain in leading positions for years and the skills Protokol has developed we are able to create solutions that adapt to each market's requirements. 

In addition to global technology giants, we seek strategic alliances with companies of all sizes that can help us expand our offer and make it more attractive. There is a unique trait each company can contribute with, which in turn gives us an opportunity to generate value.

BNamericas: Which sector has gained prominence in Protokol's current business model? 

Belisario: As part of our corporate strategy, we have been analyzing and determining our strategic sectors. For instance, we have a wide portfolio of products and services with a direct impact on the core business of clients in the government, telecom and retail sectors. Nonetheless, we also decided to focus on the oil and gas industry given its regional significance.

We have developed several solutions that help companies in the oil and gas industry optimize their processes. For instance, Protokol's Downstream Solution helps companies monitor the commercialization and distribution of gasoline. This product has a direct impact on the transportation, storage and dispatch of fuel, ultimately making operations in a point of sale more profitable. 

The attractiveness of this solution lies in the fact that it can turn a simple gasoline station into a smart station by integrating and automating processes and interconnecting the different pumps. 

Additionally, we have flow controllers for the production segment and RFDI technology that improves fuel management in the country's borders. These solutions can be adapted to other countries, as the needs of regional oil companies are similar. 

BNamericas: What solutions has Protokol developed for the Venezuelan market? 

Belisario: A particular condition of Venezuela is the fact that second tier banks can grant loans directly. In addition, the country has a high potential for sectors such as agriculture, livestock, and fishery. Over the last couple of years plenty of credits have been given to SMEs in these sectors. 

Both situations turned into an opportunity to place a product in this market, the GeBOS system, which is a credit and collection management platform for second tier banks. This system monitors the entire credit granting process, from the moment someone applies for a credit until this is approved. 

The solution is tailored for second tier banks that give credits to the aforementioned sectors without intermediaries, but the technology could be used in other countries, provided we're familiar with the procedures required to grant a credit.