Why Rio is the place of choice for those who want a competitive edge in localization
By Adam Blau and Cassius Figueiredo
The localization industry continues to prosper, thanks in part to companies that continue to invest and outsource aspects of their globalization processes to proficient vendors. As a result of the steady growth in outsourced localization, vendors are still in search of highly qualified project managers and engineering professionals, and not just translators, to meet this need.
Educational programs have sprung into action, such as the university degree program offered by the Chico State University to fulfill the need for educated industry professionals. What may be of interest to readers, however, is that Brazil, and more specifically Rio de Janeiro, has long positioned itself as a hub of talented and specialized localization engineers, developers and project managers with extensive experience completing complex multilingual projects.
With its renowned laid-back population and stunning landscape of mountains that meet the sea, the so-called Wonderful City may not seem like an appropriate location for an important localization hub. However, some 10 years ago, major localization companies, including LMI, BGS and SimulTrans, decided to venture into the country by opening offices in Rio de Janeiro. During that time, they trained hundreds of resources to become expert professionals in the field. These companies chose Brazil – and Rio de Janeiro in particular – for a reason.
South American Way
With its European past, dating back to the time when the Spaniards and Portuguese arrived here, up to the present day, with an educational system and business philosophy similar to that of the US, South America is a place where executives feel at home when doing business abroad. Over recent years, the region has pushed away the non-democratic past of the 1960s and 1970s and is thriving with business opportunities.
Geographically, the continent is also perfectly located to meet the needs of North American companies, whether they are located on the East or West Coast. However, what perhaps most attracts multinationals to the region is the reduced cost of skilled labor. This is especially true for the main technology companies, which have been investing in Latin America, and primarily in Brazil, at an ever-increasing rate. Brazilian professionals offer top-notch services at a fraction of the price when compared to their colleagues in Northern hemisphere countries – an attractive pull in an era marked by industry price cuts.
Brazil, the Emerging Giant
Another important factor in the country’s favor is its political and economic stability. Unlike many of its Latin American neighbors, Brazil has maintained a democratically elected government for nearly 20 years, a strong factor for executives when it comes to international investment and outsourcing targets. Such stability has in turn helped improve the country’s economic outlook. According to economist and former director of the Brazilian Central Bank, Ilan Goldjfan, “in the current trend of foreign accounts, and while the international status is maintained, it is likely that in the next presidential term, Brazil will come to liquidate its net foreign debt, will drop the so-called ‘Brazil Risk’ and will reach investment grade.”
More than this, Brazil’s continental proportions and successful diplomacy make it a natural leader in the South American region. Together with other international giants like Russia, India and China, Brazil is part of the BRIC group, named after a 2003 thesis by the Goldman Sachs investment bank. According to the paper, these rapidly developing economies will eclipse most of the world’s currently richest countries by 2050. The four countries will encompass over 40% of the world’s population and, due to their recent embracing of global capitalism, will hold an approximate combined sum of 15 trillion dollars. What better place for ambitious executives to set up shop?
Brazil also became an important technology hub after major IT corporations started to include the country in their internationalization strategies. Earlier in 2006, IBM’s consulting division decided to open a new development center in Brazil and, following a US$100 million investment, planned to hire 1,500 local professionals. Following the trend, SAP also planned to expand its current consulting team in Latin America. Their target was to educate 10,000 new professionals and recycle yet another 10,000 consultants. Half of these 20,000 new resources are Brazilian consultants. Intel Brazil recorded a 70% increase in units sold in 2005 and expected to achieve the same growth last year. In the fiscal year before last, while Dell’s sales grew 9.6% in the United States, 21% in France, 23% in China and 24% in Germany, Brazil surpassed all these markets with sales up 84%!
Rio, Localization Hub
In the late 1990s, the largest MLVs of our industry chose Rio de Janeiro as their operation center in Brazil (sometimes serving Latin America as a whole). Most of the companies offered their employees extensive training and started transforming the wide assortment of competent translators into full-fledged localizers. Later on, some of them became project managers and joined the wealth of other professionals with different educational backgrounds, ranging from linguistics to IT, business administration and graphic design. The combination of such an assorted and balanced team allowed these companies to reap the benefits of extremely competent and talented professionals.
Add to that a characteristic that is intrinsic to the Brazilian people: adaptability. In such a multicultural country—often called “the real melting pot”—it is necessary to adapt to the various circumstances that permeate one’s personal and professional life. When once asked whether planning, as opposed to improvisation, was the distinguishing factor between an adventurer and a responsible and competent professional, Brazilian sailor and corporate speaker, Amyr Klink, answered that even after careful planning, the capacity to improvise still played a major role. The flexibility and professionalism of the Rio-based managers made them an attractive choice of employment for the clients whose accounts they managed or are now occupying important positions abroad in localization companies on the vendor side.
Some of those who remained in Brazil seized the opportunity to open small operations, which have been growing in size since then. The offer includes linguistic, DTP, engineering, testing and multimedia services. These vendors, together with an ample offering of experienced freelance resources, work for different MLVs in the region and worldwide.
Rio de Janeiro is also home to the majority of the country’s educational and professional industry entities. The Brazilian Translator’s Association (ABRATES) and the Brazilian Translator’s Union (SINTRA) are both headquartered in the city. The Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), one of the most prominent universities in Brazil, also offers undergraduate and graduate courses in the field. The result is an environment brimming with some of the country’s best localization professionals.
The milengo GPM Center
Here at milengo, we recently felt the need to meet the growing demand for highly qualified global project management from clients in the United States and Canada. Brazil offered the advantage of its privileged time zone, allowing milengo to quickly respond to client demands. In September 2006, we decided to open our new GPM center in Rio de Janeiro.
For milengo, it was clear that Rio de Janeiro was the most attractive choice for its Global Project Management operations. Due to the merger between Lionbridge and Bowne Global Solutions and the corporate decision to move operations to Sao Paulo, milengo Brazil convinced the headquarters that we should quickly take advantage of the resulting surplus of qualified professionals. In the past, the wave of mergers and acquisitions turned Rio into a localization hub, and the professionals living in the city are now some of the best-qualified resources in the industry. Now, the consolidation of the two largest MLVs produced an extensive supply of DTP, engineering and GPM experts. These valuable human assets were freed up and milengo took advantage of the situation to hire them.
This is particularly the case of Global Project Managers. In the golden era of localization, they had been trained to use management techniques including negotiation, conflict resolution and communication skills. This, coupled with the fact that they all came from the production side, gave them the hands-on experience necessary to successfully serve IT corporations of different sizes and with different requirements.
Resource management is perhaps the greatest strength of any company operating on a local level. Simply put, you know the strengths, competencies and weaknesses of each person you plan on hiring. In our case, we have worked with many of them for the past years, and know whom to turn to when offering value-added services to our clients.
Adam Blau is the Vice President of Marketing and Sales at milengo. He is responsible for managing milengo’s global operations and sales and marketing activities in North America and Europe, helping companies take advantage of the alliance structure when planning their localization strategies.
This article was originally published in the November 2006 issue of ClientSide News magazine.