Stefanini IT Solutions, an onshore and nearshore IT consulting firm, is Brazil's largest native IT company. Stefanini has 42 offices in 17 countries and more than 350 active customers across multiple verticals.
The company, which counts Johnson & Johnson as a customer for 20 years, also may be one of the large services firms you haven't heard of.
We caught up with Antonio Moreira, CEO of North American operations for Stefanini, to talk about outsourcing, Brazil's IT market and other issues for the company, which has more than 9,000 employees and has been expanding in North America with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Montreal.
Here's a recap of my conversation with Moreira...
How does Brazil stack up in the outsourcing landscape, notably India? Moreira said that Brazil is increasingly being seen as an outsourcing destination. Stefanini, which provides services to the Fortune 1000, is looking to expand into North America with U.S. companies it has already partnered with in Latin America. "The interest in Brazil as a nearshore location is happening now," said Moreira. "In 2001, Brazil was not known as an alternative to India. By 2004, 2005 through today companies are looking to near shore here."
Why Brazil and Latin America? Moreira said that time zone is a big selling point. Also the fact that Brazil is much closer to U.S. companies than an outpost in India. "With the global downturn, companies have to look for alternatives for productivity gains," said Moreira. "And more are looking at near shore opportunities. There's an opportunity for cost reduction with less risk."
What about the 24-hour working cycle? Moreira said there's a place for around-the-clock work, but for collaboration "90 percent of the time being in the same time zone is absolutely an advantage."
Where do currency fluctuations fit into the equation? Moreira said that currency gyrations against the U.S. dollar hasn't played into engagements too much. For Stefanini, currency is a risk. "We know how to balance the financial health of a contract," said Moreira. "We're in Brazil, but also Mexico, Argentina and Peru. If we're providing a service to a client in the U.S. and there's a currency problem we can always move the service somewhere else."
How does Stefanini stand out vs. other outsourcing firms? "The financials capabilities and knowledge in Brazil is very advanced. We want to leverage our industry skills in near shore engagements. In India, it's another type of engagement and more about volume. There are more developers, but less industry knowledge," said Moreira. Oil and gas, financial services and manufacturing are Brazil's largest industries. Telecom is also developing.
What about the Brazil IT workforce? Moreira acknowledged that his country isn't the "best place for junior developers." Why? Stefanini tries to leverage Brazil's sweet spot: Knowledge, proximity to clients and time zone. Moreira said it's difficult to hire the way an Indian outsourcing company would. Why? "The majority of professionals in Brazil are supporting internal demand. In India, the majority of professionals are working to provide services to U.S. firms. Brazil has a number of professionals working in industries with more business skills," said Moreira.
And culture? Moreira said Brazil has a "more Western business ethic." A Stefanini engagement would provide a different mix of workers. In India, a blended worker rate would be 70 percent of a team junior, 20 percent intermediate and 10 percent senior level employees. In Brazil, the composition of the team is different. "We have more senior people and less junior. Our blended rate would be 50 percent junior, 30 percent intermediate and 20 percent senior," said Moreira.
Is English the language of IT? Moreira said that the majority of IT professionals in Brazil speak English well. That knowledge will only improve as new workers speak "more English than they did 30 years ago."