Colombia 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | B2B

Local and multinational companies alike are innovating and trying to provide consumers with the best technology options and products.

Mateo Figueroa
Managing Director
HP Colombia
Carlos Barahona
Founder & President
PC Smart

How do you meet the needs of the local market?

MATEO FIGUEROA We get a great deal of feedback from customers, which we then feed back into our R&D and product development processes. As a market, we have a clear voice on what we see and how we should react. Within the wider company, we have an open dialog about what is going on in our particular market. However, we also leave the R&D process to the experts. In terms of what we do locally, part of our legacy for Colombia is driving social impact. It is not only about having the technology; it is also about what it is used for. Technologies have to be relevant to transform their use into, for example, better productivity. Therefore, we have local products such as HP Life. This is a program where we are trying to connect entrepreneurs—preferably from smaller cities—who need to sell, learn, understand, and network. We have brought in this portal so they can do all these things. After just a few months, 35,000 people are now connected to this network and learning new skills, such as accountancy and marketing, and are really learning to develop themselves and their business ideas.

CARLOS BARAHONA When I started this company, everybody said I was crazy because we are in Colombia, not China or India. They couldn't understand why I wanted to invest money in the hardware and software market. However, we have a chance because PC Smart is trying to be a company that is neither expensive nor a clone. We want to be in the middle because what is the difference between a big brand and a local brand? Everyone knows who Apple is and not many know who PC Smart is. However, if you develop a new business and give the customer call center and website support then we can try to be the best solution at the best possible price. When low income Colombians want to buy a computer, it is because a parent wants to give his family the opportunities they never had. It is a social and economic investment. Students want the best solution between price and performance, so this is our strategy. We offer a high-end product at a mid-range price. We now want to open a new vertical in applications. One thing you have to remember is that PC Smart is a fast company—we are small but can move faster than larger firms. If those big companies need to make a decision, they deliberate amongst many people, whereas we can react quickly to the market.

How are you continuing to innovate?

MF We face common challenges throughout Latin America. One is the currency; however, this has also brought opportunities in terms of how we innovate, what types of products are relevant, and how we bring products to this particular market. For example, we are rapidly innovating the form of our products and making thinner, lighter, and more powerful computers. We are bringing in technologies where you can print more for less at the same quality. The Colombian market is optimistic in certain ways. There are products that are young and fresh and a great deal of excitement about new concepts and products here; therefore, we are bringing the smallest multi-functional printer in the world into the Colombian market. There is much more to do and a large market share we can still gain.

CB People now prefer to invest more money in phones than computers. This is why we are developing phones, but it's not an easy market. We have been learning for the past two years that it is a completely different market that moves quickly. The speed of the market is amazing and everyone is changing. The problem for a mobile phone company like PC Smart is that time and money is needed to develop the hardware and software. It takes a long time to prepare all the hardware and have the product to launch to the market. A company needs to invest a large sum of money, and if it does not develop the right hardware and software then it will be out of the market before it even begins. This happened with Blackberry because no one knows the future of smart phones.