What are your perspectives on the role the private sector must play to further develop the technological industry here?
As a private company, we focus a great deal on offering technology services to provide the government of Costa Rica, particularly the education sector, with the latest technology available. There needs to be a joint effort, and ACS takes this to heart, as our team is highly qualified and always promoting the continuous capacitation on our different lines of technology to all of our clients, including professors, principals and fellow company´s executives.
What will be the next digital trend that comes to Costa Rica?
Everything we do is related to that. We are teaching programming from young children to university students. Virtual reality is also something we are teaching, including selling VR equipment. We have provided the Ministry of Education with augmented reality equipment from Spain and employ state-of-the-art hardware that will enable Costa Rican children to learn through the latest technology. Drones are another area where we witness growing demand. Additionally, we are starting our journey on the industry and commerce of 4.0 technology.
What must be Costa Rica's focus to promote this technology from a young age to generate human talent?
The government has the intention and is sincerely interested in offering the best technology available for students; however, the focus of the resources to satisfy the diverse needs among the academy, the technological development and the creation of new skills generate a challenge in the distribution of the budget. We need to understand that the changes are not immediate but clearly those adjustments are happening gradually through companies like ours that collaborate in the creation of inputs for teachers to develop skills and competencies to students based on the information economy.
What are the main teachings you have learned in ACS that could be an example for other entrepreneurs here?
We have been able to adapt ourselves to what the client needs. In this case, it is our country. We have adjusted to the needs of the education sector. The market has changed, and we have adapted the company to new environments not only in Costa Rica, but also across the world. Also, the company has evolved from a traditional retail company into a real technological partner for our clients which has led to a complete involvement with our clients so that we can understand in a better way their necessities. The development of strategies, such as support in scientific and technological fairs, allows us to understand more the student the teacher and the institution in the development of their ideas.
You have a portfolio that serves many sectors of the economy. What were the main factors behind this strategy?
The main factor was not putting all our eggs into the same basket. Today, we are opening legacy stores, though we have also implemented a strong online platform. We want to be in some of the most important malls in Costa Rica, though our focus is that customers can find our products online. We have always had conservative and sustained, but controlled, growth. We have a team that looks at opportunities in the technology sector. We might not be the pioneers, though we want to follow the main trends and adapt as soon as possible. In the end, our diversification is based on providing an integral solution to the client.
You have gone through a rebranding process. In what stage is that process?
ESTEBAN: We have already launched a campaign in the media, for example with ads in newspapers, to let people know we have changed our brands. We have also taken the change internally, growing our team to accommodate the ever-increasing need to have an open line of communication with our community and prospective clients.
What are your objectives of that campaign, and which sectors do you target?
ESTEBAN: We want to keep growing in public education. We are extremely strong in that market, though we want to continue to work with the Costa Rican government. We are constantly presenting bids for different products. We recently presented a proposal to install 30 greenhouses for a number of schools, which were specialized in agriculture. The need is huge still in Costa Rica; thus, we see great potential for growth. Nevertheless, we intend to open up to private companies not necessarily with a focus on education Private corporations will be a focus for us moving forward. Corporate is a big market and a difficult one; however, we are going for it.
How open are you to finding a foreign partner?
We recognize the potential in teaming up with a foreign partner and would be open to it. Still, we have grown as a family-owned company and have established a corporate identity and values we expect to be respected. We have constantly reinvested our profits year after year, and we barely have much debt. We are open to grow with a partner, though it is not something that we have analyzed in detail. We have discussed that it would be great to expand the company as a result of a merger or an acquisition; however, we want to do it properly and leverage on our 30-year track record of success.