Situated on Chile’s central Pacific coast, Viña del Mar is best known as a vacation destination and beach getaway. Peel back the layers, however, and the opportunities for business in the city begin to shine through. The home of a growing talent pool, several top-notch universities and a handful of international-caliber companies, Viña del Mar has much more to offer than meets the eye.
With a population of 330,000 and as Chile’s fourth-largest city, Viña del Mar is known as Ciudad Jardín (the Garden City) because of its greenery and parks. It forms part of the Valparaíso Region, which also includes municipalities Concon, Quilpue, Villa Alemana and Valparaíso, and is located about 80 miles from Santiago.
Facts & Statistics
- Viña del Mar is considered Chile’s top city to live in, work in and visit, and ranks second behind only Santiago for education. (2013 Barómetro Imagen Ciudad)
- Nearby Valparaíso is considered the 11th best city for doing business in Latin America. (América Economía)
- Several of Chile’s top-ranking universities are located in or have branches set up in Viña del Mar, including Pontífica Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (6), Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (8) and Universidad Andrés Bello (15). (Webometrics)
- Valparaíso – Viña del Mar has a per-capita GDP of nearly US$16,000. (América Economía)
Universities, Quality of Life Drive Mature, Satisfied Talent
Viña del Mar plays home to a number of Chile’s leading universities, which feed directly into the talent pipeline. The list of educational institutions with operations in the city is lengthy and includes Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Universidad Viña del Mar, Universidad de Valparaíso and Universidad Andrés Bello.
The Chilean educational system is quite rigorous, meaning graduates are highly talented, with more solid soft skills and stability. According to Mohit Srivastava, CEO of Eddvantage and former General Manager at Evalueserve, this makes for a more mature talent pool that is already well prepared for the business world.
“The quality of the output of engineering talent is very good, better than what you would find in other countries, because they have more vigorous course requirements and a business outlook included in the courses,” he explained. “People, when they graduate, they’re about 25, 26 years old as opposed to 21, and they’re looking for longer-term careers.”
Along those lines, these more mature professionals are also looking to establish their homes – and finding Viña del Mar to be an increasingly attractive locale in which to do so. The quality of the life in the city is extremely high, with good schools, housing and health care. Moreover, Srivastava estimates that the cost of living in Viña is 20% less than in nearby Santiago.
Sumeet Sangar, Country Manager at Evalueserve Chile, made similar observations. “Though smaller in size, Viña del Mar does offer some significant advantages over Santiago, the important ones being the quality of life and cost of living. Viña del Mar offers a much better work life balance due to shorter commute times, an effective public transport system, and its clean ocean air,” he reflected. “Most of our colleagues walk to work. They are closer to their homes and other amenities such as restaurants, shopping, hospitals, childcare centers, schools and universities, allowing them to have a good work-life balance. Additionally, Viña del Mar was recently listed as one of the cities with the best climate for living. The overall cost of living is relatively less compared to Santiago; people can afford a better lifestyle and have a higher saving potential.”
Talent Pool: Pros and Cons
Viña del Mar and all of Chile have made major strides in terms of workforce strength and prowess in international business – perhaps especially when it comes to language. “In terms of talent, the biggest advancement, besides having more global awareness, is an increase in English speaking capacities,” Sangar said. “English is critical for our business, and we have seen an improvement on this parameter over the past few years. We are now able to find an ever-increasing number of people who are fluent in English compared to six or seven years ago.”
Skilled engineering and business talent also abound. Moreover, many locals have a background in client support and customer service, providing them some of the preparation necessary for jobs in KPO and BPO operations.
However, niche skills can prove troublesome in Viña del Mar, as many professionals are drawn to Santiago in search of more competitive work environments. The result is a lack of experienced professionals in areas like financial services and technology in Viña. “Though we can find smart and talented engineers locally, finding niche skills in technology or finance domains presents a challenge,” Sangar affirmed.
Local Institutions Drive Innovation
Universities and multinationals aren’t the only entities driving technology talent and innovation in Viña del Mar – a handful of other organizations and institutions are in the mix as well.
The Advanced Innovation Center (AIC), headed by Alfredo Zolezzi, has set out on a mission to develop technologies in Chile. Headquartered in Viña del Mar, it creates real industry applications utilizing the Integrated Objective Model to take on high-impact projects in arenas like water sanitation and wine production.
Zeke, which handles a wide range of technology services, including software development, business intelligence and process automation, is also a valuable local player and driver of tech business and talent. And business incubator Instituto 3IE in nearby Valparaíso serves as a platform for entrepreneurship, innovation, networking and training.
City particularities aside, Chile has become an increasingly attractive market in recent years, demonstrating stability and soundness in areas where other locales, such as neighboring Brazil and Argentina, fall short.
The 2013-2014 Global Competitiveness Index lists Chile as the 34th most competitive country in the world and the most competitive nation in Latin America. It ranks especially well in macroeconomic environment, work tax incentives, bank soundness, management education quality, technology transfer and FDI.
Chile has a stable corporate income tax rate, set at 20% since 2011 (it temporarily dropped down to 18.5% in 2012). Tax policies are meant to be neutral – meaning they don’t, at face value, attract or restrict foreign investment. Local competitors and labor have a generally open attitude toward foreign business.
And while Santiago may be the obvious choice for doing business in Chile, cities like Viña del Mar – beach view and all – are becoming increasingly attractive and popular options.