Argentina’s renown as a leading Latin American market for English-proficient, highly-educated Nearshore market has, in the past, revolved around the capital, Buenos Aires.
Over the last two decades, Córdoba, a manufacturing, agricultural and logistics hub ideally positioned in the center-north of Argentina’s 2,360 mile length, has been quietly growing. Now, it stands as a load bearer for Argentina’s larger IT service exports industry.
The Beginnings of an IT Sector
“From 2001, a lot of IT companies began establishing themselves in Córdoba. The origin for this was a tax break for turnover tax given by the government, led by former Governor José Manuel de la Sota, which amounted to a saving of an average 4% of company revenue,” said Matias Avila-Nores, founder and managing partner at OneLegem.
“The breakthrough was Motorola, which opened a major development center. After Motorola, EDS – now HP – arrived, and with it came several other large companies. This set the ground for small companies to spring up as local talent learned and left these major corporations,” he explained.
Today, there are almost 400 IT companies based in the city, which in 2010 had a population of just over 1.5 million in the greater metropolitan area.
One local who has started their own firm after building experience at a major global name is Ignacio Lozita, CEO and founder at Digital Motus, an IT services company. A former Globant employee, Lozita struck out on his own and founded Digital Motus in 2017. There is nowhere better to be in Argentina for a small business than Córdoba, he believes.
“Today, Córdoba is very important within Argentina’s IT industry. Between 30% and 40% of all software development exports from Argentina come from the city. One of its main strengths is that there is a lot of talent. Córdoba pulls in students from all over,” he said.
As a second city, Córdoba is more affordable to students than the capital. But it’s also home to world-class universities. The most important for the IT sector being Córdoba National University (UNS), which has a national student population of some 132,000, though the primary campuses are still based in the city. In Córdoba alone, the UNC has 15 facilities, 145 research centers and institutes and 17 museums.
“We have eight major universities in the Córdoba province. And Córdoba itself is a destination for students of 10 other provinces. Lots of students come to study, and people come to work, from other cities like Catamarca, San Luis and San Juan,” said Avila-Nores.
Tech Cluster and IT Development
Having found success and job creation in attracting IT companies to the region, local governments have continued to strengthen Córdoba’s name as a IT delivery point in Argentina. The Córdoba Technology Cluster, which has recently celebrated 20 years’ in operation, has played an essential role in promoting local entrepreneurs and small businesses grow. The list of members include global organizations, local-only companies, consultants and universities. It has become a vital reference point for the region’s entrepreneurs, and has enabled growth of the sector.
“The government has been trying to provide money to entrepreneurs trying to build their own companies here, so that has meant lots of people from all over Argentina now have offices in Córdoba. By developing the tech industry, citizens have ben able to earn more and improve their knowledge,” explained Giuliana Baghini, business intelligence manager at Pi Data Strategy & Consulting.
“At the cluster you can apply for loans without having to sell part of your company. There are loans for projects that meet certain criteria, like having a positive social impact, as well as those in certain key areas, like artificial intelligence or big data,” explained Matias Deheza, managing director at Pi Data Strategy & Consulting.
In addition to national IT education efforts, the cluster has initiated training programs that will produce hundreds of full-stack developers. “The cluster worked with software companies like us to shape the content of the modules in the program. We were really impressed. The program will produce lots of future candidates,” said Lozita.
“Today, Córdoba is very important within Argentina’s IT industry. Between 30% and 40% of all software development exports from Argentina come from the city.” — Ignacio Lozita
Córdoba faces the same lack of talent as every other city in the world. But Argentina’s economic plight – last year, inflation was a staggering 50.9%, the highest in Latin America – means that financial concerns can take up an awful lot of time for young companies.
“It can be very difficult to grow business here. We have an office in Peru and people there do not have to constantly juggle the economic uncertainty,” said Deheza.
According to Pi Data Strategy & Consulting, local companies charge between US$50 and US$100 per hour depending on the seniority of the developer when the developer’s services are exported. For national clients, the peso equivalent is simply unaffordable. More Argentinian companies are looking to the Nearshore.
It has also caused the IT sector to diverge into two contrasting arms, explains Avila-Nores. Most IT companies in Córdoba either provide volume-based IT services work on long contracts where small margins are mitigated by the large volumes, or more sophisticated ‘breakthrough’ products including cutting-edge instruments in big data, data analysis, artificial intelligence and so on.
“The peso devaluation has seen Córdoba become more attractive because it still offers a very well-educated, competent workforce,” he said.
Talent Squeeze Posing Problems for Small Businesses
Argentina domaines Latin America in terms of unicorns produced. However, some major Argentinian names have been anything but helpful in assisting the growth of Córdoba’s tech ecosystem, Pi Consulting says. In December, Globant constructed new offices and began a search for 700 employees. The rapid expansion of Mercado Libre and Globant into Córdoba and other second cities of Argentina has increased the squeeze on local talent, and with almost bottomless pockets, the big companies are always able to offer more.
“These companies realized they needed a lot of people so moved into other cities. Córdoba was the first step. But instead of helping, they started taking other companies’ resources. They have a lot of money to pay talent or buy companies,” said Baghini.
Population: 1.52 million in the GMA.
Education: 8 major universities in the Córdoba province
Connectivity: Ingeniero Aeronáutico Ambrosio L.V. Taravella International Airport is located some 6 miles northwest of the city center
English abilities: Argentina comes out on top in Latin America for English-language abilities, though companies noted that English abilities in Córdoba are not quite as high as those found in Buenos Aires.